Do you have an Instructional Design Portfolio?

Job hunting is never easy for an experienced instructional designer. Our work is often proprietary,  confidential, restricted, and hidden from public view.  What we deliver frequently belongs to our employers.

On the flip side, potential employers expect us to be constantly adding tools, networking, and building a strong portfolio of work samples. Instructional designers help people learn. So we should be constantly learning and showing our value.

Today, a public portfolio of instructional design work is expected by most employers. Many job applications will ask for your public-facing website. College programs help their students build portfolios before they graduate with their instructional design certificate. Contract work is on the rise. As a contractor, one must maintain one’s own business, and a portfolio is how you sell yourself.   

Build your portfolio while you are employed. Don’t wait. Invest in yourself.

I’m speaking from my own experience. Over a four-year period, I spent one year hunting for jobs and building portfolio while unemployed. It wasn’t easy. Experts like Tom Kuhlmann back me up. In 2012, I heard him make this point to over 100 instructional designers in a workshop. Tom is passionate on this topic. Do it while you have a job.  

Not enough time? Think of portfolio work as a series of small projects, a 10-hour project in two weeks or a 30-hour project within a month. Then look at your weekly workload. In a 50-hour week, can you set aside 10% of your time (5 hours) to work on your portfolio and learn something new? If you have a boss and an organization that expects you to learn, you may be able to work with them to align your portfolio work with your development goals.  

Still not convinced? There are positive benefits.

By building a portfolio, you will be able to test out your ideas, alter them and refine your portfolio to highlight what you do best. You can learn new skills or new tools, and you may discover a new path to follow. You can try fresh ideas on the public with little risk, because you are offering something to the world for free. You can see where you stand with your peers, and work on your gaps or weaknesses. You can set up your personal computing devices with your favorite tools and do projects you would not normally do at work.

Plus, your current employer benefits from your learning whether you make them aware of it or not. Learning new skills and tools makes you a better employee, and more desirable within your organization.

A portfolio can make you feel more confident about your future. Opportunity knocks at unexpected times. Jobs and organizations change rapidly. With a portfolio, you will be ready to open the door to your next job tomorrow, next year, or when HR calls the meeting for another layoff.

A portfolio can help you see yourself in a new light. We often see ourselves and our work in the context of the organization and team. If the team and organization reward us, we feel satisfied and competent. If they do not, we feel discouraged and unmotivated. Through your portfolio, you may find another way to belong, bump up your self-esteem, and achieve self-actualization (quoting Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).

Along the journey, you will find surprises. I was surprised when my first SlideShare post attracted 300 people on Halloween night. When I tried my YouTube pie-making video, I learned about the challenges of being on camera. It was fun, the pie was good, and my family and friends enjoyed it. When I shared my instructional design work with peer groups, I realized I knew more than I thought I did. I am absolutely amazed that over 15,000 people have viewed one small 2014 project Leadership Sources of Power on SlideShare.net with very little self-promotion.

The best part about building a portfolio is that it belongs to you. You invest in yourself. Investing in yourself is the path to build earning potential and a strong financial future no matter what happens with the economy. You are a good investment in uncertain times.

Where to start? I know. It is like a blank piece of paper staring at you. Do you create a webinar, video, an e-learning course, podcast, blog, or build a game or lab? What content do you use? Which tool do you use? Where do you share it?

Over the next month, I’m going to write about getting started with your portfolio:

  1. Research: Look for portfolio examples and ideas that appeal to you.  
  2. Produce: Plan and create your own project.
  3. Share: Publish and share your work; solicit and respond to feedback.

Each one of us is unique and different. We are all traveling different directions. So I won’t tell you exactly what to do. Instead, I will share my experiences to help you brainstorm, and get started with your own ideas. That way you can form your own path and direction.

Next week, I will write more on the topic of Research, that is, how to seek portfolio examples and ideas that appeal to you.  

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Is the LMS Dead?

