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Discover E-Learning Resources for Your Department of One


Wed Dec 12 2018

Discover E-Learning Resources for Your Department of One

The trend of departments of one can be seen in the proliferation of mobile devices and the increased value of just-in-time training. If you are such a department, hopefully you’re happy to have found yourself in the job you have now. You’re building the best training you can with the time and materials you can access.

But maybe you’ve found websites that show off the latest and greatest e-learning and you want to build those things, you just don’t have the resources you’d need to develop them. There are ways to find those resources, free on the Internet or inexpensively from suppliers, that can help you get the job done within your organization.


I have identified six major areas you can tap for resources:

1. project management

2. communication

3. development

4. multimedia


5. authoring

6. professional development.

Within your organization, there are likely some project management artifacts, if not specific tools, such as project charters, policies and procedures, stakeholder registers, tech support or bug tracking software, and even basic project management software. If your organization has it, start with the Project Management Office (PMO) for resources. If not, then look to your purchasing and information technology departments.

If you don’t find the resources you want there, tools like Trello and Smartsheet have free editions you can use. Allen Interactions developed an instructional design–specific project management methodology called the Successive Approximation Model (SAM), and Torrance Learning developed one called Looks a Lot Like Agile Methodology Approach (LLAMA), both of which are described on their sites.

Next, there are communication tools. Inside your organization I’m willing to bet that you have at least an email program, like Microsoft Outlook. Other programs like SharePoint, Skype, and Webex probably exist too. Creative use of Adobe Form Creator or SurveyMonkey can be great for collecting data from learners.


If you don’t have any of these, check out free tools for group communication real-time, like Slack, Freeconferencecall.com, and UberConference. For communicating with a delay or in a nonlinear discussion, think about Google Apps, Jing, or VoiceThread. Finally, for sharing files with your subject matter experts or learners, try HighTail, Dropbox, and ScormCloud.

Thankfully, development—or planning and storyboarding—can be done with very simple tools. I like to use Microsoft Word for initial planning and script approval. For graphics and activity approval, I use Microsoft PowerPoint. There are great development tools online to help with planning branching activities, like BrachTrack, Twine, Draw IO, XMind, Freemind, and Coggle.

Multimedia is where I tend to spend the most time and money. Initially I purchased some graphics libraries to do initial development. As I got to know my learners better, I realized that I needed the images to be more reflective of the audience, so I worked with human resources to get approval to video record, photograph, and audio record staff members. Then, the training felt more authentic for the learners (but I had to spend time doing video and audio editing).

Beyond that, spending time developing materials that are reusable will improve the cohesiveness and usability for the learners, in addition to saving time and money long-term. Taking a page from web development, e-learning developers have started creating design systems where you can save players, buttons, navigation, and code.

For authoring tools, there are the big-name ones that come with big-price annual subscriptions. Ideally, using these will allow you to access templates and advanced interactions, making it worth their cost. If those aren’t an option, PowerPoint can do basic interactions, and there are an increasing number of open source e-learning authoring tools coming to market on a daily basis.

Professional development resources abound. Particularly when you’re working as a department of one, it can be hard to maintain focus and excitement while developing new content.

Here are some great resources for e-learning:

Reddit is a fantastic place to connect with others and get your questions answered. Consider viewing the subreddits for e-learning, instructional design, and training.

Some more general resources I find valuable:

Working in a department of one can be a wonderful thing—you can be inspired by projects you see other developers make, and you can learn how to do it and build them for your organization. Find resources that work for you; repurpose what you can.

For more about finding resources in a limited environment, attend my session at ATD TechKnowledge on February 6, 2019 at 11:30 a.m. and check out my new ATD Press book E-Learning Department of One.

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