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Building a Corporate Project Simulator for New eLearning Developers

In August of 2019, I set a goal to mentor 100 women entering the Learning and Development field over the next five years. You can learn more about it by searching the hashtag, #100IDs. That bold declaration opened up many opportunities, and I have connected with so many great people, including Dana Kocalis, eLearning developer, and mentor.

 Dana is the creator of The eLearning Community Project (eLCP). The project gives new (and seasoned) eLearning developers an opportunity to create "one amazing eLearning course." It offers some real-life experience in building a course with an international, remote team - on a volunteer basis. At the end of the project, each participant received source files so they may share the artifact. 

 I have had many conversations with people interested in Learning and Development; the same issues and frustrations come to light. They all run into the "no experience without work, and no work without experience" dilemma. The eLCP seems like a practical solution for someone looking to work past this dilemma.

 I initially joined the project as a developer (to flex some creative muscle), but Dana helped me realize this would be an opportunity to mentor in a more practical setting. I had an "a-ha" moment at this point. I am looking to help early-career Instructional Designers and eLearning Developers in tangible ways. What's could be better than this? Dana asked that I act as project lead, and manage the teams working on the online course.

 I shared the link to sign-up for the project on my LinkedIn feed and hoped some of the #100IDs network would join. I was happy to see both Princess Walsh and Christine Belzie on the roster!

 To kick-off the project, Dana recruited voice-over artists, technical writers, instructional designers, and eLearning Developers from California to Berlin. Over one month, we used tools and resources like Trello, Slack, Google Docs, and Storyline 360 Review to build "Insights to eLearning Interviews" - a series of tips to help those looking for eLearning jobs prepare for their first interview. Dana provided us with the training content, additional information, and media assets. Participants worked across four teams: Writing, Design, Development, and Quality Assurance.

With a tight schedule and a team scattered across the globe, we got right to work creating systems that allowed for open communication, flexible scheduling, and rapid development time. Things weren't perfect, but the framework kept us on track as did honest feedback about what was working and what was not working.

 Acting as "the client," Dana gave the team real-world, surprise scenarios, or curveballs. When faced with revised deadlines, rescheduled meetings, and storyboard changes, the team worked quickly to turn in deliverables and stay on track. 

Remote projects require some flexibility, and the eLCP was no different. We used "an ADDIE-inspired process with a sprinkle of SAM and iteration" to manage course development.  

 Participant Heather Cardes felt like the "balance of working with a client and having the support of the team" helped make this a worthwhile learning experience. She was able to contribute as a developer and learn from others as a student. The simulator creates a unique environment where the apprenticeship gives people what they need to instill confidence in themselves (and in their resume). 

We often wonder if new instructional designers are ready for the real world; whose responsibility is it to prepare them for it? While the onus is on the individual to seek out opportunities for practice, those opportunities have to exist. The eLCP has the potential to be an invaluable project simulator for those who need to reinforce their experience and portfolios. 

What struck me about the eLCP is that we were all volunteers. The project does not guarantee a future job; it does not offer a stipend or payment of any type. Despite all of this, the team committed to completing the project on-time and in scope. I'd work with each one of them again.

If you're interested in learning more about the eLearning Community Project, and how you can participate, contact Dana Kocalis at

Team Members:

Nyla Spooner – Project Lead Christine Belzie – Script Writer Mamta Soni – Script Writer Irina Mylona – Design Lead / Designer Princess Walsh – Designer Heather Cardes – Storyline Developer Yashica Gayle – Storyline Developer Olga Filipova – QA Specialist Helena Smith – QA Specialist Scott Crosby – VO Artist Lindsley Alvarez – VO Artist

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