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Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 February 27, 2011

Posted by Eric Matas in eLearning Careers.
Tags: , , ,

What are the skills you need to land an elearning job?

Working in elearning taps into many skill sets. Designing or developing elearning  requires experience in training and project management as much as audio and video production.

I focus here on what I think are the top skills for elearning now, in 2011. These are skills that will show up on job descriptions where they list job criteria, requirements or experience. More companies will have one or two elearning people handling all the elearning duties for their team. These small groups of elearning designers and developers will have to do it all–manage the projects and handle graphics, video, narration and all the various software, including some sort of LMS. They will have a small budget to outsource some work, but even those dollars might be reallocated for new software or video equipment, which could make the elearning duties easier.

Top eLearning Skills 2011Given that trend, I hope readers aren’t surprised when I leave instructional design off my list. Soon, elearning job descriptions will not even mention instructional design or ADDIE, as they almost always do now. I know managers include those references in job descriptions now simply because the last document did. Instead, when looking to hire, I think managers are going to care more about these job skills, my top skills for elearning in 2011.

1. Graphic Design

Photoshop has been a constant in elearning job descriptions for a while. But today developers can create graphics in PowerPoint 2010 or online using free tools like Aviary, Pixlr or Splashup. LinkedIn has regular group discussions on where to get the best free and paid images for elearning. Graphic design requires good online research skills. Developers of elearning must know a bit about image sizing and file sizes and be able to edit disparate images so that they look like they belong in the same module. Tom Kulhmann’s blog offers many tutorials on editing graphics.

2. Video Production

Cisco experts predict 90% of the internet (consumer IP traffic) will be video by 2013. Hiring video production companies will still be popular, but elearning teams are going to need to handle their own video production to meet deadlines and budgets. With video production software available at incredible, affordable prices, and high-quality digital video cameras and microphones available cheaply for both rental and purchase, teams are capable or setting up a studio, running a production, and editing videos for their elearning needs. Companies like OpenSesame are preparing for more video by creating a SCORM video player.

3. Rapid Development

The tools I see most are Captivate and Articulate. Newer online tools are emerging and gaining some popularity, perhaps because the software can be accessed from anywhere, not just a company computer that has software loaded on it. Who knows, maybe Articulate and Captivate will offer their tools online too. Knowing how to get around many tools is wise. Once you start getting good using two or three of these authoring tools, they all seem pretty intuitive. These rapid development tools are where video, graphics, narrative and text come to get ready for an LMS or a web or SharePoint deployment.

4. Social Media

Social learning is still finding its place in corporate elearning. The one, two or three people on elearning teams will need to be up to speed on microblogging, status updates, and integration. Some elearning tools are already integrating social media for social learning use–like the LMS software, TOPYX. Although companies and training managers may not yet have discovered how to implement a social learning plan, they will be looking for elearning employees to take a lead in this area.

5. Mobile Deployment

Being able to push elearning modules to mobile devices will continue to gain in importance. Many have expressed reservations about whether training can really happen on a mobile phone, no matter how smart it is. The larger iPads and emerging competition are catching everyone’s attention for sales use and elearning deployment. Since Flash is not supported on iPads, the rapid elearning tools have been useless. I expect that new tools like AppAuthor Pro will become popular since developers can make elearning modules on the back-end and push them out to the app they only have to pay for once.


1. Greg Williams - February 28, 2011

It is interesting that instructional design is left off the list. While I like the other items on the list, I am wondering how does the graphic designer, video producer, Captivate/Articulate developer, etc . know what content to produce/develop?

Greg Williams

David Howard - May 17, 2011

In a small company the ID is likely tasked with all of these and the assessment, design and evaluation of the e-learning.
The company I work for is HUGE. ID is its own team. E-learning is a separate team, Documents are managed by yet another team, Graphics…you get the picture. Business consultants (employees) liaison between management and the design teams to ensure the development is conveying the knowledge correctly and succinctly.
ID is a given in the above, At least that’s how I read it.

2. ValB - February 28, 2011

You state that experience in training and project management is necessary but then go on to say that ISD/ADDIE knowledge and skills will soon not be part of job qualifications to design and develop elearning. Does this mean you’re throwing the methodology out the window? Or are you implying that it’ll be assumed that those creating elearning know how to figure out what the learners need to learn (sometimes different from what the client thinks is needed!) and can translate that into effective online learning modules?

Eric Matas - February 28, 2011

Hi Val – Yes, I do think clients assume trainers “just know” how to organize the material. In fact, I think clients in general think they could do it; that the organization hardly makes a difference as long as you get it ALL in there.

Whereas consultants can toss out white papers and advocate for design time, in-house elearning devlopers have to just get it done and make it work. Do you see this happening or hear similar stories? I’m not saying it’s ideal, but I see it!

3. Greg Williams - February 28, 2011

Here’s another thought on not listing instructional design in your Top 5. Suppose a bunch of people who knew how to swing hammers decided to build a house. Could they do it? Yes, they probably could. Would I want to buy it and/or live in such a house that was designed without a professional architect and set of professional blueprints? Probably not.

Just as a professional architect plans the construction of a house, instructional designers plan the construction of formal learning. Can course be created without one? Yes, of course. In general, are courses better that are created with the services of an instructional designer? Yes, I think they are.

Eric Matas - February 28, 2011

I love this analogy, Greg. Thanks for the comments.

I know that contractors can buy software to make blueprints, and they do so to forego the expense of an architech. Are elearning people using rapid development templates as such?

4. Doug Flather - February 28, 2011

I too was surprised to see ISD omitted from this graph, but I think we’re finding ourselves in a post-ADDIE world. Delivered as designed, ADDIE takes too long, and “computer assisted page turners” are fading. If we look at the ways most people use the web for learning: 1.) Search engine
2.) Speed read search results 3.) Speed read some text 4.) Watch 2-3 brief videos it tells me tightly focused just-in-time units of instruction built on single outcomes/objectives are going to emerge as the new normal.

5. Sara Kimet - February 28, 2011

I’ve moved from instructional designer in elearning to the marketing side. When I was in elearning, marketers and others would throw material at us and demand that it gets onto the LMS within days. The materials were PowerPoint presentations with voice-over, videos, sales documents. They did not care to have the materials analyzed and packaged with our design expertise. Just get it trackable and start tracking!

Now that I am on the marketing side, I can influence the creation of the materials so that the “elearning” it will become, might have a chance. And I never mention instructional design because I fear then that they wouldn’t take my advice!

Crazy? Chaotic? Yes, indeed. But it’s real life, real-time business, and I shudder to think that fewer and fewer corporate decision makers care much about instructional theory.

6. Greg Williams - February 28, 2011

Sara – You bring up a good point about not using the term instructional design.

Maybe instructional designers need to have a new title? In a way, some people have negative connotations to the term “instructional designer”. Maybe some titles that might be better are “eLearning architect”, eLearning analyst”, “eLearning strategist”. I sure there are many more possibilities.

Sara Kimet - February 28, 2011

Yes, Greg, language often has the answer. I know Eric would agree — he taught me to stop using “games” in my meetings because stakeholders got fidgety. I think Cathy Moore would advocate language as a solution too, and she seems able to advocate for design successfully. Who else fights for instructional design on the job?

7. Ryan Tracey - February 28, 2011

Flash is not supported on iPhones either, of course, which I see as a real problem that needs to be resolved. Luckily I happen to use Lectora instead of Articulate, which means I can create html courseware instead of swf.

8. Deb Reynolds - February 28, 2011

I’m not sure this will help, but, here goes:
Part of the need to defend ID is, I think, that technology skills were considered a side issue for the last thirty years (programs in ID *could* be separate from project management and programming/media), when in reality technology/programming skills have been necessary all that time. Yes, being rigorously ADDIE-systematic doesn’t seem as important anymore, especially outside the DC/or any DOD area. Well, there’s frustration on the hard-core technologists’ end as well (see Philip Hutchison’s post (and the comments) about scormmies versus shruggies at http://pipwerks.com/2009/04/02/scorm-security-two-kinds-of-scorm-people/). Essentially, Philip’s noting that there’s a security vulnerability in SCORM that has been overlooked for about a decade because of the availability of all the various e-learning “tools.”
In the debate that follows, there’s arose another interesting analogy, like Greg’s hammer-house: does one need to be able to build a telephone in order to make a phone call? I liked that analogy, because current technology is more digital than a hammer and house.
I have begun to learn to code (Java, for now, because JavaScript won’t be offered until next year), and in talking to the programming faculty (who have often programmed their own websites rather than use Angel, by the way, because Angel gets in the way) I find that which programming/network/server/client-side skills needed for e-learning are as arcane to them as the methodology behind ID (whether the D is design, or development). They just apply the programming they know to get the job done. They don’t know which of the courses they offer would relate to “instructional development.” They *can* understand “curriculum development.” One urges me to just go learn one of “those e-learning tools,” another suggests I get comfortable in one of their existing computer science, networking, server administration or website creation tracks. They can’t understand why I feel it is necessary to go back and learn a little about all of those. Why?The rigor in their own field is such that given “those tools” or Angel, they can apply themselves to make their Camtasia-recorded courses available on a website they make in C# — or just XHTML with a little Javascript — hosted at GoDaddy.
For them, the ID part is essentially done: they’re just relying on their knowledge of the subject matter, the job market, the input of the community advisory committee, and just getting the teaching done. The comments to Philip Hutchison’s blog entry bemoan management ignorance and timelines. That’s not unique to the ID field. For many, the curriculum doesn’t *need* to be reinvented. As Thiagi said at UMBC acouple of years ago as he waved his Kindle, content is everywhere. The current tasks are mainly about how to get that content packaged so it changes people’s behavior. In other words, the ID’s pretty much done; it just has to be re-spread selectively, persuasively and electronically to the audience. Now, when we have to train armies again in things that *aren’t* on Kindle and YouTube, ID will be useful, I suppose.🙂

9. Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 | weiterbildungsblog - March 1, 2011

[…] “What are the skills you need to land an elearning job?”, fragt Eric Matas und zählt auf: 1. Graphic Design, 2. Video production, 3. Rapid Development, 4. Social Media, 5. Mobile Deployment. Mir gefällt diese Liste, weil sie aktuelle Strömungen akkurat widerspiegelt. Mir gefällt sie auch, weil sie so erfrischend operativ daherkommt und ganz bewusst Project Management, Instructional Design und Communication ausklammert. Eric Mantas, eLearning Weekly, 27. Februar 2011 […]

10. Bryan Tanner - March 1, 2011

“Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!”

Burgeoning instructional designers are being swept away by the onslaught of new technologies. Everyday, it is becoming easier to be lulled away by the siren song of skills development, especially since that’s the sexy part of our job. Without a foundation of learning theory and instructional design principles, ALL CONTENT WILL BE FUTILE, IMPOTENT, MEANINGLESS!

Managers, do you want cool, but less effective instruction? …Leave ADDIE, or at least some learning theory, on your list of hiring qualifications.

Charles M - March 1, 2011

I absolutely agree that you can’t give up on the entire function for some great looking form. Check out upcoming lectures at the elearning conference.

Some folks find themselves sourcing projects they weren’t originally trained for, and while some adapt it isn’t always a smooth fit.


11. Jeff Newey - March 1, 2011

Interesting comments. I think that Eric has described the job of an e-learning “developer” ( the second D in ADDIE) and not an instructional designer. Of course, a developer need to have the skills in the latest development tools, and Eric has some great thoughts on what is needed in today’s environment. But to leave it there begs the question that we should often ask ourselves: just because we “can” do something technologically as an ID, “should” we do it–will it be the most effective? And I believe it boils down to the question: what challenges are our learners facing in doing their jobs–or for the marketing folks, what are the customer’s challenges–and how can e-learning help meet those needs? It is amazing what you learn when you take a little time to ask them. And sometimes it not a new elearning widget. A little analysis (the A in ADDIE) goes a long way.

Eric Matas - March 1, 2011

I used to see that distinction more, Jeff – one role for design and a pass-off to the next role, the developer. I don’t much any more, though. The designer and developer have merged!

I agree with your comments on the benefits of analysis and process. I just don’t see it happening very much. Partially, I think, because people move to the tools too soon–to make sure they know what they CAN do. Would it be better to design a module and then see if developers CAN make that happen?

12. Rich - March 1, 2011

Curious why no one talks about information design. Recently there has been a big push about ‘informatics’ you know, visual representations of textual material. Check these out: http://bit.ly/el4FYt and http://bit.ly/gU4XEZ

Now I know these are static – though I suppose they could be animated and parsed into SlideShare or Prezi they represent material in a cogent manner that requires a bit of thinking. And since most of us are visual learners, don’t you believe this is a skillset that must be considered where media is discussed. And remember, these work on any platform, too.

13. MariAn Klein - March 1, 2011

Really appreciate this article. Thanks so much for sharing. I completely agree.
Compartmentalizing these skills into designer and developer is like saying someone is an architect and carpenter (per above). Completely agree. Eric, are you speaking more to the point that today’s learning designer could be placed on the continuum: Good=Knows instructional design Great= instructional design + knows all the above + (my addition: how to interplay them) to make stellar interactive learning design? Is it really about title or more about breadth and depth of skill? We’re in an evolution in our industry so I’m reminded of the importance of discussing titles….ultimately it’s a evolution in identity. Change is hard.

14. Kelly Meeker - March 2, 2011

Thanks so much for referring folks to our SCORM video player. While there’s a need for all kinds of elearning resources, we’re thrilled to make videos trackable in learning management systems.

For more information about the video player, please read:

15. Joe T - March 4, 2011

Hey Eric, long time no see! (I used to work with Eric…)

Thanks for posting this. I think you make some valid points, though I also think there’s a distinction that needs to be made: skills that will mostly likely LAND you a job, versus skills that will allow you to SUCCEED in a job. Admittedly, ID skills are a hard sell for many business leaders because the value can be difficult to pin down, unless you’re doing levels 3 and 4 evaluations (and business leaders who don’t buy into ID are not likely to want to do levels 3 and 4 evals, so you’re in a chicken-egg situation there). So you do have to SELL them on instructional design through the skills you list, such as game development, because such skills are much more clearly demonstrable as something they can’t do on their own. But once you have their attention with things they can’t do on their own, you can sell them on the value of the design principles behind the game, sim, etc. And if you succeed, it will allow you to produce quality instruction, which will demonstrate your value when you actually HAVE the job.

This adds up to a point that is consistent with yours: the days of the pure ID may be drawing to a close. It might be that in order to make it you can’t just be the architect, you also have to be the carpenter. But once you’ve landed a job, you’ll be able to demonstrate that your architecure skills are just as valuable as your carpentry skills. Hope you’re well, Eric! Thanks for posting!

Eric Matas - March 4, 2011

Hey Joe – I’m riveted by your Charlie Sheen v Gary Busey crazy-a-thon on Facebook…whoever wins goes on to face the winner of Kim Jong Il and Moammar Gadhafi in the sweet 16.

I think ADDIE has a lot to do with it. Along with the experimental nature of technical tools (“Let’s try this.” “I think I can make this work.”) ADDIE is fatalistic.

Thanks for chiming in.

16. Shannon - March 13, 2011

As a newcomer to the Instructional Design field, I find it interesting to see this type of breakdown for ID. It would not have occured to me that Graphic Design would be #1 on this list, but luckily for me I have some background in web designing/graphic arts, so hopefully I am moving down the right career path. I appreciate all of the input and suggestions on this topic as I continue to pursue my Master’s Degree and move forwrad with my career. I will continue to digest all of the info I find on ID and try to incorporate as much as possible into my future endeavors!

17. Bill LaFave - March 22, 2011

Due to the emergent popularity of mobile apps, largely due to ipad and the iphone, I think skill # 5 has a lot riding on it.

Perhaps not now, but in the future, the importance of HTML5 as a way to bridge the gap from flash into a way to have a reliable method to write code that will be usable on a large variety of devices will be paramount.

18. Blog Posts, Articles, and Reports To Read: March 2011 | 4R x T - April 1, 2011

[…] “Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011“ […]

19. Practicing Social Media Skills for Learning – Corporate e-learning Strat Dev - June 10, 2011

[…] This post was inspired by Kevin Thorn’s (LearnNuggets) guest post at eLearning Weekly titled Top 5 eLearning Skills for 2011 and the Follow up post. Kevin’s take on eLearning skills has sparked a little debate and […]

20. mediscribes - October 5, 2011

Bill i agree with you HTML 5 bridge the gap for flash and right now we are working on it to develop course in HTML5. also android market is more growing and its affordable smart phone.

21. Jane Wilson - January 25, 2012

I have been developing for Android and will definetely recommend it for everybody!

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