Mingling at the Lucky Lab Beer HallThe room was humming at the PDXEdTech Meetup Tuesday as over 100 developers, content creators and business leaders grabbed a drink and mingled at the Lucky Lab Beer Hall.

What innovative tools would we see this time to solve our education problems? Are Learning Management Systems (LMS) really dead?

Nate Geier of Coursetto welcomes the crowdAs the Meetup founder, Nate Geier gave us a warm welcome and introduced each speaker.

Eric Preisz, CEO of GG Interactive, presented his unique solution to solve the information technology gap faced by today’s high school teachers and career schools. GG Interactive aims to teach game design first, and programming later. Students become quickly engaged through videos, interactive exercises and unique simulators.Eric Peirez presents GG Interactive

Eric believes motivated students eventually step up to learn C# programming skills. The flipped classroom model supports teachers by providing references, instructor guides and e-mail support. Eric recognizes the challenge of slow connections; his product solves it by providing offline versions.

At PDXEdTech interesting surprises always await in the Stand Up segment when businesses and job seekers quickly introduce themselves. The crowd gave Vivek Mano a warm welcome back. Vivek, founder of Wiglbot, has designed an interactive toy robot that listens to music and teaches children to hear tones as adults do. Wiglbot was featured in the August 2014 PDXEdTech session. Vivek is actively seeking interested pilot schools for Wigl.

Nate Geier, CoursettoNate encouraged all of us to feel free to quickly promote events, products or ourselves at future sessions.

Nate gave us a quick peek at Coursetto. Coursetto is a corporate training platform offered to companies by subscription. His product enables anyone in a company to create and curate training courses. Coursetto features a user-friendly interface that makes course development easy:

  • Link video from YouTube or Vimeo
  • Link narration or sound with SoundCloud
  • Add text images or animated gifs
  • Create quizzes, track completion dates and progress

Chris waits for us to answer the questions...Silence fell as Chris Rosso, Global Manager of Instructional Design and Learning Platforms, NIKE, Inc. took the stage. Chris quickly engaged us by asking questions:

  • Is the LMS Dead?
  • What does an LMS do in theory?
  • Do you love your LMS?

For NIKE, their Learning Management System (LMS) is the tool by which the student takes training and the way the instructional design team manages the training.

Chris pointed out that LMS systems use outdated standards originally created for the military. The audience pointed out another flaw; most LMS systems were originally designed to emulate classroom training.

Chris Rosso leading discussion on What Does An LMS Do?Chris said his instructional design team finds it helpful to divide learners into three age groups:

  • Over 50
  • 25 to 50
  • Under 25

The differences lie in the top and bottom groups. Those over 50 are likely to use the LMS due to a strong need for formal instruction. Those under 25 use so many online tools that they find it painful to enter the LMS to take an hour-long course.

Chris quickly pointed out these ideas do not apply to time-driven compliance courses, for example, a government-mandated sexual harassment course. The concepts do apply to any program where learner motivation is essential.

Sharing a few laughs at PDXEdTechChris challenged us to think about how all of us learn. Text messaging, social media and direct searches are common tools today.

Chris encouraged us to use our creativity to envision new ways to motivate learners to use the LMS. One solution might be to present three different ways to do a course; another might be to chop up a long video into short segments. The audience offered up ideas: wikis, social media or internet assignments.

Chris showed us solutions that supplement legacy LMS with new Learning Reporting Systems (LRS) plus applications that track ongoing employee performance.

Chris wraps it up at PDXEdTechChris strongly believes “We should measure what they do, not completion.”  Do we really care if a learner spends two hours in a course?

Thanks to the speakers and audience for another thought-provoking session at PDXEdTech!

What’s next? Coursetto is inviting you to participate in the next PDXEdTech:

  1. As a participant or a speaker, think about content that you’d like to hear at the next session.
  2. Coursetto is always looking for sponsors for PDXEdTech Meetup sessions.
  3. Feel free to reach out to Meris or Nate at Coursetto for more information.

Special Thanks to Contributors:

For more information: