A while back I began the huge undertaking of becoming a Digital Learning Consultant. Of course, I didn't start as a consultant. It took time to work my way up to this role and even understand what was involved with it and its place in this industry. With that in mind, I've created this series of articles to help you get to grips with the industry, the roles, the skillset and a path (one of many) that can help guide you to a potential job in Digital Learning.
This first article will act as an overview, so we will look at:
1 - What is Digital Learning
2 - The Roles Within
3 - Areas of Study
What is Digital Learning?
Digital Learning Is a bit of an umbrella term that covers any digital form of learning that is facilitated, enabled or mediated. Now more than ever, you find professionals adding digital learning to their profile and digital learning products are available all over the place.
Because digital learning is used in a wide array of sectors, the types of products created are also massively varied. Typically it depends on the type of learning or goals intended for the learner but you commonly find:
Videos and animations (from short Youtube/Udemy to long Coursera/lecture videos)
Arranged text and imagery
Open education resources
Web guides/blogs/social media
Less common but being seen more:
Virtual/Augmented/Mixed reality packages
learning assistants/machine-based learning/artificial intelligence
and more are being established each year
These products are usually part of bigger learning architecture; sometimes a curriculum, or course set or blended learning/flipped classroom approach that can be hosted on Learning Management Systems (LMS) or Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) or a myriad of other places (if you want to know more on these check here). They can also be delivered synchronously or asynchronously to cater to different user needs or learning goals. But basically, it's not just eLearning.
The Roles Within and Expectations
With lots of product types comes the different roles to make and govern them. There are generally three camps for the above; designers, developers and administrators. One thing to keep in mind is that there are roles that stay heavily in one camp or cross over between all of them.
As an example, a Instructional Designer at one company may be focused solely on the discovery process, learning design, story-boarding, and project management. While a Developer at the same company takes those designs and creates the eLearning, videos, layouts, etc. and iteratively reviews the works with the designer and subject matter experts (SMEs). However, over at this smaller company the Instructional Designer is responsible for all of these tasks as well as uploading and managing the products on the LMS.
At some larger companies each individual product type has its own team. You could specialise into a role dedicated to discoveries and learning design, or becoming a videographer or a game designer using unity for VR products, and so on. So depending on your goals you may be able to streamline your skills and specialise or take a wider approach and gain a bigger skillset.
Areas of Study
We have looked at a huge range of topics and roles. So what areas do you study to get into a field like this? Maybe the easiest approach would be looking at the three camps; Designer, Developer and Administrator.
A general list for good digital learning design is;
Educational theory (usually adult pedagogy) to teach the user.
Learning psychology (and neuroscience) to understand how we learn.
Action mapping and investigative techniques to discover the problem and map out solutions.
User experience design to id your user and best shape their experience and guide them.
Some graphic design theory (typography, colour theory, layout and design, imagery and graphic design) to get the right tone, feel, and engagement.
Understanding of the limits and possibilities of development software and the hosting platforms that your users will use.
Project management skills to work with SMEs, project leads and owners and ensure all phases of the project are delivered on time.
For developers the list varies by the type of product you create:
Graphic design software (example: Illustrator/Photoshop/Indesign) to create, edit and layout you imagery and text with full control.
Video and animation software (example: Premiere Pro/AE/Audition/Vyond) to create and edit video files, audio files, gifs and motion graphics.
eLearning software ( example: articulate 360/ captivate) to develop module and web based learning packages as well as in depth interactions and scenarios.
LMS and LXP understanding (example: Moodle/Kalidus/Learningpool/Degreed) to be sure what you make can work properly and be seen by the user and the needed data is captured for the business.
Game design software software (example: Unity/Unreal Engine) to recreate more complex interactions and scenarios for pc, mobile and vr.
Mobile application software (example: Kotlin/iOS SDK) for digital learning apps like Duolingo or Sololearn.
For Administrators it depends on the system and people involved but the basics are;
LMS and LXP understanding (example: Moodle/Kalidus/Learningpool/Degreed) to be manage your learning base, their performance and ensure all training is being completed as needed.
Basic development software knowledge( example: the one your devs used) to gain basic troubleshooting knowledge to support your learners and know when a problem is the learner or the program. (Pro Tip: It's the program.)
Basic web design skills to know how the learner is getting to the learning and any hurdles they may have along the way.
A heck of a lot of patience. I say this because I know how much my Admin team goes through, and I love them for it.
Please keep in mind this list is NOT COMPLETE and I've no doubt missed things. The best professionals learn enough to know they like the field and identify that they don't know everything. Your managers, teams, colleagues and business as a whole will help guide you to what is needed for your role. There is no one path, so don't freak out, just enjoy the learning journey.