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E-Learning for Newbies

Janet Clarey, an Analyst & Sr. Researcher from Brandon Hall, was kind enough to let me share this blog post that she wrote on a very popular question at E-Learning Council--Getting Started on E-Learning.  You can find more information at Janet's blog at  As you likely know, Brandon Hall Research provides independent expert advice to help organizations develop successful e-learning solutions.

ASTD’s Learning Circuits Blog has a monthly ‘Big Question.” This month it’s:

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 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 ‘What do I do?’
  • joined ASTD, ISPI, e-Learning Guild, went to Masie lab. Said ‘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, ‘What 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.

E-Learning for Newbies

Yahoo!  Finally, just the information I've been looking for since last Spring/Summer.  Thank you for posting this.

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