Giving Thanks

"I'm thankful for mommy and dada and the leaves and the cookies." Happy Thanksgiving! E

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the US this week, I’ve been reflecting on how much I have to be thankful for.

I have a career where I get to write, be creative, and solve problems. I’m always learning new content, skills, and technology.

I’m grateful for working from home and the flexibility of setting my schedule. Yes, I often work at night after my two-year-old daughter goes to bed or early in the morning before she wakes up, but that means I get to spend more time reading and playing with her.

My daughter, “E,” made the card above at preschool. As you can see, she has her own list of what she’s thankful for. I can’t argue with anything on her list. :)

I’m thankful for everyone who reads my blog, comments, and shares. Social media has allowed me to connect with so many wonderful, smart, talented people.

Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week or not, I hope you have much to be thankful for in your work, friends, and family.


ID and E-Learning Links (11/15/15)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Remembering Jay Cross and His Work

It’s been a week since Jay Cross passed. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, but like many in the field, I read his writing and had great respect for his work. Someone asked me recently about what makes a thought leader, and Jay was one of the first people I mentioned as an example. We often overuse the word “innovate,” but Jay truly did innovate and lead the industry forward. He was the guru of informal learning who pushed us to think outside of the traditional model of formal courses and training. He may not actually have been the one to coin the term “e-learning,” but he certainly shaped and led the field.

Between his books, a dozen years of blogging, and other writing, Jay shared many ideas worth remembering. What better way to remember him than with a small sampling of his own ideas?

Meeting Jay Cross

Formal and Informal Learning

“Formal learning is like riding a bus: the driver decides where the bus is going; the passengers are along for the ride. Informal learning is like riding a bike: the rider chooses the destination, the speed, and the route.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance

Training versus Learning

“Training is imposed on people (for example, by the training department), as if they are cogs. Learning is what people choose to take in (whether or not through training), as if they can make decisions for themselves. Training assumes the trainer is in control; learning puts the learner at the helm.”
Why Corporate Training is Broken And How to Fix It


“Conversation is the most powerful learning technology ever invented. Conversations carry news, create meaning, foster cooperation, and spark innovation. Encouraging open, honest conversation through work space design, setting ground rules for conversing productively, and baking conversation into the corporate culture spread intellectual capital, improve cooperation, and strengthen personal relationships.”
Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways That Inspire Innovation and Performance


“Businesses have been trying to promote passion in the workplace while keeping other emotions at bay. Denying people their emotions is de-humanizing. We have to start treating people like people.”
The Coherent Organization

Perpetual Beta

“Nothing is forever. In the long run, evolution keeps life and the lessons of experience in perpetual beta. Even when something is a perfect fit with its environment, environmental change will render it obsolete.

Everything flows. In the long run, everything is beta or dead.

The opposite of Perpetual Beta is closure. The topic is no longer a subject for discussion. People cease trying to make improvements, for the ones worth making have already been made. We’ve closed the book on it.

Closure makes room for the next chapters but it shuts down attention in the brain. Never tell people they’ve graduated from anything because it causes their memories to atrophy. Keep the things you want to keep alive in beta; close out the others by withdrawing your attention.”
Should Learning Content be in Perpetual Beta?

Real Learning

“You are learning all the time, taking in new information and making sense of it. You learn by doing, through conversations, and from the school of hard knocks. You, rather than a teacher or institution, are in charge of the process.

Learning is not something that happens to you at events or in courses. It is something that you own and experience continuously, with other people, in your life, and your work.

Learning is how you solve problems, grow professionally, and achieve your goals.”
Real Learning

Others Remember

Many others have written more eloquently in Jay’s memory. If I missed your post or you have memories to share, please leave a comment.

Image Credit: Meeting Jay Cross by Alan Levine

How Freelance Clients Find Me

Last week I gave a short presentation for the new eLearning Freelancer group on finding clients. You can watch the recording of the presentation.

In reality, I don’t do very much to actively seek out clients; most of my clients find me. Here are the recommendations I shared with the group on how to become visible to clients.


screenshot of my portfolioAn online portfolio is a requirement if you’re freelancing. Prospective clients need to see what kind of work you can do. Your portfolio is a way to tell your story about the work you do and the work you want to do in the future. My portfolio is on my business website.

