I’m interested in [the field of] eLearning. What should I do first?
I’m responding to this question from the perspective of a person looking to get a job in the field of e-learning vs. a person who knows little about the term.
I think one place to start is to look at the competencies and skills needed for various “e-learning” jobs. E-learning, of course, encompasses many areas – courseware designer, curriculum development, online trainer, blended learning specialist, Flash programmer, game designer, research, etc. Here’s a brief listing of some of the competencies I think newbies to e-learning should focus on:
- history, trends, and direction (history, evolution, impact of technology, etc.) Here is a presentation on learning and technology (historical) done by my colleague, Gary Woodill, some time ago for Operitel and a presentation on learning technology (LMS/LCMS/Talent Management that we, Brandon Hall Research, deliver in a “101” webinar with Learn.com which should provide an overview. I also wrote elearning 101 which provides an overview of e-learning
- adult learning and the foundation of human learning (theory, practice) If you like print books, one good one is Human Learning by Jeanne Ellis Ormrod.
- knowledge of evaluation
- Need identification, analysis, recommendation, solution
- Knowledge of instructional strategies (application of theories)
- Tools of e-learning – authoring tools, systems (LMS, LCMS, Live Online Learning, social media)
- Methods, processes, delivery channels for e-learning – synchronous, asynchronous, blended, distributed, performance support tools, etc.
- Course authoring – knowledge of software (simulation, game, rapid design tools, multimedia, etc.).
- Web interface design – my favorite books are The Non-Designers Web Book by Williams & Tollett and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.
- Online facilitation skills – Jennifer Hoffman has a great program with certification @ insynctraining
- Project management skills – there are books, programs, and experts specializing in project management. Here’s one by a colleague
So, here’s what I suggest:
- Find e-learning experts and follow their work
- Attend webinars
- Attend conferences
- Subscribe to blogs & start your own
- Read – trade journals, periodicals, books, presentations, white papers, research, etc.
- Join e-learning associations (local, national, global)
- Take a course, enroll in a degree program (ID, facilitation of online learning, curriculum development, project management, etc.)
- Attend conferences (online and face-to-face)
- Learn to use authoring and other software and platforms; HTML & other coding (w3schools is good)
- Visit the Learning Circuits blog and find others’ suggestions on this question.
As an aside, here’s my own e-learning journey so far:
- got a job in e-learning! Said ‘holy shit, what do I do?’
- joined ASTD, ISPI, e-Learning Guild, went to Masie lab. Said ‘holy shit, how do I do this?’
- started to read everything I could find on the topic – print, web. Annoyed the heck out of my co-workers and vendors with a sea of questions.
- tried everything
- subscribed to periodicals, email lists, listserv, read blogs. Had several aha moments.
- learned how to use authoring tools, created some asynch courses, developed curriculum, blended learning solutions for tech training. Felt like crying frequently due to some steep learning curves.
- learned how to train online by using an online learning platform (WebEx) by screwing up multiple times and attending a lot of other peoples training (started a best practice log)
- became a project manager for an LMS/LCMS/Talent Management implementation; learned about systems through Brandon Hall KnowledgeBase (this big implementation was the point in time where I knew I would stay in this field)
- joined social networks
- enrolled in a Master’s program at Capella University (Education – Instructional Design for Online Learning); learned theory, application, some tools, web design, project management, how to “do” research
- started working part time doing e-learning research for Brandon Hall even though I had zero time. Said, ‘WTF was I thinking? (Did I mention I had zero time)’
- left training job and joined Brandon Hall Research full-time. A huge step for me – working at home, etc.
- started a personal e-learning blog, joined the edublog community. Realized I was learning as much as I did in my Master’s program.
- joined online social networks, started using all the newest tools and technologies. Tweet!
- enrolled in Ph.D. program at Syracuse University (Education – Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation) for a still unknown reason…perhaps status, earning right to be an expert, feeling that the future of education is online and that there will be a need for instructors with terminal degrees, unresolved middle child thing.
- Wrote this blog post and wondered if it contained too much info. Pushed “Publish” anyway.