Career Moves: From Classroom to E-Learning
Some of the most talented people I’ve worked with in the e-learning industry were gently guided (and some violently “pushed”) into the field – because of a changing environment, new workplace goals, business reorganization, etc. They were great instructional designers and facilitators of classroom training and skillfully moved their skills to a different, online arena. The question I often hear is, “How?”
I’ve spoken at several ASTD events about how I, as well as many of my colleagues, have transferred skills from one arena to another. If you are interested in moving into e-learning, here are some things you might want to try.
Identify the position you want.
When I ask what people think you need to be good at e-learning development, people often say you need to be good with computers – which isn’t necessarily true. Yes, to create e-learning, SOMEONE on the team needs to know how to make the technology work. However, not everybody does! Here are some talents and roles e-learning teams need that do NOT require top technical skills:
- Instructional Designer
- Graphic Designer
- Quality Assurance Tester
- Project Manager
- Subject Matter Expert
- Online Instructor
- Voice Talent
And here are a few that require a bit more tech-savviness:
- Programmer for Course Assembly
- Audio Recording and Editing Specialist
- Video Production and Editing Specialist
Identify the skills you already have that will transfer.
Look at job postings for the positions you want and identify what skills you have that are a direct match for the position. For example, do you design effective classroom training that meets the course objectives? That is a skill that is highly transferrable to online training. Exactly how you meet the objectives might change a bit (which is the skill you might still need to develop), but many of the other skills are there for you. Click here for a worksheet to get you started. This worksheet has a list of skills you might in an e-learning job posting that you might already have.
Find a mentor.
To move into any field that is new for you, it’s helpful to find a mentor. Unfortunately, finding someone who will share knowledge and gently guide you through the growing pains of learning a new skill isn’t always easy – especially if you don’t have access to a mentoring program. It’s often difficult to get time with a busy professional.
If you want someone to be your mentor, it’s important to build rapport. You might want to offer to take the person out for coffee or lunch and see if you are a good match. You’ll also want to come with specific questions and goals. If you are asking for someone to help you, you’ll want to guide the process so you get what you need from the process. It also helps the person you want to have mentor you understand what type of commitment you are asking for.
(By the way, some professional organizations have great mentoring programs. My local ASTD chapter has a successful program for members who want to be teamed up with other learning professionals – you’d just have to specify that you wanted to be mentored by someone in the e-learning field.)
Get some experience.
How do you get experience if you are just getting started and no one will hire you? Look for volunteer or internship opportunities. Internships can be paid (generally at a lower rate than a seasoned professional) or unpaid. Either way, you have the opportunity to build a give-and-take relationship with a skilled professional in the e-learning company or internal department and get some real-world experience that employers are looking for. Successfully completing an internship doesn’t mean you’ll get hired on by that team, but it does sometimes happen since they get a chance to see your work and how you interact with the team. I know from experience that an internship can be a great way to meet a mentor – and secure a job!
Get/stay up to date.
There are many ways to learn more about e-learning development on your own. Before entering the field, you’ll want to learn some of the technology and terminology – and then you’ll want to stay current! Click here for a list of helpful resources (websites, books, conferences, certifications, e-newsletters, blogs, and forums) that can get you started – or help keep you current in the field.
If you are looking for a career in e-learning, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to get started, and if you’ve made your way into e-learning from another field, I’d really like to hear how you did it, too!