Being An eLearning Specialist In 2018: What Is Required?

Being An eLearning Specialist In 2018
Jacob Lund/
Summary: Being an eLearning specialist in 2018 requires a well-rounded educator that is adaptive and interdisciplinary in education and skill sets. This article discusses the education and skills that today's organizations seek in an eLearning specialist.

What An eLearning Specialist In 2018 Needs To Know About

This year has ushered in observable growth in the educational technology sector. Some of the observable trends include the proliferation of interest in making education more affordable, flexible, and relevant for corporations, K12 schools, and higher educational institutions. In turn, this has led to an increased need for knowledgeable eLearning specialists, with all signs pointing to a continued growth during 2018. To this end, more and more career opportunities are being posted on sites like LinkedIn, Higher Ed Jobs, Indeed, and elsewhere for professionals that access and maximize the use of technology in developing functionally engaging eLearning content.

But what are the in-demand skills employers are looking for in today’s eLearning specialists?

First, let’s consider what a typical employer expects from an eLearning specialist. In general, an organization will expect an eLearning specialist to have 2-3 years of experience. This experience can be picked-up through internships, freelancing, or actual employment as an Instructional Designer. One great way to get examples of your capability as an eLearning Specialist "out there" is to create courses on Udemy, Alison, and SkillSuccess.

Potential employers will also expect their eLearning specialists to regularly transform technical content into an engaging and interactive learning experience. This requires the developer to apply their knowledge of andragogical/pedagogical learning theory and Instructional Design processes for improving training effectiveness of the course content. Doing so may include developing learning experiences in digital or Instructor-Led venues (classroom or virtual), requiring a multi-modal skill set the developer needs.

Therefore, for 2018, this article recommends potential eLearning specialists seek the following education and practical skills recommendations as part of their repertoire of capabilities for generating the highest quality learning content.


Most organizations want eLearning specialists to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The fields generally range from instructional technology, training, or education. However, some of the largest organizations prefer a master’s degree in similar fields. When researching programs, ensure the courses include a combination of theoretical coursework and practical skill development (i.e. courses in Instructional Design development and object-oriented programming). No one needs an eLearning "specialist" that can talk about the theory but is incapable of applying it to developing quality content.

Essential Software Experience

Showing up on day-one of any new job is stressful. There are new people to meet, new personalities to manage, and all the while everyone is watching and waiting, in order to see what skills and experiences you bring to the table. Having a background in education that was conceived in formal education foundation is important. The knowledge gained from that experience made you aware of the relevant theories to inform whether the eLearning content you will one day develop meets learner needs. However, the ability to apply that knowledge is just a fraction of what you are expected to know. This is the rub that separates good eLearning developers from true eLearning specialists.

Below is a list of these skills with a description of their relevance to eLearning development:

1. Microsoft Office

Having a working knowledge of Microsoft Office is foundational for eLearning development. Many firms and educational institutions still use curriculum developed in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as the standard in disseminating knowledge. More recently, Microsoft Publisher has become a standard in eLearning development because of its ability to format text, paragraphs, and graphics in a publication. Microsoft offers an array of online and in-person training opportunities towards mastering the Office Suite.

2. Programming Skills

Everyone has heard the buzz about learning to code. It seems like it is just a fad or the thing to know right now for a lot of people, mainly because it is not a skill traditionally related to training and education. In today’s eLearning landscape, however, some basic coding skills are necessary to be able to maximize the use of the authoring tools that are used to actually produce eLearning courseware. Jeff Batt gives some great reasons to of the benefits of eLearning specialists knowing how to code here. Some of the basic coding skills eLearning specialists use include HTML 5, CSS, and JavaScript. Fortunately, there are plenty of online resources to learn how to code using these languages.

3. Authoring Tools

These are the programs used to create eLearning courses that are deployed from a standard, cloud-based Learning Management System like BlackBoard. Within the available suite of authoring tools are a range of specific capabilities, including online or installed screen recorders and full-service authoring tools that feature cradle-to-delivery components. Knowing what tools are available is literally half the battle. The other half is knowing which tools today’s employers expect an eLearning specialist to be familiar with. This is why most developers are familiar with using multiple eLearning authoring tools.

The most popular full-service eLearning authoring tools include:

  • Articulate.
    This is a package that includes Articulate 360 and Rise. Most eLearning specialists have heard of or actively use Articulate Storyline. Articulate 360 is a more advanced version that includes additional features. Rise allows you to build fully responsive multimodal courses in minutes using a block-based format that creates a sleek and simple User Interface.
  • Adobe Captivate.
  • Adobe Presenter.
  • iSpring Presenter.

4. Video Editing And Screen Recording

Being able to edit videos and screen record is an eLearning development imperative. Adobe and TechSmith are the industry leaders in video editing and screen recording products for eLearning specialists. Some organizations are specific in which they prefer, but some give an option or just leave it up to the eLearning Specialist. If you are coming into an organization that uses a cross-section of authoring and video editing software, it might be beneficial to consider merging the tools into a single brand. In making that decision, consider your preferences, the department’s budget, and the value a software merger adds.

If Adobe is the software of choice, you will most likely work with the products below:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Animate
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe Photoshop

If TechSmith is preferential, you will most likely work these products:

  • Camtasia Studio.
  • Snagit.
  • Relay.
  • Jing.

TechSmith has also developed an iOS app called TechSmith Capture that allows you to record training and app demos on your iPhone or iPad and save them in Camtasia for video editing and enhancements.

Some of the Adobe and TechSmith software requires monthly subscriptions and up-front costs that are a bit pricey, making it untenable for eLearning freelancers with tight budgets. The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives. Also, remember Apple products include iMovie as part of its standard package. However, if you prefer Windows, note that the classic MovieMaker program has been discontinued. Instead, Windows has partnered with Adobe and developed an app store that includes basic video creating products primarily for use on mobile products.

5. Learning Management Systems

Organizations host their content on Learning Management Systems, or LMS for short, to publish their learning content to their enterprise. Numerous articles exist regarding which system is the best based on capabilities. The point here is that there are several industry standards with which an eLearning specialist should be familiar. The most common include:

  • Blackboard
  • Moodle
  • Canvas
  • Litmos
  • Cornerstone OnDemand

Knowing the type of LMS is relevant insofar as deciding how the eLearning content will be formatted within the LMS. However, in gaining familiarity with a few of these platforms you will understand how to host the final courses you have developed with the authoring tools.

This is why eLearning professionals are considered specialists. However, that moniker is a bit of a misnomer. Our skill sets also require an interdisciplinary flexibility between multiple fields. Sometimes, we are graphic designers, instructional developers, programmers, and even distance learning managers. Yet, by being capable in these areas, we also add tremendous value to our organizations and the quality of learning that we create.