The following post is an excerpt from my new e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer. The three volumes in the series are designed to be easy-to-use, practical guides to getting your freelance e-Learning career off the ground. Learn more here!
As I get ready to finish the Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer series, I thought it might be useful if I shared some of the questions I’ve gotten from readers over the last few months, so this week is from the mailbag! (And if you have a question that you don’t see answered here, I encourage you to get in touch.)
Question One: I’m new to e-Learning. What’s the best way for me to get started in this field?
Welcome to the Learning & Development industry! I’ve been in this business for more than 20 years and enjoy it tremendously. I love working with clients and helping them solve their business problems with creative learning solutions.
This entire series is designed to help you break into the industry, but I also think it’s helpful to get started using my three-step approach: (1) Read, (2) Practice, and (3) Network.
Breaking into the industry requires a lot of knowledge, so your first step should be to start reading everything you can find about e-Learning and following your curiosity. Make it your personal goal to read at least one or two blog articles per day, or a chapter of a current e-Learning book. You may also benefit from reading all of the posts from my Succeeding as an e-Learning Freelancer series, as many of them discuss topics related to jumpstarting your e-Learning career (this post on getting started is a good launching point, and you may also benefit from my articles about setting goals and creating core values).
You’ll also want to reach outside of the industry for articles about related topics. For example, as a freelance e-Learning Designer, you’ll need to know how to edit audio files, or how to get yourself out of a creative rut—and you’ll likely find the insights you need from experts in other fields.
If you’re not sure where else to start, here are a few places to get started:
- Articulate’s Getting Started with e-Learning Series. This is a great place to learn about the basics of e-Learning and the fundamentals of course design. Their advice on everything from software tools to project management is worth its weight in gold.
- Tom Kuhlman’s free e-book, The Insiders Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro. Kuhlman’s easy-to-understand writing style and hands-on approach to the daily life of an e-Learning Designer should probably be required reading for everyone in our field.
- Jackie Van Nice, Connie Malamed, and Cathy Moore are all terrific e-Learning Designers who write about their experiences. I’ve learned quite a bit from each of these sites and still follow them closely.
Like any skill, mastering e-Learning starts by putting real effort into practicing. Because e-Learning is essentially a creative endeavor, you need to build upon everything you’ve read by trying to create materials on your own.
Churning out courses isn’t enough, though: you need to make sure that you’re setting goals for yourself and challenging yourself a little more with each attempt. To help get you started, try participating in the e-Learning Heroes weekly challenges, or even create challenges for yourself. The important part is that you’re learning how to solve specific, real-world problems with your e-Learning tool of choice.
As you’re practicing, identify what you’re not good at, and then focus on improving those specific skills. Find how others are solving similar problems, and then try and reverse engineer their solutions. As long as you’re challenging yourself, there are no wrong ways to practice.
Lastly, a key part of launching your e-Learning career is by getting involved in the e-Learning community. There are plenty of online e-Learning communities, and MeetUp.com may even have a few in-person networking groups for you to interact with your peers.
My favorite online e-Learning network is the e-Learning Heroes group. Their site is a great resource for advice, free e-Learning example files, and finding others who are more than willing to provide a helping hand.
You may also want to be open to the option of asking a more experienced e-Learning professional to be your mentor in exchange for your help with beginner tasks they might not have time for. This can be a tricky relationship; I’ve talked before about the risks of bartering, but if you’ve found a relationship where you can get personal guidance from a more experienced colleague, you could learn quite a lot.
[This topic continues in my e-Book series, How to Become an e-Learning Freelancer.]