The IDOL Courses Academy is an extended workshop of sorts for people learning to be, or improving their skills as, an Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer.
One of the first activities in the Academy is to setup a website and create pages that form the shell of an online portfolio. Subsequent activities have learners create Instructional Design and eLearning assets to load into their portfolio. The intent, of course, is to have a library of work samples to show potential employers.
Obstacle, Opportunity & Solution
In past cohorts, many learners struggled with this initial activity of setting up a website. Some were frustrated by the technology – despite their best efforts they were unsuccessful with the tools they had chosen. Some suffered from “analysis paralysis” – they spent so much time creating and recreating the shell of their website that they never got around to creating the assets to go in the portfolio.
The Academy team recognized an opportunity to provide a better learner experience by helping learners achieve an early success and allowing them to quickly begin creating the assets that would help them land their dream job.
The solution was to create a new lesson which removed the elements of the activity that learners struggled with. We labeled the new lesson “Basic Portfolio” and called it the “minimal fuss option”. Its goals were to:
- Remove the uncertainty of choosing a website host and website software by telling them which web host and package to use.
- Minimize the financial barriers by choosing a very capable but affordable website hosting package.
- Minimize the technical challenges by providing step-by-step instructions for purchasing the host and setting up the website.
- Eliminate the overwhelm of “starting from scratch” by providing a portfolio template and instructions to load it.
- Minimize technical hurdles of customizing the template by creating new tutorials for making common changes.
The result of this effort is clearly success as measured by how quickly most learners have moved ahead with creating work sample assets and are not still struggling with their website.
The effort was not without challenges for the Academy team. Though the new lesson removed nearly all decisions and provided detailed instructions – some people still struggled.
Some struggled because they already had a website and were trying to apply the new lesson instructions to their existing site (or some variation of this hybrid approach). In these cases the early instructions did not apply and people were uncertain how to proceed.
Some people struggled because the technology was truly beyond their understanding at the beginning. We chose a platform that supports loading the Academy’s portfolio template. The platform is very flexible and robust so it has lots of options and can be intimidating to people who are not very confident with technology.
A combination of additional support was used to get people back on track.
- I provided 1:1 technical support to help people who were stuck installing the website and portfolio template.
- I created and delivered a 1-hour live (virtual) workshop where I demonstrated the steps of the Basic Portfolio lesson.
- I produced a video (separate from the workshop recording) to demonstrate the steps of the Basic Portfolio lesson.
- Other Academy team members created additional tutorial videos for folks struggling with changing the portfolio after it was installed.