In this self-interview I share my tips for creating an effective eLearning portfolio. This interview is a submission to Articulate’s Weekly Challenge #138.
Click the Play icon below to listen to the interview, or click on individual tracks below to listen to a specific answer.
Audio Interviews: Share Your Tips for Creating Effective E-Learning Portfolios #138
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, my name is Tracy Carroll. I’m a freelance instructional designer & eLearning developer. I work from my home office in Los Angeles, CA.
How did you get started in eLearning?
I got interested eLearning in the year 2002. That is the year I decided to become an adult education teacher, and I enrolled in a Master’s of Education program at Cal State University, San Bernardino.
It was this program that I first encountered e-Learning, and while I was in the program—that’s when I first started creating eLearning lessons, and I really fell in love with eLearning.
How long have you been in the industry?
Well, I’ve been paid to design instruction since 2005, so that’s 11 years. That’s when I got my first full-time teaching job as an adult education teacher. Even though I was on-the-ground teaching, I always incorporated eLearning lessons I would create into my classes.
However, in the year 2005 I didn’t even know there was a career called instructional design. So I wouldn’t have called myself an instructional designer, even though that’s what I was doing on a daily basis.
I think it was about the year 2012 when I first learned about the separate career path of instructional design and eLearning development. I don’t think most teachers even realize that this career path exists, which is strange.
2. Tell us about your eLearning portfolio.
In 2012, I decided to go back to school for a graduate certificate in instructional design. I enrolled in San Diego State University, and developed an eLearning portfolio for that program. It was actually a required as part of the program. So that’s when my eLearning portfolio got started.
What types of projects do you include in your portfolio?
For a long time, I had a skinny little portfolio with about six eLearning examples.
I knew I needed a better portfolio and more examples, so I read a lot of advice on how to create a great eLearning portfolio. While all of the advice was very good, basically I allowed myself to become completely paralyzed by all of this advice!
I started creating examples for my portfolio, but I just kept abandoning everything I started because I felt like it couldn’t measure up to the criteria set out by the eLearning experts. I felt like nothing I produced was good enough to put in this portfolio of mine.
So eventually I gave up the idea of creating this perfect portfolio and I just started to participate in the weekly eLearning challenges on the Articulate website. I had been lurking on that website for at least a year, but I never had the courage to post anything.
Once I started participating in the challenges, they became very addicting. I include my Articulate challenge entries in my portfolio, and by far that’s the biggest category in my portfolio today.
How often do you update your portfolio?
Well, I usually add to my portfolio once or twice a week, if I have time to create new submissions to the Articulate challenges. But as for reorganizing my portfolio, or changing the theme– I probably don’t do that as much as I need to.
A few weeks ago, I bought a new WordPress theme called the X theme, and it has 10 different themes within the theme and 1 million different extensions–and it’s just this behemoth WordPress theme that I couldn’t wrap my mind around. I started updating my site and I kept changing my portfolio every day for about six weeks until I finally realized I’ll never be able to cope with all of these choices in this huge X theme.
So I’ve abandoned that theme and I’m just sticking with my old Mixfolio theme! Although I did slap a new header on my portfolio. It has a cartoon of me that I created with PowerPoint shapes. So that’s my big update –it came down to just a change in my header!
Oh, the other thing I did was to finally separate my posts and hopefully reorganize my portfolio so it’s easier to find things. I had been posting all of my Articulate challenges in one single post, and it really got ridiculous because there were about 50 examples within that one post. It was pretty hard to find anything. So, hopefully it’s a little better organized now.
3. Do you have more than one portfolio?
How do you optimize your portfolio for different clients or audiences?
I don’t. Well, maybe organizing the posts into different categories sort of counts as optimizing my portfolio for different clients. But basically I can’t even think about trying to maintain different portfolios for different audiences. It’s too much!
4. What do you think makes a good online portfolio?
I wish I knew!
What should and shouldn’t be included in an eLearning portfolio?
Well, you should have examples of your work, and you should definitely have your contact information.
In my portfolio I have work examples, and I generally will write a little bit about each example in each post, and I have my contact page, of course. I have a freebies page, where I give away free Storyline templates, and that’s a popular page. I have a services page where I have a short presentation on what I can do for a client. And I have my resume…and I recently added a blog section.
I love to try out new software and create demos with new software and probably most of my blog posts will be about that. I’m big on having fun, and participating in Articulate challenges & trying out new software & new rapid authoring tools–those things are fun to do, whereas writing about the theory of instructional design is not particularly fun for me. Cathy Moore has said most of what I would say anyway on that subject!
5. What do you think clients or companies look for in an eLearning portfolio?
Again–I wish I knew, but I really don’t!
I’ve kind of abandoned looking at my portfolio in that way, though. When I was thinking about creating this perfect portfolio that would bring clients to me by sheer gravitational force of its perfection, I became totally paralyzed with the thought that nothing I could create would ever be good enough to include in this diamond-like portfolio.
So, now I just have fun with the weekly challenges, and create examples that are interesting to me.
6. What platform or technology did you use to build your eLearning portfolio?
I use wordpress.org, hosted by GoDaddy.
7. What’s the most challenging part about building, designing, or maintaining portfolios?
It can be hard to find the time to work on the portfolio! And it’s particularly hard for me to make time for maintaining the portfolio, as in weeding out the examples I probably should eliminate and reorganizing the portfolio, updating the theme, etc. That stuff just is not fun, so I tend to put off doing it!
It can start to seem like you’re working 24 hours a day, if you don’t try to have some fun with your portfolio. Although, I’m sure I should probably take a more businesslike approach, but right now I just enjoy creating fun projects to showcase on my portfolio.
8. How do you handle confidentiality issues with projects in your portfolio?
Well, I don’t use any material that is confidential. Really, there’s almost nothing I create for clients that I can use my portfolio. I have a few volunteer projects that I was able to use. For the most part, none of my actual work product goes into my portfolio.
This is one of the reasons that the Articulate challenges are so great! Somebody else comes up with an idea every week that you can use to create eLearning examples. I love that!
9. What are your top three tips for users looking to build their first eLearning portfolio?
Let’s see…Number one – an imperfect portfolio is better than no portfolio, so don’t allow yourself be so critical of your work that you fail to create a portfolio at all.
Number two – look at examples of other eLearning portfolios. Just do a Google search and check out other people’s work. Develop your own opinions about what you want in your own portfolio.
Number three – participate in the Articulate weekly challenges! It’s a great way to generate material for your portfolio. I’ve found it to be invaluable.