Whether you’re working freelance or looking for a full-time job, you need a portfolio. What if you can’t use any samples of your existing work due to confidentiality or security requirements?
In some cases, it’s enough to remove logos and a few identifying details. In other cases, you can redo an existing activity with brand new content. For example, the Instructional Designer or eLearning Developer demo in my portfolio is based on an activity I originally created for a health care client. The mechanics of the interaction are the same, but the graphics and content are brand new.
For many people, the best solution is creating new content from scratch. For portfolio samples, you don’t generally need to create a full-blown, 60 minute course. Five minutes or less is usually enough. Most prospective employers or clients won’t watch longer than a few minutes anyway.
Target your desired audience. If you want a job creating soft skills training, create customer service samples. If you love software training, create that kind of samples. My portfolio only includes scenario-based learning because those are the kinds of projects I want.
If you need to create samples, use the list below to jump start your brainstorming. None of these require much specialized knowledge; you should be able to write the content yourself with a little online research.
Soft Skills & Business Training
- Answering the phone, phone greetings
- Responding to customer objections
- Responding to angry customers
- Giving an elevator pitch
- Asking customers questions to understand their needs
- Interviewing for a job (you could break this down further–appropriate clothes, asking questions of the interviewer, research before the interview, answering common questions, etc.)
- Resume writing
- Time management
- Prioritizing tasks
- Providing constructive feedback to colleagues
- Evaluating online sources for credibility
- Providing workplace accommodations for disabilities
- Rules for accepting gifts from customers/clients
- Onboarding or orientation (make up a fake company and introduce new employees to the leadership team and company mission)
- Tips for managing scope creep in projects
- Create pivot tables in Microsoft Excel
- Create a budget spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel (or Google Sheets)
- Merge comments from multiple reviewers in Word
- Customize the ribbon in any Microsoft Office program
- Use styles in Word for a consistent look
- Create handouts in PowerPoint
- Create folders to organize Outlook
- Use filters to be more efficient with email
- Edit out noise in Audacity
- Use brushes or filters in Photoshop
- Assign tasks to team members in a project management tool (Microsoft Project, Basecamp, etc.)
- Upload a course in an LMS (whichever system you know best)
- Saving links with Diigo, Evernote, or another tool
- Create consistent file naming conventions
- Any cool trick you know in Captivate, Storyline, or the eLearning development tool of your choice (this also shows your expertise with the tool)
Other Sources of Ideas
- The eLearning Heroes challenges are one way many people have successfully built portfolio samples.
- Check out the course lists on Udemy, Open Sesame, ed2go, Lynda, or similar sites. All of these can be inspiration for your own samples.
- You! What ideas do you have for portfolio samples? Leave a comment and share your thoughts so everyone can benefit.
When you use voice over for elearning, do you want it to sound natural and flowing, or do you want it to sound stiff and didactic? A great voice over person can make a good script more engaging, and a great script sound fantastic. However, if the script itself is completely stiff and unnatural, there’s only so much a voice over person can do.
One common problem in writing for voice over is overly complex sentences. Extremely long sentences, especially without pauses for breath, are hard to read aloud. Even sentences that are appropriate and effective for reading online may feel clunky in narration. Content from SMEs often includes sentences which are too long and complex for voice over. You may need to break up or rewrite sentences to make them flow better.
Rewriting Complicated Sentences
For example, take this sentence on reasonable accommodations for disabilities. Try to read it aloud yourself.
Original: “The employer’s obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job, including access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.”
That wasn’t written for voice over, but it’s not that far off from content I’ve seen in voice over scripts in the past. This sentence is 57 words long. That makes it long enough to be challenging to read aloud. It’s also so long and complicated that it’s hard to understand as a listener.
The first step I’d take to rewrite this is breaking it up into two sentences after “his/her job.”
Rewrite step 1: The employer’s obligation under title I is to provide access for an individual applicant to participate in the job application process, and for an individual employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his/her job. This includes access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.
The first sentence is still 38 words, but just breaking it up is an improvement. To flow better, I’d rewrite and restructure it further. This is 51 words total, so a little shorter than the original.
Rewrite step 2: Employers are obligated under title I to provide access for individuals to participate in the job application process and for employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs. This includes access to a building, to the work site, to needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.
Of course, this could even be rewritten further to be more conversational. Although this is 53 words total, it’s now four sentences instead of one.
Rewrite step 3: What are your obligations as an employer under title I? First, provide access for everyone to participate in your job application process. Second, support employees with disabilities so they can perform the essential functions of their jobs. This includes access to buildings, work sites, needed equipment, and to all facilities used by employees.
Not Just Simple Sentences
However, you can take it too far. In a recent discussion on LinkedIn, someone argued that scripts should be rewritten to “short, simple sentences.” You might think that simpler is always better. Too many simple, short sentences can sound choppy and unnatural though.
I can use simple sentences. I use a noun, verb, and object. I do not use dependent clauses. I sound like a robot. This is boring and repetitive.
When I say “simple sentences,” I use that phrase here with linguistic precision. A simple sentence has a single clause; that means no compound or complex sentences. If you use only simple sentences, then you can never use an “if-then” statement. You can’t add more variety, and you can’t sound natural without compound sentences. Being concise doesn’t have to restrict your grammar. A 60-word sentence (especially one without any place to breathe) doesn’t belong in a voice over script, but coordinating conjunctions certainly do.
Variety in Sentence Structure and Length
When we talk, we naturally use a variety of sentence structures and lengths. If you want your scripts to sound conversational, use a combination of short and reasonably long sentences. Watch out for sentences that are too long and convoluted, but don’t be afraid to use compound and complex sentences that flow well.
Interested in learning more about voice over scripts?
- Voice Over Scripts: Writing Style Tips
- Formatting Voice Over Scripts
- Voice Over Script Pitfalls
- Voice Over Script Review Checklist