I find it surprising when an e-learning developer tells me they don’t have a portfolio. In certain industries, such as web design and graphic design, you simply can’t be viewed as a legitimate business person without a portfolio; I believe e-learning is also one of those industries. When I get asked for advice on hiring a great e-learning developer, my top recommendation is always: Don’t hire someone without seeing their portfolio.
If you don’t have an e-learning portfolio, you probably have a reason. But if your reason is listed below, you should reconsider and remember that you’re working in a competitive, global market, where anyone can create a free blog or portfolio website in a few minutes.
You’re Too Busy
The “I’m too busy” excuse is the most common and most overused. You’re too busy to put time into creating something that could well hold the key to your success and potential future earnings? Your call.
Why this isn’t a good reason: Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. Bottom line is: if something is truly a priority, you will make time for it. If it’s not a priority, you won’t. Potential clients don’t care about how busy your life is; they care about hiring a candidate who can show work that is up to their standard and get the job done.
You Don’t Have Any Experience
Maybe you do have the time but you’re new to the e-learning industry and have zero real-world experience or projects.
Why this isn’t a good reason: First of all, don’t advertise this fact to potential clients. For many people “zero experience” equates to “lacking skills and credibility.”. If you don’t have any real world projects to add to your portfolio, don’t despair: create your own samples. Choose a topic that you’re a passionate about and develop a mini e-learning module. Which leads me to my next point…
You Don’t Own E-Learning Software
I’ve heard many people say the following: “I can’t create samples for a portfolio because I don’t own any e-learning authoring tools.”
Why this isn’t a good reason: Just about every authoring tool out there offers a free, fully-functional 30-day trial. Take advantage of that and use your 30-days wisely! Create a few mini 5-slide e-learning courses that showcase your skills. Another option: Powerpoint! So many people have access to this but don’t take advantage of it to create awesome e-learning; you can even hyperlink slides to create branched scenarios and create engaging samples.
You Signed an NDA
This is one I’ve heard quite a few times: “I’ve done a lot of awesome things, but I can’t share any of it because I signed a nondisclosure agreement.”
Why this isn’t a good reason: Anyone can say they’ve created great e-learning, but at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words. Of course you should never share confidential materials you’ve signed an NDA for, but there’s no harm in asking a client beforehand if you can use a sample of work, stripped of original content and identifying information, for your portfolio. This is a standard procedure in other industries, and often the request is included directly in the contract of work. If you can’t use any of the work you’ve signed an NDA for, don’t panic: you can still create your own samples!
The e-learning industry is getting more competitive by the week and potential clients want a candidate who can demonstrate their skills and abilities, instead of taking a gamble on someone with nothing to show. Don’t give potential clients or employers a reason to pass you over: create that portfolio today!
I’d love to hear your thoughts: are these legitimate reasons for not having a portfolio? Are there other reasons that I left out? Leave a comment below and let me know. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, as well in the E-Learning Heroes community, for all the latest.
9 thoughts on “4 Reasons You Don’t Have an E-Learning Portfolio”
My working assumption with an NDA is that if I change the module and remove company and perhaps even industry identifiers, that I can still use this. I would want a potential client to understand that I do not blow off non-disclosure while at the same time still getting some of the project under their nose. I imagine myself saying something like, “This is a modified module I took from a project that I signed off an NDA on. I take such documents seriously and value my word. However, I have modified a few of the slides here to show you the types of work I can do without compromising the privacy of my client.”
Thanks for sharing, Chris! I know that in other industries it can be common for professionals to include a stipulation in the contract of work that says they can use a sample for a portfolio. Here’s an interesting article on that topic: http://motionographer.com/2013/04/23/how-to-make-sure-you-can-show-work-in-your-portfolio/ (it’s not for e-learning specifically, but still interesting read).
Thanks for this crisp and wonderful writeup on elearning portfolios. I have wanted to have an elearning portfolio but always thought what would I put on it. And yes my issue is the NDA thing. Do you suggest that I create some innovative samples that are not real work done for clients, but just dummies to showcase what I can do? Can you point me to some simple elearning portfolio websites?
Thanks for the nice comment, Sreekanti! Much appreciated. The NDA thing is a problem for a lot of people. Maybe in the future you can consider including a clause in your contract that allows you to keep a sample (stripped of identifying information and branding) for your portfolio.
