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Harold Aguirre

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So you want to be an eLearning Developer?


I was sitting in a cafe yesterday when I came across a meme on Tumblr that had me literally LOL-ing. In response to the question “Why do you want this job?”, the job applicant responded, “I’ve just always been very passionate about not starving to death”.

Although I’ve been working happily in the e-Learning Development field for over 5 years now, it wasn’t always that way. I still remember going to interviews for countless dead-end jobs that I only wanted so that I could make enough money to put food on the table.

I also remember making up some outright fictitious responses to the standard “why do you want this job” question. What I know for sure is that I never had the guts to say “I want the job so I keep the lights on and avoid starvation”.

Once I had shared the meme with a few friends and the laughs died down, I began to think more seriously about the people entering the eLearning Industry and the companies that were hiring them.

Assuming that they really wanted to be an eLearning Developer for example, what skills would someone need to put on their resume to impress a hiring manager?

Upskilling for an eLearning Developer Interview

Like any true amateur investigative reporter would have done - I did an incognito Google search for “e-Learning Developer Jobs”.

The results came as no surprise.  Almost every company asked for a Bachelor’s Degree in Education or Instructional Design, excellent communication skills, polished writing skills, graphic design, organization skills, project management, experience using Adobe Captivate/Articulate Story Line and a host of other technical, computing, and soft skills.

In one job description, The Hanley Wood University in Washington DC even stated “The eLearning Content Developer will serve as an organizational and time management guru”. Yes that’s what the ideal candidate would serve as, a “Guru”.

It was obvious from the long lists of skills and responsibilities that companies expect learning developers to wear many hats and juggle a dizzying array of responsibilities.

Thinking back to a recent Training Zone blog post about Upskilling in Corporate e-Learning, I wondered how applicants to eLearning Developer positions can do their own upskilling to better prepare for job interviews and roles.

Understand the company’s objectives, and its learners

Regardless of the industry, every training program should begin with the learners’ experience and the company’s objectives in mind. Many times the company’s job description won’t explicitly state what type of course materials the applicant will be responsible for.

However, a good starting point is to first clearly understand the company’s overall mission and objectives.  Most times this information is readily available in the About section of their website.

Additionally, a company’s learners can be internal (like its employees or sales force) or external (like providers, suppliers or shareholders). Understanding what the hiring company does and who its stakeholders are is an excellent way of anticipating the types of questions the hiring manager could ask and the types of training materials that the company may need to develop.

The eLearning developer as a graphic designer

eLearning professionals are skilled at presenting large amounts of information in a way that facilitates easier understanding and more retention.

At a talk by given by Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of California, he claimed research shows that people learn more from information presented in words and pictures than from just words alone.

e-Learning is in essence what Mr. Mayer calls Multimedia Learning. It goes without saying that the people responsible for developing multimedia training programs need to be multimedia specialists.

On many job descriptions I saw ‘excellent graphic design skills required’. Graphic design is one of the most important tools in the e-learning developer’s multimedia toolkit. However, the main focus of graphic design in e-Learning isn’t to make training materials flashy or artistic but more to help structure and present information in a way that is consistent with how the human mind works and processes information.

Familiarize yourself with industry software

It is highly unlikely that you will be expected to have expert knowledge of every software a company uses to design its eLearning materials. As a course developer you will play a role similar to that of a movie director. You’ll be responsible for synchronizing all of the moving parts.

Having a working knowledge of commonly used programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier and After Effects will help you to communicate better with a team of graphic designers, video producers, and other creatives.

With that being said, many companies are switching to industry leading software like Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline which allow a developer to design entire courses without any technical knowledge. Proficiency in either of these programs is highly recommended and will most likely give you an edge competing applicants.


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