Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Getting a job as an Instructional Designer

4396779599_c5a6a3606aI get a lot of emails from people asking me how to break into the ID field. 
They’ve been trying to get a job but haven’t found the right door to open yet.
  • “I’ve been teaching for years and now I want a change.”
  • “I’ve been reading up on the field and it seems really interesting.”
  • “You did it, Cammy, so how can I?”
  • “I’ve got a degree in ID now, but no one will hire me because I don’t have any experience.”
This post is my response to those emails. Because I’m an extremely flawed human being I don’t always respond to these right away and then they sit in my inbox for months and months and wither away on the vine. So my apologies to those of you who’ve written that I didn’t get back to!

Here are three ideas I have to help you break into the field:

Strut Your Stuff
You’ve got to show what you know.  You have to provide some proof of your capabilities and at the very least be able to point to a really kick ass portfolio of design treatments or even courses you’ve built (or collaborated on with someone else). But if you don’t have any job experience yet doing this kind of work, what can you do? Well – make something up! 

About What?
  • Well, how about you? Tell the story of your life and why you’re going to be a great ID.
  • Make up a course on a topic that interests you – maybe it’s dishwasher repair.
  • Volunteer for an organization like Lingos (eLearning Global Giveback Competition) and create something for their clients. And if you’re really that good,  you might even win an award while you’re at it.
If you really want to show your stuff, take one topic and create a few different designs out of it.  Make one a goal-based scenario, another a game, another a more straightforward information presentation. Create some job aids or tips sheets to go with it.  Try different design approaches using different tools to show you’re not just a one trick pony.

That’s right. Do something whackadoodle and crazy – to show that you know how to think outside of the box of an elearning course and are thinking creatively about solutions that provide experiences all along the user spectrum.

And if your ID bag does not include using actual tools (mine doesn’t!), well just write a design treatment or script.  That way your potential employers can see how you write and how you approach design challenges.

Learn Some Tools

Most employers these days want to hire IDs that know it all: instructional design and adult learning theory, graphics, script writing and authoring tools. It’s way too many hats to wear for most people, but it’s the reality.  In fact, most job postings typically include tools right in the job description. Captivate, Articulate, Lectora, and Camtasia are the big off-the-shelf authoring tools that seem to come up in a lot of job postings.
SO. Learn ‘em.  Go download some free 30 day trials and mess around for a month and create those courses I mentioned above.

Buy some books on using the tools, and then read ‘em.  The ELearning Uncovered series includes an Articulate and Lectora handbook

Read the vendor blogs to learn tips and tricks for using those tools. 

If you have the budget for it, go to an elearning conference (DevLearn and ASTD TechKnowledge are two of the biggies, but there are smaller more local conferences that might work for you). Learn from the masters, hear the latest ideas on learning with technology, connect and schmooze and start building your brand.

Search on It

Of course, you’re already looking on all the job boards for listings, right? SALT, elearning guild and ASTD are just a few places to start.

I’ve got a google alert set up for Instructional Design and these days it’s mostly pushing through job listings.  (It used to push me lots of blog posts on ID, but who blogs these days? Oh wait….)

What else?

Tom Kuhlmann of Articulate has written a great post Do You Need an Instructional Design Degree? that provides some good discussion and practical tips.

Christy Tucker Getting into Instructional Design – and also explore the Best of links on her blog’s side bar.

We’ve got lots of great tips about design on the Kineo elearning website, so be sure to check those out.

This is just a start.  I’m sure you people have more great ideas. Feel free to add them in the comments!

Update: 10/18 Articulate's Tom Kuhlmann has a great post this week on Getting a Job in Elearning.

Photo Credit:  Job Hunting is Frustrating by William Brawley

Friday, September 16, 2011

What should elearning look like?

What do today's learners expect from an online learning experience? What do you expect?

I pinged my PLN and came up with these descriptors. What would you add?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Read ‘em and weep elearning


I had a conversation today with someone who was still trying to get senior executives in his organization to buy into the whole concept of elearning. 

He said they’d all just had to go through two hours of state-mandated Sexual Harrassment training.  Endless text on the page. Boring, boring, boring.  What I call “Read ‘em and weep elearning”.


Read ‘em and weep. Is this how you want people thinking about the stuff you create? Can’t we do better?

How about instead we:

  • Focus on what we want people to DO instead of cramming them full of information that they’ll immediately forget?
  • Provide opportunities to practice?
  • Immerse someone in an experience and get them to react ?

What are you doing to stop the tears?

