Lessons from 4 Years in eLearningLuke Westwood
As I come up to my 4th year mark within the elearning industry, as a full-time developer, I wanted to look back at how far I’ve come. I thought it would be helpful for those just getting started, and relatable for those who’ve got more time under their belt.
Whilst I’m a developer, I believe these lessons can apply no matter what your role is. These are also just my own views and not an exhausted list.
Lesson 1. Don’t Get Attached. Change Happens.
This was the hardest hurdle for me. As creatives, we tend to become emotionally attached to the work we create. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s become proud of what they’ve created and then a decision is made where it needs to be different, or even removed.
In the beginning it can make you angry, as you believe what you’ve made is the best solution. As a result, it can be difficult to get through, but the important thing to remember is the old saying, ‘the customer is always right’. As a developer, it’s my job to make the customer’s vision come to life.
My background is in the film industry and it’s very similar there. You have a director who hires a team to make their vision happen. The director can’t make a film on their own, but things can change and sometimes scenes in a film can be thrown out.
Try to keep your emotions out of the work and see it as part of the process, and also as a learning opportunity for everything you create. This is something I’ve started realising lately.
Lesson 2. Upskill. You Won’t Just Be a Developer
This was an important lesson, as I’d never experienced it before.
e-learning departments are usually a small team of creatives with a range of skills, and if you don’t have the skill you need to complete your work, you ask for help. But this isn’t always possible.
An example for me is with Adobe Illustrator. I’m not a natural illustrator/designer and when I couldn’t ask for help, I had to learn it myself. The best way to do this is by having a deadline.
It can be intimidating to learn new skills, especially under pressure, but it will make you less dependent on others in your team. It is also liberating knowing you can do something new.
Lesson 3. Speed Is Everything.
The e-learning process is often called rapid development, which has been the case for my journey. I’ve been working in a SCRUM environment, which means tight deadlines, a fast-pace environment and you need to get the job delivered on time.
When I started my job, I had never worked in this industry, and knew nothing about Adobe Captivate. I’m grateful I had the help of my team and with my own learning outside of work, it became easier. I would also like to give a special mention to Paul Wilson here. I can’t express how much his YouTube Channel helped me get started back then. Even today I’m still going back to his old videos and love the new ones. So thanks again Paul.
I know I’m a lot faster than I used to be, but I’m always trying to get faster with not just developing, but the entire process. I believe you need to know more than just how to put a module together. You also need to know about Quality Assurance (testing), usability, accessibility and design.
Lesson 4. Design and Aesthetics.
I’ve never found the design side of e-learning easy, or any type of design. Even when I’ve got a storyboard, it’s difficult for me to put my own spin on it and this is still definitely one of my weakest areas.
The theory of the left and right side of the brain comes to mind for me. Whilst I’m not a coder or hot on analysis, I’m not the best designer either. I think I’m in the middle somewhere.
I have started to learn the theory of design, but hopefully this will come more natural to me over time.
Lesson 5. Test, test and test
I wanted to mention the testing phase, which I think can be difficult for some of us.
Personally, it’s something I do enjoy, but things can be missed. This is especially true when you’re under pressure and the development stage has taken longer than planned. I’m trying to get in the habit of testing as I go along, rather than at the very end, which is what I think a lot of us do. We get so focused on putting everything together, we forget to slow down and test it.
For those of you who do your own QA, It’s so important to have someone do it for you, even if you’ve done your own. I know it can be hard seeing the corrections you need to do, but it will make you a better asset to your team.
Lesson 6. Do Extra Work, Outside of Work.
I decided I wanted to start teaching others how to use Adobe Captivate in a consulting/coach role. I can’t tell you how much this has helped me learn new skills.
There’s something very different when a client is paying for your knowledge and needs your guidance. Even when you’re in a full-time role, having a client need a solution within the hour teaches you a lot about yourself.
The best return from this is that I’m better at my job, and I can pass on new knowledge to my team.
Pro Tip. If you are going to do extra work, I suggest having clients in a time zone where their day time is your evening. This makes communication a lot easier as you’re able to focus on your day job, and then your customer in your evening. This means there’s no delay for them, which is crucial when they need a fast solution. I live in the U.K, so when I finish around 4pm, my customers are just starting their day, such as the United States.
That’s a Wrap.
I hope this has been useful to you and would love to hear what you’ve learnt in your career, no matter how far you are in your journey.