You don’t need to have lots of full courses on your portfolio. Most clients won’t have time to review long courses. Short snippets or even screenshots are fine. Include a few sentences explaining your projects and the problems you solved with them. If your examples demonstrate specific tools or skills, mention that in your description.

If I was starting over now, I’d register a domain right away and create my blog as part of my website and portfolio. Since I started this blog as a free WordPress site years before I decided to become a consultant, I didn’t think about the domain as a business need at the time. You can still use a free WordPress site for your business and portfolio, but pay for domain registration so you don’t have to change it later. Many free WordPress themes can be used to build portfolios, not to mention the a plethora of paid and custom options.

Portfolio links:

Networking = Relationships

Two women chatting in a coffee shop When I say “networking,” don’t picture handing out business cards at so-called networking events where everyone is trying to get something from everyone else. Networking is about building and maintaining relationships. I’ve found it helpful to approach networking with a focus on how I can give to other people, rather than what I can get. Being helpful to others shows people that you’re good to work with, and it demonstrates your expertise.

A significant portion of my work comes via people I’ve worked with before or through those connections. Keep in touch with your former colleagues from when you were an employee, especially when they move to new jobs themselves. Spend time connecting with others in the e-learning field too. Everyone gets overbooked sometimes. I refer work to others when I’m too busy or it isn’t a good fit, and others return the favor.

Social Media and Online Communities

Man typing on laptopThe primary way prospective clients find me is via my blog. They usually search for “instructional design” or “instructional designers,” read one of my posts, and follow that to my portfolio and business site. A blog gives you credibility and makes it easier for people to find you.

I’ve heard from other IDs and e-learning freelancers that they find clients via Twitter connections. LinkedIn Pulse is another possible channel for publishing; this has the advantages of being free and reaching a built-in audience of your connections.

Online communities like LinkedIn groups and eLearning Heroes are also great ways to connect with people. You can demonstrate your expertise. I once got a major project as a result of a question I answered in a LinkedIn group. It wasn’t the person who asked the question who hired me; it was a third part who was reading the discussion. Because I was helpful to someone else, he saw that I knew what I was talking about, and he hired me.

Be A Good Neighbor

Neighborhood housesI’ve found that when I’m helpful to others and act like a good online “neighbor,” clients just find me. In her post on finding work, Jackie Van Nice explains,

How does all of this lead to work? It just does. Whether it comes from your peers who know of a project you might be right for – or from those silent watchers in the community, on your website, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or wherever else you’re active – the people with the work will find you.

My experience is very similar to Jackie’s; by putting myself out there and being active and visible, work finds me.

Read More

Props to Patti Bryant for doing an amazing job organizing this freelancer group.

Images (except the portfolio screenshot) from

Tapping At My Cubicle (With Apologies to Poe)

Quoth the raven,

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

Several years ago, I collected several e-learning horror stories for a now-inactive group blog.  I took a bit of artistic license with this, but this is based on a true story shared by Jeff Goldman.  Jeff’s was by far the best (or worst!) story people shared with me, and I’m grateful that he inspired me to this creativity. As we approach Halloween, I thought this was an excellent time to share this poem again.

With deepest apologies to Edgar Allen Poe

Tapping At My Cubicle

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious module of forgotten lore,
While I designed, my objectives mapping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my cubicle door.
“Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my cubicle door —
Only this, and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember, seven years ago December,
And each separate service center spread out upon the map
Eagerly I wished to prove, and vainly I had sought to move
Our onsite courses to online — online would be a snap
We’d learn across the distances, converting would be a snap.
We’d fill our knowledge gap.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
Confidently I marketed this superb online course.
Who should take the online course, what to learn in an online course,
Such convenience as a benefit of the online course,
Why not take this online course?

Back in my Baltimore cubicle, I prepared for this pinnacle
Of online learning. But there, the tapping, louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is someone from my local office.”
But I see, then, who is there, and confused I do implore,
“Why is a colleague from Virginia here at my door,
Traveling to tap on my cubicle door?”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the woman whose voice now started somewhat hoarse.
This and more I sat divining, with my head confused reclining
Her answer I was pining: “I’m here for my online course.

I’m here for my ONLINE COURSE.”

Image credit: cc licensed flickr photo shared by J. Heinisch