5 essential skills you need to create online learning

Ant Pugh discusses the five essential skills needed to create online learning and where he got them to develop his career as an instructional designer as it is today.

It’s not often that we take a break in our busy schedules to say thank you. We’re so busy rushing from one project to the next, from this meeting to that. But I wanted to take a moment and reflect on where I am in my career. And to say thank you to those people who encouraged, inspired, reassured and pushed me to where I am now. And whilst doing so, examine the 5 key skills required to create online training courses.

My journey into eLearning has been completely accidental, being responsible for designing and managing online education programs for a multinational company – I really never imagined I would end up where I am. But when I look back on the route I have taken to get here. It couldn’t have been a better planned journey, even if I had tried! “Everything happens for a reason” or so they say… And I am so excited to get out of bed every day to continue my journey.

But I couldn’t have made it this far without the help of some significant people who played a part in helping me achieve the 5 key skills which believe are necessary to be proficient at designing and managing eLearning projects:

1. Jayne – the first person to give me an opportunity to teach

I believe that to be a successful learning designer, it is really important to have spent some time teaching. However that may transpire, nothing can replace developing as a teacher through the hands-on experience of someone learning right in front of your eyes. I was given this opportunity at an early age in my professional life. It turned out to be the most amazing experience and something that helps me do my job on a daily basis.

2. Clive – my University mentor who gave me the creative freedom to develop my passion for design
With all of the rapid authoring tools available on the market, elearning has never been easier to develop. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is more, high-quality eLearning available. There are an estimated 30 million PowerPoint presentations delivered every day, but how often do you see a good one? Me neither. And I think the same goes for elearning… Teaching and design are 2 quite different skills and it’s not easy to find people who are able to create both effective and well-designed elearning.

3. Clayton – who gave me the opportunity to begin taking control of a large elearning project which has given me project management skills

Ninja design skills and a deep understanding of how people learn will get you far, but if you can’t manage the projects as they come in thick and fast, then you are going to get left behind. Whilst I haven’t conquered this yet (I would say this is the area that I need to develop most from this list), I would like to think that I am improving through trial, error, learning from others, sweat and a few tears. I thoroughly recommend visiting The Secret Weapon, a project-management concept that harnesses Evernote and uses the theory provided in a book called Getting Things Done.

4. John – next to whom I worked alongside for the most eye-opening few years of my career and helped turn me from someone who was impressed by technology to someone who embraced it.

ELearning for me has always been a means to an end. I never set out to work in this field. But when I discovered my passion for teaching and realised that I was actually not too bad at it, all I wanted to do was to test my methods against a wider audience than 20 people in a classroom. But understanding the complexities of the platforms that I am talking about is a daily challenge – HTML5, LMS, SCORM, mLearning, MOOCS, TinCan… It can all get very confusing. So being able to grasp the technologies required to delivery these learning experiences is invaluable in becoming proficient as a designer of online learning.

5. My dad – who taught me how to communicate

I quickly realised that to successfully design eLearning, I was going to need to benefit from the knowledge of other professionals – since I knew very little about web-hosting, software design and satellite telecommunications (3 of the most technical areas in which I have recently worked!). Subject matter experts are not always the easiest people to get on with  – a massive stereotype you might say, but from my experience, getting the best from the SME’s involves very good people skills and being able to communicate to them  what exactly is needed to achieve the main goal of the module.

Now I’m guessing that most of these people won’t actually get a chance to read this blog and see my thanks, but I hope that somewhere deep down they know that they helped mould me into a half-decent learning professional (even if I do say so myself).

Would you add anything to the list of skills required to become proficient at creating eLearning? Or would you like to thank anyone for their part in your career? We would love to hear your feedback…