When you are starting your life as an eLearning Developer it is important to know what skills will help you get employed. I have hired and been an eLearning Developer so let me share my experience with you.
The Employable Technical Skills you will need are:
- Basic Web Development
- eLearning Software
- Authoring Tools
- Screen Casting
- Sound Editing
- Video Editing
- Training Manuals
- Learning Management Systems
- Editing Content
- Basic Administration
- Project Management
- Requirements Analysis
The Employable Soft Skills are:
- Instructional Design
- Language Proficiency
- High Level Communicator
- Creative & Innovative
- Team Worker
- Detail Orientated
Now that you understand the Technical and Soft skills required lets look into them a little bit deeper and discuss the specific tools and skills you will need.
Employable Technical Skills
Basic Web Development
While you should really be a full web developer or at least have completed the training so you understand all the basics this will help you when you get to Intermediate to Advanced style eLearning.
The key specific skills you will need are:
- Basic Coding
It is ok if you don’t know what these are as I will explain them further now.
HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language is not a programming language as most people think and it is more a specification of open and close tags use to glue a web page together. When you are creating your eLearning content understanding this allows you to jump into the HMTL code on a webpage when content is just not displaying right. So on a Learning Management System when you are adding content you can use a HTML block for Intermediate to Advanced tasks.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are used in conjunction with HTML to decide how things are formatted on a web page. Since you eLearning has HTML components and is displayed on a web page understand how you can change the look and feel is very important. This makes either individual elements of the website have a unique look and feel or for the web site as a whole.
Basic Logic and the ability to do switching in our eLearning packages or link to third party tool or resource may be required as well. While not strictly required if you have basic coding skills this will put you ahead of any other applicants. I would suggest some basic Java Script combined with some SQL.
While you can create eLearning without the use of the software below you can speed up your delivery and be more consistent with its quality by using them. Also if you want to add a richer media experience which is expected no by students than understanding more about each topic is important.
eLearning Authoring tools that bundle all the training and media together into a single SCORM file are great for managing your work. It also adds another layer of consistency to your projects with a similar look and feel. The current market leader is Articulate Storyline but it is expensive as you would expect. If you want to try something for free check out Active Presenter instead as they have a free trial version.
Screen Casting is recording the computer screen and overlaying an audio narration or even showing yourself via a web cam. You will have seen training like this before on Youtube and if you have not go and have a look. While the eLearning Authoring tools have the ability to record screen casts they don’t have much in the way of post production and you are better knowing about how to use Techsmith Camtasia instead.
You will be recording plenty of voice as well as other audio for your eLearning packages and it is important to understand how to do basic edits to make it more professional. There are plenty of paid and free audio editors on the market but I would suggest just knowing a little about Audacity. If you want to know how to edit the audio on your screen casts check out this article.
Ok so you have learned how to use Screen casting tools and they output video, so why do we need more video editing software? Well basically some of your eLearning will be interviews with people or recording of real world training scenarios. It would be good if you knew how to film them but the least you should know is how to edit them in a basic way to make sure the quality of your eLearning is consistent. Windows Movie Maker is a free to download application to get you started. And if you get more advanced Adobe Premier Elements is the entry level with the Adobe Suite of products and you can move up to Pro later.
Training Manuals (Optional)
While not mandatory for strict eLearning it will always be another notch on your belt of employable skills that will put you ahead of your competition when applying for a job. Having a basic understanding of single sourcing tools like Madcap Flare will be very valuable. Understanding how you can store your content in a neutral format and then push it out as a Web Help (or online training manual), eBook or even Printed Manual.
Learning Management Systems
Learning Management Systems(LMS) are a form of Content Management System(CMS) that allows you to make and manage a website with minimal skills. It also means you don’t have to be a web developer to create content online. An LMS is a specifically designed CMS for educational purposes. So basically you can create a web site with the same skills you use to create a word document.
Understanding how to edit content on your particular learning management system whether it is Moodle or any of the many others is a key skill. Even if you create your eLearning package in an Authoring tool you sill have to have an LMS to bring all your courses together and display them to your audience. Understanding the block building and formatting of content on an LMS and what features are available is critical.
Being able to extend your LMS with plugins when required or to add and remove students or review student marks are all key administration skills. The very simple nature of CMS and LMS systems will be quick to learn and then you can manage your own internal or external LMS. You will also need to know how to maintain your LMS as well to upgrade it to new versions.
We can’t always be doing all the fun stuff like creating animations and whether we like it or not documentation will always be part of an eLearning developers role.
Understanding basic project management is key to the successful completion of any project whether eLearning or anything else. You will be expected by your boss to be able to provide time frames and stick to deadlines for the work you do. An understanding of Microsoft Project as a paid solution to project management or Project Libre as its open source free alternative will mean you can create project plans.
A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) document will always need to be completed whether for a small, medium or large project. It can be a single page for a small project to a full document for a large project. It allows you to decide what is the actual training requirement you are trying to reach and once you complete your eLearning provides a checklist as to whether you were successful. Any word processor will allow you to do this and most people just use Microsoft Word. If you want a free alternate look at Open Office Writer or Google Docs. Google Docs while not as advanced allows for multiple people to edit a file at the same time together.
Employable Soft Skills
Having the Technical Skills is only have of what you will need. The other half are the soft skills that allow you to be effective in your job. Soft Skills are generally once where people are involved or knowledge that you must have to complete the job.
Every eLearning developer must know how to structure their training to suit their audience and that is exactly what Instruction Design is all about. How do different types of people learn and how to we provide the training in an easy to understand way for each particular group. This is really where the physiology of education and the technology collide. So a good understanding of Instructional Design is critical to creating quality easy to understand and use eLearning.
Depending on what you are creating eLearning for depends on how proficient you need to be with the language you are teaching. The more technical the training or if it relates to people getting hurt like in health and safety the more proficient you have to be. You will always have a spelling mistake or two and some incorrect grammar. But understanding the the topic is important being able to create the eLearning and if you can’t speak fluently that will come across in the result of your work and the ability to understand the requirements.
High Level Communicator
An eLearning developer has to be a high level communicator to understand the training requiring a solution. To break down complex training into simple to understand topics and aid in the training of others. To constantly learn new subjects so they can accurately create training packages for them. To be part of a team of high level communicators as well all requires an eLearning developer to be one as well.
Creative & Innovative
Out of the box thinking in their approach to eLearning delivery and being creative with their work truly distinguishes an eLearning developer from their peers. Whether they are coming up with graphics for the eLearning package or a unique way to deliver the training content in an eLearning module. Being Creative and Innovative is the difference between a boring and bland eLearning package and a thoroughly engaging one that suites its audience of learners.
The eLearning developer must be a team worker whether they work as part of a larger training team or even just as a contractor. Understanding how they can support and help the rest of the team and the ability to ask for help when required. These and many more team work skills makes for a better result and happier co-workers or customers.
Being able to be accurate with the training material and documentation you are creating in your job is important. Since the eLearning will be created once and view 100’s or 1000’s of times means that simple mistakes will be seen by lots of people. This attention to detail is another factor that separates the very successful from the mediocre.
Now that you understand the technical and soft skills required to be very employable as an eLearning developer look at his article on the content types you can build into your eLearning.