Instructional Design Portfolio Resources
A collection of resources and tools for creating your instructional design or elearning portfolio
Everyone working in instructional design, learning experience design, or elearning should have a portfolio. This is especially true for people who are job seeking or working independently.
I use affiliate links when I share books and some additional resources (like the Dreamhost link below). It won’t cost you anything additional, but a small portion of the purchase price comes to me to help pay for hosting my blog. I have partnered with elearningfreak on this post, but all opinions are my own.
Why do you need a portfolio?
If you’re wondering why you need a portfolio, read Tom Kuhlmann’s explanation about being “at the crossroads when opportunity and preparation meet.” Tim Slade explains that we need portfolios because the tools are easier and employers want to see evidence of your skills. I have heard all the excuses why you can’t build one.
Christopher Pappas provides another 7 reasons you need a portfolio, if you need more motivation.
What to include
My post on 30+ ideas for portfolio samples can give you some inspiration if you need to create new artifacts.
Kristin Anthony’s “Go Design Something” site automatically generates ideas for portfolio samples.
This post on building an instructional design portfolio includes what to include and additional tips.
These 10 tips for building a portfolio include picking the right projects and pairing each project with a description.
Tools for creating samples
Storyline and Captivate
Prospective employers expect to see a few samples using standard tools. In most places, that means either Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate.
Job seekers often can’t afford to purchase expensive software licenses. If you’re a student, discounts are available for both Articulate 360 (which includes Storyline) and Adobe Captivate.
Both Articulate and Adobe offer 30-day free trials. If you storyboard and plan before you start your trial, you can make several samples during that month. It’s also possible to earn a free Captivate license by participating in their community.
Open source and additional tools
Although employers are likely to look for Storyline and Captivate, you might use other tools.
Rise is part of the Articulate 360 Suite. It’s easy to learn, but be cautious of relying to heavily on their templates and course starters.
Camtasia is another option for videos. Check out Cara North’s video series on creating a Camtasia portfolio sample from start to finish for a plan and example.
iSpring Free is basically a PowerPoint presentation plus a quiz, but this might be an option for simple samples.
Animated videos can make great, visually appealing portfolio samples. Vyond is a popular choice (and one I use). I know that other developers use PowToon as a less expensive option (although Vyond’s “Essential” license would be enough to create some portfolio samples).
If you want to use open source tools, check out Adapt and H5P. Neither one has seen widespread adoption, partly because they both require more technical expertise. However, you can create some really cool things with both.
It’s more specialized, and therefore not necessarily a good choice for everyone, but I also have a Twine sample in my portfolio. Twine is great for branching scenarios, plus it’s free and open source. Learn more about Twine from my posts to get some ideas.
Hosting your portfolio
This blog and my portfolio were both built with WordPress. These are both self-hosted sites now, although my blog was on WordPress.com for many years. You can use a free WordPress.com site as your portfolio as a job seeker, but you’ll have to host your samples somewhere else or upgrade to a paid plan that allows plugins. (And if you’re upgrading to a paid plan for WordPress, you might as well just pay to host it yourself–you can do that cheaper.)
Check out Dianne Hope’s article on how to build a portfolio in WordPress.
In her article, Dianne explains how to use a free WordPress plugin to upload elearning samples. That plugin works regardless of what tool you use to create your samples (Storyline, Captivate, iSpring, etc.).
I use DreamHost to host both of my websites. Shared hosting starts at $2.59/month, so it’s quite affordable to get your own site and have full control.
Free and Low Cost Hosting Options
Some people use template sites like use Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace. I find those sites generally limiting , plus it can be challenging to post real samples. It can be done, but it’s not my first choice.
If you’re using a free site like Wix, you probably need to host your samples elsewhere. WordPress.com and other free hosts don’t allow you to upload published Storyline or Captivate files (at least not on the free plan, and not necessarily even on a paid plan).
You can use Amazon AWS storage to host and share your files, linking to them from your portfolio. Google Cloud is another option; Kimberly Goh’s video explains how to use Google Cloud to host portfolio samples. Both of those options for file hosting are either free or very low cost for most portfolios.
Mike Taylor lists several free or low-cost options for hosting in this post (although a few, like Dropbox, are no longer options).
