Instructional design can be thought of as an art that blends creativity, technology, and education (and a bunch of other skills too, but these will do for a starter!). If you’ve decided to venture into this field, or you’re looking for your first job, one of your most potent assets is a strong portfolio. A well-crafted portfolio in instructional design showcases your skills, and also serves as a compelling narrative of your journey and expertise. It’s the best way to be sure that prospective employers can see what you’re capable of.
Ideally you’ll be able to show what you’ve been working on ‘in the real world’, as this is far more useful so that you can show how you’ve dealt with problems along the way (and trust me, there will definitely have been some). It’s difficult when you’re starting out, and potentially you’ll have to create examples yourself until you’ve actually created courses out in the wild. That’s not ideal, but there’s always the opportunity to volunteer your services – and who doesn’t love a freebie – so that you have something concrete to show.
But what to actually include? Let’s take a look at what you need to be thinking of for a robust portfolio that (hopefully) opens doors to exciting opportunities.
Diversity is Key: Showcase Your Range
Include Various Project Types
Populate your portfolio with diverse projects. Whether it’s e-learning modules, interactive simulations, or multimedia presentations, demonstrate your versatility. The bonus here is that it highlights your adaptability, and also appeals to a broader range of potential clients or employers.
Highlight Different Learning Objectives
Showcase projects that target different learning objectives. Whether it’s compliance training, skills development, or onboarding programs, emphasise your ability to design for various educational needs.
Showcasing Your Work: Quality Over Quantity
Select Your Best Work
Quality beats quantity every time. Potential employers don’t have time to look through pages and pages of your work, however amazing it is. Choose a selection of projects that best represent your skills and creativity. Each piece in your portfolio should tell a story of your capability to create engaging and effective learning experiences.
Include Samples of Instructional Materials
Feature tangible examples of your work. If you’ve designed e-learning courses, present snippets or screenshots. For interactive materials, include interactive demos or walkthroughs. Make your designs come to life within the portfolio.
Outcome and Feedback
Whenever possible, include positive (goes without saying!) outcomes or feedback from your projects. If a course you designed led to improved performance metrics or received commendations, share these success stories. Real-world impact enhances the credibility of your work.
Creating Samples for Your Portfolio: Start From Scratch if Need Be
Design Mock Projects
If you’re just starting and lack real-world projects, as I mentioned before, you could design mock projects to showcase your skills. Create fictional but realistic scenarios and design instructional materials around them. It’s particularly useful if you’re planning on concentrating on one niche or industry . This demonstrates your creativity and ability to conceptualise practical solutions.
Volunteer or Freelance
If you really would rather proper examples of work (and I would always recommend this), offer your skills to non-profit organizations or small businesses. Volunteer or take on freelance projects to gain hands-on experience and build a portfolio with real-world applications. This not only adds depth to your portfolio but hey, it makes you feel good too as you’re contributing positively to your community.
Explanation Matters: Provide Context and Insight
Narrate Your Design Process
Either way, it’s a really good idea to accompany each project with a detailed description of your design process. Explain the educational objectives, challenges faced, and how you overcame them. This provides insight into your problem-solving skills and strategic thinking.
Reflect on the outcomes of your projects. What worked well? What would you do differently? Sharing reflections demonstrates your commitment to continuous improvement and a willingness to learn from experiences.
Building an Online Presence
This isn’t strictly about what to put in a portfolio, but more about having a perfect place to display it.
Create a Professional Website
Develop a professional website to host your portfolio. Platforms like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress offer user-friendly options. You don’t have to pay the earth, and in fact, you can even use hosted portfolio platforms like Carrd when you start out. Just ensure the layout is clean, navigation is intuitive, and your work is easily accessible.
Note: Optimise for Mobile
Given the fact that pretty much everyone has mobile devices, ensure your portfolio is optimised for mobile viewing. A responsive design ensures that potential employers or clients can seamlessly explore your work on any device.
Your portfolio is a living document. Regularly update it with new projects, skills, and reflections. This showcases your commitment to growth and keeps your portfolio relevant in a rapidly evolving field.
Networking and Feedback
Engage with the instructional design community. Join forums, participate in discussions, and seek feedback on your portfolio. Networking not only provides valuable insights but, you never know, it can also lead to collaborative opportunities.
Your Portfolio in Instructional Design, Your Story
Your portfolio is more than a compilation of random projects; it’s a narrative of your journey and expertise in instructional design. Assemble it with care, showcasing your diversity, creativity, and ability to drive positive outcomes. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned professional, a robust portfolio is your passport to success in instructional design. Let your portfolio speak volumes about your passion for creating amazing learning experiences. Remember, your portfolio is not just a collection of work; it’s your story. Make the most of it.