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The world of eLearning is vast and it is growing by the day. There are plenty of training professionals who would like to venture into eLearning but hardly know where to begin. At first eLearning can seem rather intimidating, especially when people are talking about LMSs, MOOCS, mobile learning, social learning and authoring tools. What does it all mean? A few years ago I took my first steps down the eLearning path and I have never looked back. In this post I’d like to share a few observations about my experience moving from teaching and training into eLearning development.

One of the first pieces of jargon I learnt was that an ‘authoring tool’ is simply the software that eLearning designers use. Like any software, it changes and so you need to keep yourself up-to-date with new versions. Or you might even want to look at alternative authoring tools from time to time. This is just part of modern work life really, so just be prepared to adapt to the changes. Take heart from the fact that authoring tools are getting easier and easier to use. I am not an IT expert and yet I had no trouble learning to use Articulate Studio. These days many authoring tools are giving the power to the SME who no longer has to work in conjunction with a programmer. This is fantastic for course developers working in the training sector.

The point is that the technology changes, but adult learning principles do not change. If you already develop materials for adult learners (for face to face delivery), then you have an excellent foundation for developing online courses. You already know how to motivate and engage adult learners—it just takes a bit of creative thinking to translate this into rich eLearning experiences. New technological developments in authoring tools allow you to realise your ideas more fully. Take Articulate’s Storyline for example – I have seen genuine excitement on the faces of training professionals as they see what is now possible. If you spend the time learning how to fully utilise the software, it is amazing what you can create for online learners. And you don’t have to be a tech-head!

Another thing I discovered about eLearning development is that you have to care about the look of each screen. I have no qualifications in graphic design but I managed to find resources to help me improve my design skills. One good book I can recommend is The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams. I soon picked up on some basic design principles such as alignment, repetition and contrast. I have become more observant about other people’s design on the web, in advertising, in magazines and so on. I think you can train your eye to become attuned to design and this is an ongoing process to help you improve as an elearning designer.

“The more you know about your tools the more you can do”— this quote from David Anderson inspires me to seek out professional development opportunities.  Articulate Studio and Articulate Storyline are probably the easiest of all the tools to pick up and you can teach yourself enough to be able to develop and publish a course.  However I found that the training program I attended explored the full capability of the tools.  I discovered new ideas, techniques and features I didn’t even realised existed. It also proved to be a fantastic networking opportunity to see what others are doing and how they came up with their learning solutions.  It opened my eyes to a new way of design and enhanced my instructional design skills as well as my knowledge of Articulate.

Another professional development opportunity I can recommend is the Master eLearning course delivered by B Online Learning which provides an excellent way for training professionals to leap into eLearning. It is also helpful for people already involved in eLearning who want to become better at designing, developing and facilitating all types of online learning.  I think it’s important for online teachers to have an understanding of the design and development process of eLearning, as well as the skills to motivate and inspire online students.  It means they can assist in the continuous improvement process by providing qualitative feedback and suggestions.  With the launch of MOOCs and the continued growth of corporate eLearning around the world, it assists traditional teachers or trainers to build on their existing skills and knowledge and to transit to an online world.

Finally, I also recommend a blog post by Mike Taylor, Learning Resolutions: Make the Investment in Yourself that will inspire you to get learning!

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B Online Learning offers Certified Articulate training workshops (http://bonlinelearning.com.au/articulate-training) around Australia and custom on site Articulate training. Browse our website for more information on all our training and solutions that enable clients and students to build better eLearning.