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? You need to revise or create elearning portfolio samples.
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.
Create short elearning 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. One really great interaction will have more impact than a 20-minute presentation.
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 portfolio samples. I know some people recommend those, but personally, those feel 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.
However, 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 feels a little condescending if your intended audience is adults who probably already know how to make a simple sandwich.
It’s also easier to add a description for your sample if the topic is more realistic. You can talk about what problem you’re solving and why you made specific design choices (even if it’s for an imaginary organization).
Elearning portfolio sample ideas
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. Feel free to use your imagination to decide on your audience and their needs.
Soft Skills & Business Training
- Respond to customer objections (use your imagination and make up a product to sell or support)
- Respond to angry customers
- Give an elevator pitch
- Ask customers questions to understand their needs
- How to interview 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
- How to interview people (maybe focusing on illegal questions to avoid or a specific method of interviewing)
- Conflict management/resolution
- Time management
- Prioritizing tasks
- Provide constructive feedback to colleagues
- Evaluate online sources for credibility
- Provide workplace accommodations for disabilities (this probably requires a little research, but the ADA information is publicly available)
- 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
- SMART goals
- Answer the phone, phone greetings
- Create a SWOT analysis
- How to set expectations with SMEs
- How to chunk and organize content to make it easier to understand
- Adjust master slides in PowerPoint
- Use the morph transition tool in PowerPoint to create cool effects
- How to create an animated course intro in Camtasia, Vyond, or another tool
- Create pivot tables in Microsoft Excel
- Create a budget spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets)
- Create forms with conditional paths in Google Forms
- Manage files and templates in Canva
- Trim and splice multiple video clips together (use any program or app you want for this; free apps are fine)
- 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 and organizing links and notes with Evernote, Pocket, or another tool
- Create consistent file naming conventions
- Any cool trick you know in Storyline, Rise, Captivate, Vyond, 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 Freelance Instructional Designers, eLearning Developers, & LXDs Facebook group has portfolio challenges. Look in the Files section for sample briefs with descriptions of fictitious clients and their requests. Even if you don’t want to join the contests and post to the group, you can use the past briefs for project inspiration.
- The eLearning Heroes challenges are one way many people have successfully built portfolio samples.
- Check out the course lists on Udemy, Open Sesame, LinkedIn Learning, 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.
- I co-teach the Create Your Online E-learning Portfolio course at UC-Irvine. This course focuses on helping you create your portfolio website once you have a few samples to share. Next enrollment: January 2023.
Originally published 7/14/16. Last updated with additional ideas 6/9/22.
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