Whether you’re working independently or looking for a full-time job, you need a portfolio. What if you can’t use any samples of your existing work due to confidentiality or security requirements?
Revise Existing Work
In some cases, it’s enough to remove logos and a few identifying details. In other cases, you can redo an existing activity with brand new content. For example, the Instructional Designer or eLearning Developer demo in my portfolio is based on an activity I originally created for a health care client. The mechanics of the interaction are the same, but the graphics and content are brand new.
Use Short Samples
For many people, the best solution is creating new content from scratch. For portfolio samples, you don’t generally need to create a full-blown, 60 minute course. Five minutes or less is usually enough. Most prospective employers or clients won’t watch longer than a few minutes anyway.
Focus on Your Intended Audience
Target your desired audience. If you want a job creating soft skills training, create customer service samples. If you love software training, create that kind of samples. My portfolio only includes scenario-based learning because those are the kinds of projects I want.
I sometimes see overly simply topics like “make a sandwich” for elearning samples. To me, those feel too fake. They’re OK if you’re exclusively a developer and don’t want to do any instructional design work. Those kinds of fake topics can show off your graphic design and technical skills just fine. But if you’re looking for work as an instructional designer, those kinds of samples often show a mismatch in intended audience. “How to make a sandwich” is OK if your intended audience is children or restaurant staff. However, it’s condescending if your intended audience is working adults.
Ideas for Samples
If you need to create samples, use the list below to jump start your brainstorming. None of these require much specialized knowledge; you should be able to write the content yourself with a little online research.
Soft Skills & Business Training
- Answering the phone, phone greetings
- Responding to customer objections
- Responding to angry customers
- Giving an elevator pitch
- Asking customers questions to understand their needs
- Interviewing for a job (you could break this down further–appropriate clothes, asking questions of the interviewer, research before the interview, answering common questions, etc.)
- Resume writing
- Time management
- Prioritizing tasks
- Providing constructive feedback to colleagues
- Evaluating online sources for credibility
- Providing workplace accommodations for disabilities
- Rules for accepting gifts from customers/clients
- Onboarding or orientation (make up a fake company and introduce new employees to the leadership team and company mission)
- Tips for managing scope creep in projects
- Writing SMART goals
- Create pivot tables in Microsoft Excel
- Create a budget spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets)
- Merge comments from multiple reviewers in Word
- Customize the ribbon in any Microsoft Office program
- Use styles in Word for a consistent look
- Create handouts in PowerPoint
- Create folders to organize Outlook
- Use filters to be more efficient with email
- Edit out noise in Audacity
- Use brushes or filters in Photoshop
- Assign tasks to team members in a project management tool (Microsoft Project, Basecamp, etc.)
- Upload a course in an LMS (whichever system you know best)
- Saving links with Diigo, Evernote, or another tool
- Create consistent file naming conventions
- Any cool trick you know in Captivate, Storyline, or the eLearning development tool of your choice (this also shows your expertise with the tool)
Other Sources of Ideas
- Kristin Anthony has a free tool for generating portfolio sample ideas.
- The eLearning Heroes challenges are one way many people have successfully built portfolio samples.
- Check out the course lists on Udemy, Open Sesame, Lynda, or similar sites. All of these can be inspiration for your own samples.
- You! What ideas do you have for portfolio samples? Leave a comment and share your thoughts so everyone can benefit.
- My collection of portfolio resources includes ideas on how to organize your portfolio and why you need one.
- Ashley Chiasson has a free course on building elearning portfolios.
Originally published 7/14/16. Last updated 2/8/21.
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