Every seasoned Instructional Designer should consider making an elaborate portfolio of previous projects. Narcissistic inclinations aside, a well-balanced representation of your courses and projects may bring along a plethora of future benefits.
Why Do I Need a Portfolio?
What’s the use of an Instructional Designer portfolio? It encompasses your past and present skills, domain knowledge, subject matter expertise, educational background, and more. It gives your peers, employers and students a glimpse of your creative process, methodology and teaching techniques.
It’s always good to have a portfolio handy once an opportunity pops up. By presenting your experience in a structured, tangible fashion, you get an edge over potential competitors who fail to submit any information at short notice.
Another argument in favor of an ample portfolio is volatility. Today you are sweating over a complex long-term course, tomorrow the decision-makers cut the funding, and your valuable work is left behind. Keep your time and efforts well-documented, come hell or high water!
Portfolios facilitate recruiters’ jobs and provide a great shortcut to the cherished interview, avoiding ordinary selection filters. Nice samples of your e-Learning courses and academic work will catch an employer’s eye. Plus, potential clients may get a sneak peek into your pricing and terms.
That said, one of the common issues associated with portfolios is non-disclosure. Sometimes, you have no right to share your accomplishments in proprietary work with the community at large or third party organizations in particular. Try to find a workaround and describe a project from the perspective of your personal input, without dropping names or giving away classified information.
A portfolio also reveals your soft skills and individuality to potential customers and employers. Don’t hesitate to throw in lively details, or an appropriate story regarding a specific instructional challenge. A personal slant will help you build a rapport with a broad audience and let people see the real author behind the courses.
Engaging Instructional Design portfolios
Here are a few picks from tons of instructors’ websites I found. In this selection, I’m trying to demonstrate a multitude of styles, layouts and approaches to building Instructional design portfolios. For clarity’s sake, I’m separating individuals from organizations.
- Lila Azouz: All works are conveniently grouped and labeled, drawing the line between e-Learning projects, games, performance interventions and evaluations. The portfolio includes password-protected content available upon request. Viewers have access to additional resources in PDF nicely placed under the description.
- Corinne Fisketjon: This is an example of a simpler minimalistic layout, though neatly structured and logical. The content is split into multiple categories for better navigation. Embedded multimedia works fine with no broken links or outdated scripts.
- Jackie Van Nice: Jackie’s website is a classy representation of an e-Learning professional. Every case includes the following elements: project background, course features, published sample, solution and role description. An approach worth taking on board. The site itself employs a cloud of tags to facilitate searching for specific topics.
- Christy Tucker: A well-written practical portfolio featuring this expert’s stand-outs since 2004. A simple and clear WordPress layout ensures easy reading and neatly integrated multimedia. The content is granularly organized, with large thumbnails to give you a basic idea of the contents.
- Cath Ellis: This website is based on an eye-catching trendy theme. Each case study provides a project brief (type, date, customer) along with key attributes. Project previews lead to a Dropbox-based storage. The portfolio looks great on mobile devices thanks to responsive design at the core.
- Tracy Parish: This uncluttered portfolio lists brief previews of courses, projects and activities. Older cases are equipped with updates – materials are reviewed on a regular basis. All in all, it’s yet another nice WordPress site with social tools and sharing buttons, so interested viewers may spread the word about the expert’s experience.
- Rachel Barnum: Rachel’s e-Learning portfolio features a wide range of projects linked with publications, quizzes, videos and other external content. Each project is assigned key attributes such as role and product. All works are listed on a single page and aligned for better navigation, so little or no extra scrolling is required.
- Shalini Mathias: This portfolio was performed in Prezi, a visual non-linear presentation service. It’s a great way to showcase one’s experience as a multi-dimensional story with a wealth of user-friendly tools. Prezi maps all key accomplishments and projects of interest, preserving timeline and logical ties. A format well worthy of attention!
- Britt Arechiga: A collection of e-Learning courses, storyboards, and videos, this portfolio provides a smooth browsing experience and quick access to the projects. Some works are presented as screenshots, others are packed into multimedia formats. The author uses Dropbox as cloud storage.
- Tom Washam: This gallery features Instructional Design, Project Management, and Gamification categories. All case studies provide a project description, customer name, and details on technology used. More information is available in .swf format.
- Kristin Anthony: Kristin’s portfolio fits into a single page with minimum scrolling. The projects include customer details, tools employed, and time in development. All cases link to pop-up demos or embedded presentations.
- Margo Williams: This portfolio spans content from several categories – analysis, course design, LMS design, and evaluation. Cases are encapsulated into lightweight PDF, making them easy to view online or download for future reference. The general description template encompasses the client, background information, methods, challenge, current and future state, and tangible results.
- Dianne Rees: Dianne’s webpage has a simple layout and presents key projects in a bulleted list. It’s the stuff but not the fluff – a brief description with relevant illustrations along with a catalog of publications below.
