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.
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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.
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.