It helps to see other portfolios as inspiration for your own work. See how others have organized their samples and what they include.
Check out this post with 34 great examples of instructional design and elearning portfolios, collected by Scott Winstead. (Mine is included, but honestly, it needs an update because it looks a bit dated currently.)
Tim Slade shared this selection of very strong portfolios as examples.
The Articulate community also has a collection of portfolios.
Courses on portfolio building
- I co-teach a course for UC-Irvine: Creating Your Online E-learning Portfolio, scheduled to be taught again in February 2023. This is an optional, non-credit course in the UC-Irvine E-Learning Instructional Design certificate program, but you can take the course without taking anything else in the certificate.
- Ashley Chiasson has a free course on building elearning portfolios.
- Robin Sargent offers a course called Build Your IDOL (instructional design and online learning) Portfolio.
Do you have a favorite tool for creating portfolios or a resource I’ve missed? Let me know.
Originally published 3/16/2011. Republished 7/2/2019. Last updated 7/21/2022.
21 thoughts on “Instructional Design Portfolio Resources”
Thanks so much for all this helpful info! It has given me a lot of ideas of how to structure my portfolio.
I was wondering– I went to check out Kristin Anthony’s course because you recommended it on a few pages, but it seems like it is no longer up. Do you know if it’s expired?
Thanks for letting me know. It looks like Kristin isn’t offering her free course anymore. However, she does have a site with randomized suggestions for portfolio samples. I just updated the post to reflect that.
Hi Christy! Such a helpful article 🙂 I’m actually creating/publishing my free portfolio website using Adobe Portfolio. Would I be able to embed my Articulate and Captivate samplework on Adobe Portfolio? I haven’t seen anyone mention it anywhere!
It looks like the allowed file types in Adobe Portfolio are only images, videos, and mp3 audio.
Adobe Portfolio is like the free sites like Wix. You can add a screenshot of your project and link on the image to the real project, but you’ll have to post the actual project files on AWS or somewhere else.
Great article! Folks might want to also checkout CoursePortfolios.com it’s really easy to make custom portfolios for each client/industry/too/etc. And you can create private portfolios if you are not ready to share with the whole world 🙂
I believe this was the post I have been looking for a long time. I am planning to create my ID portfolio and after reading your article I believe WordPress would the best platform for a portfolio.
What would the cost of creating a portfolio on WordPress? If you could kindly detail a bit.
With a self-hosted WordPress site, the only required cost is hosting, plus maybe registering a domain. If you look for deals, you can get hosting for $30-$40/year, including a free domain registration (although you may have to pay a little to renew the domain in subsequent years). My link for shared hosting with DreamHost gives you a $50 discount, so it ends up being around $30/year.
If you host your site on WordPress.com, there’s no cost unless you want a custom domain. However, you’ll probably need to pay for Amazon AWS S3 to host files. Amazon offers a free tier for storage, so you can perhaps get the storage free for the first year.
You may end up spending more than that, but everything else is optional. For example, you might pay for a premium theme rather than using a free one. You also might pay for other add-ons. None of that is required though, especially for getting started.
Unwanted paradox: tried to visit your portfolio, especially as whole post is about it, and got Error code 502.
Maybe a memento to rethink it?
I just checked, and my portfolio site looks like it’s up. You can always check Down for Everyone Or Just Me? To see if an error is actually on the website or at your end. https://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/syniadlearning.com
Hi Christy. I cannot believe that I just found your blog after having a group lunch with you a couple of weeks ago. I am thinking of starting an ID portfolio, did a Google search on those terms, and your site was the first thing that popped up.
Fantastic website and I look forward to following your blog. Thanks for the encouragement.
Hi Ryan, nice to see you here! I actually have very little overlap between people I know face-to-face and those who I know through my blog, so it’s fun to have someone I’ve met in person here. Glad you found it useful.
Some of the new features on Tumblr’s templates are good, but I agree: WordPress is the way to go. I’ve been meaning to design my own portfolio again online.
I’d add Wikispaces as another potential tool for portfolios.
Good point; that’s a great tool for putting something together quickly and keeping it updated easily.
Very useful, helpful article. Thanks so much Christy! Love your blog.