Help, I have an Instructional Design Master’s Degree and I Can’t Create E-Learning

This month’s ASTD Big Question relates to a person who graduated from a theory-only program in Instructional Design and was not provided with the experience of actually creating instruction using any of the latest tools. So the question is:

What advice would you give to someone who has no experience with e-learning development tools? Where do you start?

  • Particular tools you should explore?
  • Resources you should read? Videos/screencasts you should watch?
  • What would your “To Learn List” look like?

Holding myself back, I will calmly answer the question as per Tony’s request to not comment on the content of the Master’s program…but my tongue is starting to bleed from biting it so hard.

My first suggestion is to take an online course that offers hands-on experience using some of the tools. Bloomsburg University’s Department of Instructional Technology offers many online courses that include, as a standard part of the program, instruction and hands-on experience with development tools. These courses can be taken without being enrolled as a full-time Masters Student. Any one who is interested can leave a note on my blog and I will contact them.

Here are two such courses.

  • 57.584 Online Course Design -teaches Blackboard, Centra, Captivate, Adobe Presenter, Snag-It and Hot Potatoes.
  • 57.588 Learning Management System Administration requires students to develop and deploy an actual course using the LMS Plateau (Why Plateau? because they donated it).

If that doesn’t work…

I agree with one of the comments on Tony’s Site. Have a specific course in mind that you want to build that will provide you with the motivation and focus needed to learn the software.

Then download the software (free demo version) and build something that you will post on the web. Forcing yourself to build it to a quality level good enough to post in public will motivate you to put the time and effort into the project and increase your learning. That focus will also give you a better understanding of the software than if you were just “fooling” around with it.


Purchase one package and dive deeply into it. Once you master something like Lectora or TrainerSoft, you will have the basics needed to master similar programs. You might even want to learn all the ins and outs of MS PowerPoint because PowerPoint is now the foundation for several quality e-learning development tools such as Articulate and even Adobe’s Captivate can utilize PowerPoint slides (just make sure your PowerPoint slides don’t look like typical PowerPoint…see Avoiding Death by PowerPoint.)


Go to YouTube and search for “Learn Flash.” You will find a bunch of videos on how to use Flash. You can do the same with “Learn Captivate” as well.

If worse comes to worse…

You can always get a book about the software…while it is not exactly the same as having the actual software, it can provide some help. And if you are using the software with the book, so much the better.

Now I have to go clean up the blood dripping down my chin…

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Posted in: ASTD Big Question

Leave a Comment (10) ↓


  1. Nur affinah Mohd affaidi May 5, 2010

    I have gone through this blog. I found it very interesting and helpful. Now a days I am doing my studies from my home only.
    And this blog is really doing great for me. And blog offers me more ideas and advices concerned to my career.

    Masters Degree

  2. sophie February 18, 2010

    Great article and discussions!
    online degree

  3. Nathaniel C. Kelley III January 18, 2010

    I have a concern: I've been reading various blogs contributing to the ID field; however, my concern is: we're still not thinking outside of the box when the whole goal is to develop program which will in return motivate the learner to engage in thinking/learning. Stan has an interesting point/request: "Help I have an Instructional Design Master's Degree and I Can't Get a Job." I've seen people post all of these accolades, multiple degrees etc… but yet there's no "out of box" contribution towards thinking. For example, Stan in your case if your job searches have been unsuccessful, create a job for yourself, in "Instructional Design Consultant." visit your local school board; there's always a problem with education and increasing the learning curves of the low functioning student etc. . . market a product that's irresistible. I'm sure there are plenty of small and or large business that's in need of hope and or ideas that could increase work productivity or how to perform some sort of task. You could make yourself indispensable (market yourself to where your service is a demand).

    In conclusion: I would like to see a list of LMS sites or systems that an instructional designer might use. I'm very aware that different jobs require different platforms; however, there should be a blog entirely devoted to: "What should know as an Instructional Designer."

  4. MindFoolNAtl October 26, 2008

    Greetings! I started reading interested on the great answers; however, I think some people need to be mindful of what they say and how they say it. After all as an Instructional Designer, the audience is our bread and butter, and there comments that tend to attack and ridicule the person who asked the question.

    Unlike the user that posted the initial question, I did take the courses related to the technical part of the MEd, yet all the companies I worked for have work divided. Now, I am having to relearn on my “spare” time Dreamweaver 8 to keep an edge on my career. Mind you, I recently went to an E-learning workshop for instructional designer and there is a new software project that will knock out a lot of technical requirements without heavy programming and will have better interactivity/animation capabilities than Captivate.

  5. Anonymous October 13, 2008

    Why would someone choose a program that did not teach them these things? Wasn’t that the main point of getting the degree…to learn how to create online courses? That person doesn’t need to be creating anything for someone else to learn from.

  6. Anonymous October 6, 2008

    Although I realize that submitting that question was that person’s first step towards learning and that’s probably a good thing, I can’t get past the idea that e-learning is moving slowly because of this approach:

    1) new tool is made available
    2) GroupA (explores on their own) hears about the tool through their networks and start using it by teaching themselves
    3) GroupB (everyone else) realize that GroupA is accomplishing lots of cool new things, and asks about it
    4) GroupB asks GroupA and learns what/where it is
    5) GroupB asks GroupA and learns the theory
    6) GroupB asks GroupA and learns a little about how to work it
    7) GroupB starts to use the basic features of the tool, but never learns or uses any of the advanced features

    I mean, it’s great that GroupA could teach GroupB…the whole teaching thing is fine, no complaints. The problem is that GroupB and GroupA are both supposed to be full-time professionals, and GroupB is just kind of straggling along. I can’t shake the feeling that late adopters are just trying to copy my answers to the test.

  7. Anonymous October 5, 2008

    1. Find a project that is relatively simple and well defined. Apply your theoretical knowledge to analyse the problem and design a solution
    2. Jump right in to the development
    3. Look at eXe or Xerte for useful design tools for presenting content
    4. Look at LMS systems (including free ones) as potential vehicles for admin, assessment, chat, discussion etc

    Hope this helps someone! Having come from the LMS world and now needing to go back to more hands on development after many years away from this area (and also holding theory courses like the person in question) I can see where they are coming from.

    Luckily the tools are now much simpler…

    Good luck!

    Andrew Chambers
    Educational Design Manager
    MBT Program

  8. Stan Yann October 5, 2008

    How about: “Help I have an Instructional Design Master’s Degree and I Can’t Get a Job.” That’s the big question I’d like answered. It would be interesting to see what people with years of experience in the field have to say.

  9. Bex October 3, 2008

    Know what you mean about biting your tongue. I am interested in the Bloombsburg course!

    Re: barton’s comment “Go learn on your own,” I won’t even digress into whether s/he has ever taken a master’s program while working full-time. The point is that we don’t know how to be self-directed learners, but that we don’t know what we don’t know. Hence one part of the original question is “Where do you start?”

  10. BARTON October 3, 2008

    Well…this is an easy question to fly off the handle on, or at least get on the soapbox for a long time. But I digress…

    One thing that instructional design has instilled in me is the ability to be a good learner. Even if a degree program does not teach you the process to develop in a certain tool…go LEARN on your own! I guess that’s too much to ask of some people :/

Karl Kapp
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