If you work in eLearning in any capacity, you’ll more than likely have something you can show off on an online portfolio. Before you even get your first job you should have a minimal portfolio and as you become more experienced, it should grow with you.
I have worked in eLearning before as an Instructional Designer and as a developer. Without my portfolio, I would have never progressed in my career as fast as I have. There is no reason to not put projects into a portfolio either. There are many ways you can get projects that aren’t proprietary to put in your portfolio, but this isn’t a post about that.
This leads me to the big questions on how to build an eLearning portfolio.
Build Your Own eLearning Portfolio
There’s a subtle difference between building a portfolio, and building your OWN portfolio.
Your own portfolio is something that you’ve built and own. This can be a simple website that is built fairly rapidly and on a platform that is open. Building your portfolio on an open platform means you own it, and you own the content. Nobody else controls the environment and your interests are the only one displayed on your site.
I built my portfolio and website, but I had the benefit of already having skills in web design, including HTML and CSS.
You don’t need to be an expert though!
Many of your skills from the eLearning world should be directly transferable when building your portfolio. Start with an easy platform such as WordPress.org (yes, it’s very different from WordPress.com) which can be set up on any web host.
Pick out either a free theme or a paid theme (I recommend paid although there are some good free one’s out there) and install that to get started on an awesome website and portfolio. You’ll not only have a beautiful portfolio to show employers, but you’ll have a place in the blog (if you set one up) to write about your work. Writing about your work has multiple benefits, one of which is to show your expertise in the field and become a well-known contributor.
This is all a bit vague for instructions on building a portfolio, but there are tons of free resources on the web (including on this website) that will help you build your portfolio.
Here’s my generic list of what you’ll need:
- Website Hosting (Cheap)
- WordPress (Free)
- WordPress Theme (Free or Cheap)
That’s it, the rest of the challenge is putting it all together :)
If time is your issue and you just want to learn how to build your portfolio, I’ve built a course specifically laying out how I built my eLearning website (it’s now morphed a bit but still remains at least a portfolio). The course can be completed in a day and simplifies the process in easy to follow videos that break down each section of the setup.
I also cover a lot of gotchas which you’ll find a lot of in WordPress and in brand building. My portfolio and blog have really helped me get better jobs and I’m always pointing potential employers there to see my work and thoughts.
There are ways to go about building a portfolio for free, but there are some big negatives to going this route.
You can build a portfolio in many places for free online. Some of these free services are Wordpress.com, Behance, Wix, etc. There are new free options jumping in the market every day, but beware! (< yes, it’s that bad)
Most people aren’t aware of the downfalls of free services including myself at one point. There are reasons the services are free, and they’re often not (read never) to help you as the user of the service or people viewing your portfolio.
These services are free to you and your visitors, but they have to pay for the service somehow and that often doesn’t benefit you or your visitors. The “free” service always has an agenda and you and your visitors are a means to and end. In other words, they want to make money from you (and can you blame them?).
If they’re not trying to make money from you and your visitors now, they will eventually.
Your portfolio will have advertisements on them or worse, links to other portfolios that take visitors attention away from your material (or makes it difficult for users to understand when they’re looking at yours or someone else’s work).
It takes a lot of your time to create your eLearning portfolio so you want to do it right the first time. Doing it right means owning your portfolio. If you take time to create a portfolio on another service, chances are you’re not going to get it off that service. If the service goes bankrupt or purchased, you could lose all your hard work.
If you go free, good luck ever getting your content out, it now belongs to someone else.
You’re welcome to go to a free service, but keep in mind that you will never own your content again once released. That means blog posts (all your hard work reflecting and writing) will be out of your control too.
I don’t know about you, but reading blog posts on LinkedIn isn’t a pleasant experience, they want to keep you on their site so they’ll send you to someone else’s work without hesitation.
Whether you build your own portfolio or use a free service, it’s still better than not having a portfolio at all.
Why You Need One
Companies are becoming more fickle every day and they have only their best interest at mind too. That means your job is only as secure as you make it .
You can make your job secure by having everything ready to go in the chance you get laid off. There are a lot of things that need to be ready if this happens.
- Never let your LinkedIn profile become dormant and outdated.
- Update other social media accounts and make new connections.
- Make sure your Resume/CV is updated with current job descriptions and job history.
- Have a professional website with your portfolio of work to show potential employers.
The last one has some further reaching effects than it seems. Your professional website can act to help you build connections and help those connections learn more about you.
If you’ve built an audience around your website, your future boss may be lurking in the shadows of your website already!
A good website that shows who you are is impossible to build overnight (except for the framework!) so it’s the best way to build trust and foster a great network. LinkedIn and other social media is a good start, but your website is the core of who you are online.
Think about this for a second:
You’ve worked at the same company for the past 4 years and you’ve always thought of it as your home (away from home of course). With a corporate restructuring, your entire department had to be let go. Yes, even the superstars had to be let go.
You come to realize you’ve let your LinkedIn profile go dormant, your social media profiles are in disarray, and your network outside of your company is almost non-existent.
All those beautiful eLearning projects you worked on are now locked in the company, you have no way of getting your hands on them. You forgot to ask your manager if you could scrub a few projects of proprietary material and use it on your portfolio.
Now you not only have the worries of having to look for a job (a full-time job in itself) but you also have the worries of updating social media profiles, conjuring up a network to find new job opportunities, and figuring out how you’re going to set up your portfolio.
This example isn’t too far off from the reality of the workplace today. Even if you’re employed, you’re not immune to the fragility of the company.
I Am Employed
As I mentioned in the story above, it doesn’t matter that you’re employed. Often times, the companies loyalty is only to the stock holder. If it fits their needs, your job can be gone on a whim.
I’m sure you’ve lived through corporate reorganizations, I know I have lived through several. Often times they’re innocent and nothing horrible happens, but that may not always be true.
It’s never a good idea to wait until you’ve lost your job until you prepare to find a new one. Make your preparations while you’re still employed.
Always keep your network updated outside your organization and keep up your website, you never know when you’re going to need it.
If you were happy with an eLearning project, ask your manager if you can scrub all proprietary or identifiable information and use it in your profile. There’s a good change you’ll get the OK. It may take a bit of work to do the scrubbing, but it’s worth having that safety net under you.
The work it takes to prepare projects for your portfolio website is worth it in the end because without a website, your career won’t get the same boost as without.
Your Online Brand Is Bigger Than Social Media
Your portfolio and website is only part of the puzzle to boost your career, just as social media is a piece of that puzzle too. Social media is a great way to build your network and make international connections, but your website and portfolio will work for you 24 hours a day.
Everybody has a LinkedIn profile, so it takes a bit more to stand out from the crowd. My eLearning portfolio has helped me put my projects out there for others to see and to share my work with others. I get views to my portfolio every day and almost every interview I’ve been in, the interviewer has either viewed my website or their interest is piqued when I mention it.
Hopefully this article has given you a clearer path to how to build an eLearning portfolio. It’s a bit more complex than an article can cover but with the help of this article hopefully you’ve been encouraged and have a clearer path to success now.
If you are interested in creating your own eLearning portfolio, I’d urge you to check out my course on Udemy. For readers of this blog you can get it for only $10 which is well worth the money it saves you trying to figure out how to create it all on your own.