If you’re like me, you have probably asked yourself, “How did I end up here?” Most of us never imagined e-learning as a career. I knew I wanted a career where I got to use my creativity and artistic abilities; so, I went to college for graphic design and then to work in the marketing department for a major hand tool corporation. There I applied the skills I had learned in college, and eventually moved on to other career opportunities in the design field. Ultimately, I reached what I thought was my career goal: art director for a major printing company. Little did I know my career up to that point was just a precursor to what I feel is my calling.
Along the way, I began learning more about graphic software and the techniques used to achieve desired results. I also found myself teaching these skills to other employees who had a difficult time understanding software. I seemed to have a knack for both learning and teaching technical skills, though I was completely unaware of this talent. Then one day, a good friend and former student suggested I pursue a career in adult education. Once again, I had never thought of teaching as a profession; but when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to give it a try.
Now, some 15 years later, I have been the director of training for an Adobe Certified training center, I have several courses on Lynda.com and Pluralsite, and I am currently an e-learning authoring tools trainer and writer at E-Learning Uncovered. So how did I go from graphic design to e-learning as a profession?
One of the key components to becoming an e-learning professional is a desire to share knowledge. I was completely unaware that I had a talent for teaching, but I did recognize that I enjoyed sharing what I learned with others. Having this desire is, of course, not enough; but I think it is what ultimately drives us toward a career in education. It also keeps us learning more and improving our instructional skill set to help our students achieve their goals.
Another key component is a working knowledge of e-learning development tools. Once again, if you are like me, this was not something offered in your choice of college major. I learned these software applications the way I have always learned software: I read everything I could get my hands on and then practiced what I had learned in a real-world environment. That method works for me, but it is not for everyone.
A more traditional approach would be to attend instructor-led courses on the software you wish to use. This gives you the opportunity to try and fail with no repercussions. You also have the support of a trained professional who will help you learn from your mistakes. Just knowing how to use the software will get you only so far. The deeper understanding of when and why you should use a software feature can only come from someone who has experienced it firsthand. In this case, that would be the instructor leading the course. This is the real benefit from professional training.
Having access to someone with a wealth of knowledge that you do not yet possess is a major boost to your learning potential of a given topic. It is a lot like the master-apprentice relationship of days past, only in a condensed timeframe. You gain not only conceptual knowledge, but practical knowledge as well through the shared experiences of the instructor. In all my years of teaching, the comment I hear the most often is how a technique I shared in class has positively changed the way a student works.
If you are considering or have in some way found yourself in a career in e-learning, your next choice should be to attend instructor-led courses on the wide variety of topics available. A good place to start would be the ATD course library. Here you can find both in-person and online courses that are convenient and well organized. I guarantee you will become a better e-learning professional as a result.
Recommended ATD E-Learning Courses include:
- Adaptive Learning Certificate
- E-Learning Instructional Design Certificate
- Microlearning Certificate
- Rapid Video Development for Learning Certificate
- Writing for Instructional Design and Training Certificate.