Photo credit: Crying baby by bbaunach

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Buckets of Content

buckets of rain “Buckets of rain, buckets of tears, got all them buckets coming out of my ears…buckets of moonbeams in my hands.” ~ Bob Dylan

Us Instructional Designers like buckets. Neat little containers. Helpful for sorting things out. Good for pouring.

I’ve been thinking lately about buckets of content.

Most of the elearning we seem to create in the corporate space primarily falls into these buckets:

  • Softskills
  • Procedures
  • Induction/New Hire
  • Product Knowledge
  • Awareness/Communications

Does this list seem right to you? What am I missing?

Photo credit: “Buckets of rain” by Cammy Bean

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Cathy Moore on Saving the World from Boring eLearning

Adobe Connect session hosted with Allen Partridge, Adobe eLearning Evangelist

“The extraordinary, the radical, the amazing Cathy Moore…”

How does one navigate this field and become a professional in this space? How did you arrive here, Cathy?

When I started out there was no ID degree (in the early 80’s). Job was to help people in libraries who needed to learn how to use computers.  Was a technical writer, tech support person…(while she was a student)…eventually got into elearning for k-12.  Bachelors degree in English and that is it! ID training is on the job and self taught through the wonders of the Internet – reading theory and research online. 

Cathy is big on self-taught.  “I learned by observing what worked and didn’t. I was highly motivated to write instruction that would keep people from calling me.”

Also spent some time as a copyrighter and being a marketing consultant – about communication…

How can we save the world from boring elearning?

Boring experiences that make people suffer isn’t going to change anyone’s behavior. 

Moving from information dumps to more problem solving formats.

Giving people a safe place to fail.

Stuffing information into people doesn’t make them learn it!  (And yet we have an obsession with delivering information.  Instead we need to focus on what the learner need to do with it?)

Is lack of knowledge really the cause of the problem? What can we do to give the learner the experience to learn through success and failure.  We learn by: experiencing things, drawing conclusions from the situation, so we build a “case” in our own minds.

As IDs, we need to find the courage/strength/political power to push back on clients who want us to just push the information. Instead ask, “what do we need the learners to do?”  We need to redefine our roles in organizations from converting infomration in a course to becoming performance consultants.

If we evaluate our elearning and see if actually changes performance on the job.

Make more examples available of experiential elearning.  So that the default ID of what elearning is (screens full of elearning quizzes) broadens to include other things…(the default elearning course that’s info screen, info screen, quiz question…)

What is Action Mapping?
1. The Strategic Goal. Start with a measurable goal for your project.  Why does this elearning deserve to exist? How will the org benefit in a measurable way? (the bulls eye)


2. Real world actions people need to do to reach this goal. (the green triangles)

3. Practice activities – to practice what people need to DO. (the orange hands)

4. Crucial information needed for that activity. (the blue dots)

(You should only put in the course that which the learner needs to use – everything else should go in the job aid!)

At the beginning ask “Why does this project need to exist? What do they need to do? What do they need to practice? What information do we need to include?”

Allen mentions the gated corporate environment that most IDs have to work in – the lawyers who want this, the compliance officer who wants this, etc. – all of these stopping mechanisms…

Get all of the stakeholders and subject matter experts involved from the inception of the idea – so they’ll work together for a common goal.

Action Mapping is a way to brainstorm the activities.  Then you can use whatever delivery format works best for those activities – could be face to face or online.  Ideally, what we end up designing feels like a series of activities rather than an information dump.

Low text scenarios – one scene scenario with a compelling, complex questions.  You see feedback from your decision.  You see someone get bloody because you passed them the scalpel in the wrong way.

So how long does this take?

The hardest part is identifying the strategic goal and what you need to do.   Those first two rings are the most challenging – but you can do it in a two hour call. 

You often end up producing less because you put the information into PDFs, etc – less time making boring information look slick.  More time on creating activities.

“But I’m really a fan of the low-tech scenario.”

Look at examples of problem-based learning and case-based learning.  (Search on Cathy’s blog for multiple choice questions)

Have Instructional Designers and eLearning developers become doormats?

Stakeholders, clients come to IDs with a pile of PPT slides and say “turn this into a course.”

To raise our profile in the organization – to become like the marketing dept which no one wants to live without – we need to understand how what we do fits in with the strategy of the organization. 

Are you providing value or are you a servant to this experience?

Don’t get distracted by the graphics, the bells and the slick – instead focus on the content.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Trina's Elearning Freebies

Trina Rimmer has shared some really nice PowerPoint page layout designs and templates that you can use:

Wasn't that nice of her? Use 'em and thank her!