At the end of last year, Bryan Jones from eLearningArt reached out to me for my predictions on the top 3 eLearning trends for 2018.
Here are the top 3 trends that I picked, as well as some commentary:
Mobile (#5 on the overall list)
Mobile learning has been happening for over 10 years, and this trend will continue in 2018. Now that mobile learning has been around for a while, we’re learning how to do mobile more effectively than to just put long courses on a smaller screen. The impending demise of Flash will require significant effort in the next few years converting and upgrading old Flash courses to HTML5, which also makes content accessible on more devices.
Microlearning (#1 on the overall list)
Microlearning will continue to be a buzzword for 2018, although I predict we’ll still be hammering out what we actually mean by the term. As we move to more mobile learning, shorter learning and performance support will be more prevalent.
Science-based learning (#8 on the overall list)
Maybe this is my wishful thinking rather than my prediction, but I do see an increasing trend toward science-based and evidence-based learning. While plenty of myths are still perpetuated by the unscrupulous and unaware, I see backlash against pseudoscience. We are fortunate in our field to have folks like Will Thalheimer, Patti Shank, and Julie Dirksen who are working to debunk myths and make research more accessible to practitioners.
Richard Watson published his ebooks on the practicalities of freelancing in the elearning field last fall. The books are a series in three volumes, with information expanded from his blog posts on freelancing. All three combine Richard’s personal stories about his freelancing journey with practical tips for creating and running a freelance business.
Volume I: Launching Your Freelance E-Learning Career
As you’d expect in any book about starting a freelancing career, this book includes very practical tips about setting up a business structure, self-employment taxes, and accounting. For example, you’ll find advice on when to hire a bookkeeper or CPA instead of managing the finances yourself (and the difference between what a bookkeeper or CPA can do for you).
Chapter 4 has practical advice for what hardware and software are necessary and helpful. This chapter differentiates this book from other general sources on getting started with freelancing. You can find information elsewhere about creating a business website with WordPress, but few sources list specific hardware recommendations for a computer for elearning development.
In my opinion, the most valuable information in this volume comes before the practicalities of technology and finances though. The book starts with big questions.
- Is freelancing a good fit for you?
- What are your goals? How do you set good goals for your business?
- What are your core values as a freelancer?
I regularly hear from people who aren’t sure if they want to be freelancers or if they’d be happier as an employee. Independent work isn’t for everyone. Figuring out if it’s a fit before making the leap is important. Identifying goals and values helps increase the chances of being successful as a freelancer. I didn’t use as formal a process as what Richard recommends when I started my business, but I really like the core values section as a way to clarify what kind of business and clients you want.
Volume II: Marketing Yourself and Finding Great Clients
I struggled to name my business, and my professional brand is still split between this blog and my company, Syniad Learning. Richard explores the pros and cons of branding as an individual or as a company. Whatever you decide, he offers advice on how to do that branding and how to build a portfolio.
The chapters on finding clients are great for everyone, even as reminders to those of us who have been working on our own for a while. Richard digs into bad clients, including why they’re harmful and how to avoid them. More importantly, he provides suggestions on finding better clients and keeping those clients as long-term partners.
Volume III: Managing a Successful E-Learning Project
In addition to tips on keeping projects running smoothly, the third volume includes information on writing proposals and determining project costs. If you’re looking for specifics on what to include in proposals and example language, this is a good place to start.
Richard also details the pros and cons of hourly versus project-based pricing, a continual topic of discussion even among experienced consultants and freelancers. (In the interest of disclosure, I’ll note that Richard cites my post on elearning hourly rates as a source for benchmark data.)
I enjoyed the chapter on closing out a project is finished because that’s an area where I think I can do better myself. I haven’t always been consistent about reflecting on what went well and what didn’t, but the list of questions included in this book is a good place to start that conversation.
Overall, I think all three books have a lot of practical advice, especially for those who are thinking about making the leap to freelance or who are just getting started.
You can buy all three books on Amazon:
- Volume I: Launching Your E-Learning Freelance Career
- Volume II: Marketing Yourself and Finding Great Clients
- Volume III: Managing a Successful E-Learning Project
If you’re looking for more books to read, check out my book recommendations on Amazon.
I’ve been working at least partially from home since 2006. I love it, but it does require some deliberate effort. I find that I’m actually more productive working remotely than I am working in an office. Here’s how I do it.
1. Set a Schedule
I set an alarm and get up in the morning like I always have. I have a normal schedule of when I work, when I take lunch, and when I stop in the afternoon. That schedule is somewhat fluid, and I often work an hour or two late in the evening after my daughter is in bed. I find that having a baseline schedule, even a flexible one, makes it easier to separate my work and personal life.
While many employers worry that remote workers will be too distracted by home and not get anything done during the work day, I find the opposite is true for me. I find it easy to get sucked into email or work when I should be “off” in the evening.
2. Get Dressed
I get dressed in real clothes every day; if I stay in my pajamas I’m not motivated. I wear comfy clothes, but I know people who wear nicer clothes even working from home because it helps their mindset. I once worked with a woman who wore a suit every day working from home for years because it was how she could be most productive.
3. Seek a Change of Scenery
I work from Panera or a coffee shop once or twice a week because the change of scenery is helpful. In fact, if I’m running a little behind on a project and need a really solid day of work to get caught up, taking my laptop to work from another location for a few hours is often the jolt I need.
4. Plan Face-to-face Interaction
Working remotely can be isolating. I’m happier if I schedule lunches with friends or former coworkers. Once or twice a month is enough for me, but you need to find the right balance of interaction for your personal needs. That face-to-face interaction is important, even for introverts like me.
5. Pay Attention to Your Natural Rhythms
I pay attention to my natural rhythms. For example, I know I have an easier time writing in the mornings, so that’s when I do my heaviest work. I leave boring administrative tasks like invoices and accounting for the early afternoon when I hit the post-lunch slump.
I take a 20 minute nap nearly every afternoon. I learned years ago that I’m more productive with the nap than without. If I don’t get a nap, I at least take 5-10 minutes to close my eyes and meditate or do progressive muscle relaxation. You might not need that, but listen to your body and figure out what you do need. Maybe you need a walk in the afternoons or a few minutes outside in the mornings. Maybe your most productive time is after lunch, so you can schedule your heaviest work for that time.
6. Keep a To Do List
I use Remember the Milk for my daily to do list. I use Google Calendar for my schedule, and I use various spreadsheets for specific projects. I am always more productive when I have a prioritized list of my tasks to complete. Breaking larger tasks into smaller ones also helps keep me on track.
If you currently work remotely (or have in the past), what did you find helpful in maintaining your productivity?