- Candice Bowes: This is another no-frills portfolio providing access to projects in PDF and PowerPoint format. Simple, clear, to the point.
- Jackie Throngard: Jackie’s page displays samples of instructional designs developed for a host of educational, business and non-profit organizations. The formula here is a basic test description plus a PDF to learn more. At the bottom of the page, you can find the author’s latest publications, separate CVs for academia and business, as well as links to social networks.
- Bruce Richards: The portfolio section on this website comes with education, technical expertise, skills, work history and awards. Prominent works are filtered by category: instructional design, graphic & web design, instructional presentations, video and instructional guides, writing samples, presentations and tutorials. The content opens in an embedded Flash player, or in a PDF file.
- Elham Arabi: This gallery of accomplishments splits into ‘e-Learning hero challenges’ and ‘Project samples’. All projects link to SlideShare and other web hosting services.
- Ginger Nichols: Ginger’s portfolio is a mix of e-Learning, instructor-led training, job aids, etc. What’s peculiar in this project gallery is a category dubbed “Clicky-clicky bling-bling” where the author places experimental and incomplete jobs. For all projects, Ginger indicates the date and the technology used. The full content opens up as HTML5. Some case studies are password-protected for confidentiality purposes.
- The University of Hawaii: This is how colleges display their distance learning programs and course portfolios. All programs feature an instructor, method of delivery and description. No frills, pure information.
- The Elearning Laboratory: The company’s website offers streamlined graphic design and structure. Every case study includes demos, external links, and customer quotes. All projects are presented in bulk, with no separate categories.
- InstructionalDesignConsultant.com by TrainSmartGlobal: This firm lays out nine specific cases illustrated with large watermark-protected thumbnails. Without reinventing the wheel, Instructional Design Consultant gives you the details of a performance problem, diagnosis, solution methods, results, and client testimonials.
- Hemeon Learning Inc.: Just a bunch of sample screenshots. However, this portfolio page has a disclaimer: more information will be available after registration. The projects here fall into the following categories: Health and Safety, Human Resources, Information Technology, Policy.
- Your eLearning World: Seven case studies encompassing challenge, solution, screenshots and an agreeable design.
- Various techniques. Do you only have linear slide-by-slide courses under your belt, or are there any interactive instructional design samples? If yes, make sure to add them to the list.
- Nice looks. Although this may not directly define you as Instructional Designer, the look and feel of the portfolio page makes a crucial impression on your viewers. Elegant imagery and a smart layout will sure earn you a few extra points.
- Content diversity. Make sure you showcase versatile courses ranging widely by content, style, approach, year of publication, etc.
- Clear descriptions. Keep your logic impeccable, guide the viewer from challenges and requirements through the solution and up to business/academic impact.
- Employed tools/software. Don’t forget to mention your favorite e-Learning tools, LMS, and authoring software to give the portfolio a professional flavor.
- Project roles and positions. Describe responsibilities within every project, accentuate your personal input.
- Confidentiality and IP. See to it that exposure of your work does not breach your previous employers’ confidentiality policies. By the same token, protect your own intellectual property from misuse – provide screenshots or safe links rather than original files.
- Academic/business paper samples. Supplement your portfolio with examples of your writing. This can be scripts, papers, publications, etc.
- Personal details. Your mission, interests and hobbies are an integral part of your professional brand.
When sharing your experience as an Instructional Designer, focus on the practical value of your activities, as well as your capabilities for problem solving and executing complex projects from scratch. Go beyond your skills as a course author and throw strategy into the mix, matching employers’ potentials needs with your battle-hardened optimization scenarios.
A perfect portfolio shows your prime accomplishments and the links between them – not the whole story with all its ups and downs. Choose carefully, and see if the projects on the list still comply with your active skillset.
The target audience is another aspect worthy of consideration. You may need to come up with a couple or more portfolios to cater to different verticals. Is this a traditional school project or an e-Learning design opportunity that you have in mind? Do you need to highlight your business coaching activities? Factor this in for your portfolio.
Last but not least, always keep it up to date. Make regular updates to the description and review the portfolio based on new experience, certificates or challenges. Besides, edu technology evolves all the time, so you don’t want to appear out of touch mentioning obsolete tools.
If you are thinking of a platform for deploying a personal website, try WordPress. It’s a market-tested engine used by millions of people, so you can’t go wrong. WordPress encompasses a host of free and paid plugins for every taste and budget, with decent customization options. Check out this nice guide to building up a WordPress site.
Crafting an Instructional Design portfolio may take up a good deal of time, but it pays off well in the long run. If you are looking to enhance your clientele and unlock new work opportunities, it’s definitely the way to go.
I’m looking forward to your nominees for the ‘truly outstanding portfolio’ award. Found a great sample? Give me a shout in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list!