Yes, I do suggest you create some samples that are not real work. This is often done my web and graphic designers who are new to the industry, to fill up their portfolio. Pick a topic you love, or even just something generic and business-y like “How to hold an effective meeting” and create a little sample demo.
Here’s another idea: on the Articulate website they have a weekly e-learning challenge where every week a new topic is given and people create and share cool e-learning samples related to that weeks topic. Many of our community members show those samples they create in their portfolio or website. Here’s a link to the weekly challenges: https://community.articulate.com/hubs/e-learning-challenges
FYI, you can jump into any past challenges as well. And also here’s some links to some e-learning portfolios you can look at for examples:
Hope this helps! 🙂 Thanks for reading!
All very good points Nicole. The last one is in fact a very good one, though quite problematic for some, if not most consultants. But there is a way to address that, with a bit of effort and discipline. 🙂
When you finish a job you’re proud of, take parts of it (elearning, design doc, storyboard, etc. that YOU’ve done), strip out client references, blur out logos and proprietary info, and build a small summary, like a case study, with the key highlights you’d like to mention to a potential client.
Thank you for the comment, Benoit! And great tips about re-purposing your content but removing any proprietary or identifying information. Thanks for sharing!
Great points Nicole. I’m a huge advocate of having a professional website as a central hub of your online professional presence, even wrote about it: http://www.nickleffler.com/why-you-should-promote-your-skills-beyond-social-media/
As for your points, the first and last are very good one’s to counter. Time is no excuse because it just puts you in a position where you can find yourself jobless and without the security of having connections.
A portfolio and website can give you those valuable connections that make looking for a job so much easier. Not only that but you won’t be wasting time scrambling trying to put together a website and portfolio when you should be spending that time looking for a job.
Your second point is an easy one to overcome. I’ve asked my manager directly if I could use a project if I scrubbed any valuable information that could give the company away, trade secrets away, and all that stuff. I even got permission from others involved in the project (voice talent) and when I showed that project on my site I made sure I described what part I had in it not that somebody would be confused by a female voice 🙂
Your second point is also important. Sort of “fake it until you make it” but of course it’s still important to be authentic 🙂 In some ways I still feel like I’m faking it but from everywhere I read that’s just how life goes…
As for software, you don’t even need a 30-day trial! Not that it’s a bad idea, just that there are options out there. There’s free stuff out there where you can make some pretty great scenarios and show your ability to make some great, and meaningful, activities! I’m thinking specifically https://www.branchtrack.com/ but there are others.
So, great points, love them. If you’re reading this and don’t have a portfolio, you’re walking around the professional world naked, seriously. Make a portfolio, start a blog, do something beyond social media to put yourself out there. I’ve started my mission to get people to create theirs, it’s good to see others on that same journey 🙂
Thank you so much for taking the time to write this detailed comment full of great info. Good tip with the branchtrack software, I was struggling to think of free options for people to create samples on a limited budget. And I love your point that without a portfolio you’re essentially walking around naked, hehe, so true! Thanks for reading, Nick!!
Great post! As a design professional I certainly recognize the importance of not only having a portfolio, but maintaining it as well. While working on my undergraduate degree in graphic communications, my professors provided several colloquiums on the importance of proper portfolios.
The reasons you provided as bad examples for not having portfolios are valid. If you are to busy to make a portfolio for your career of choice then maybe you should consider changing careers. There are many sites where one can utilize templates to setup a portfolio. The following link has great design tips for portfolios and also helps to create it http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/best-website-builders-create-clean-online-portfolio/
Signing non disclosure statements are apart of the business but as you stated you can request to utilize portions of the project or agree to remove vital company info. I have also seen designers state in contracts that they must be able to use the entire project or portions of the project in their portfolio.
When I first started as a graphic designer, I did a lot of volunteer work in which I was able to add several projects to my portfolio. Also the great thing about being a designer is that we can create. Altering working so that you can have a accurate portrayal of what you’ve created, without damaging the integrity of the project should be manageable.
Portfolios help validate you as a professional designer in whatever capacity. Portfolios display your design versatility and skill sets. Without a portfolio, potential clients have no way to verify your skills or their their potential investment.