What to Include in Your Instructional Design Portfolio
There’s no shortage of opinions on the topic of what should be included in an instructional design portfolio.
Like any good instructional design project, I’d challenge you to start by considering your audience and your intended outcomes. Afterall, isn't the goal to teach someone a little more about yourself and what you can do for them? So, start by thinking about your personal objectives and what you want to achieve by having this portfolio available to share with others.
Consider your objectives
Most people want to use a portfolio to do one of the following:
- Land a new job at a different company
- Land a new role at their current company
- Land some job - any job!
- Compile a history of past work
If you’re not sure what you want to do with your portfolio, you might consider it helpful to read the post 4 Reasons Why You Need an Instructional Design Portfolio first.
No matter what your reason is for having the portfolio available, you’ll want to tailor the content in it to show (1) what you’re capable of doing and (2) the kind of work you’d like to continue doing.
The first one is self-explanatory. Recruiters and hiring managers look at the work samples in your portfolio to understand the kind of work you’ve done in the past and to assess the quality of that work. It provides them some proof that you do, in fact, possess the skills which you claim to possess.
The second part of tailoring your portfolio might require a bit of explanation, but it makes sense when you think it through. Since recruiters and hiring managers can now see the work you’ve done in the past, they attribute whatever they see as being your main skill and area(s) of interest. If they have a job that lies outside of those skills, they may figure that you aren’t the best person for that job. So think carefully about the kind of work you want to do and choose wisely!
While limiting your portfolio to only the kind of deliverable that you’d like to continue creating could prevent you from getting called for some jobs, ask yourself if you’re really missing out. Afterall, those jobs are mainly tailored to the kind of work that you dislike. Why? Because everything you like to do is included in your portfolio. In the end, this approach ensures that you are called for the type of work that best suits you and that you will find the most engaging.
One caveat on this point goes back to your main reason for creating your portfolio. Which of the reasons above was your purpose for the portfolio? If you want any and all kinds of work, then by all means, put in content that shows your full range of capabilities, whether you like creating it or not. And if you just want to compile past projects, creating a resource that you can reference at any moment — throw in the kitchen sink!
Consider your audience
Now that you know what you're aiming at, now consider who you’re trying to target. It’s not just about what you want your audience to see. What is it that they would want or need to see from you? Keep in mind that this works in harmony with the purpose or objective of the portfolio.
If, for example, you want to take on a new role at a company, maybe the compilation method is best. You could include content from internal projects (make sure to follow company guidelines) and personal creative endeavors. In addition to work samples, include relevant items that demonstrate how well your projects turned out. These can include feedback from stakeholders, data, and even photos of events.
If you want to land a new job elsewhere, or even your first job, you know that you’ll follow the two factors above showing (1) what you’re capable of doing and (2) the kind of work you’d like to continue doing. Next, you have to consider how much of it to share with your hiring audience. They’ll need enough content to give them a good picture of the kind of work that you do without overwhelming them.
For each item that you include, add a brief description providing context to the deliverable. You might explain the reason for the training and your analysis process. You could even include evaluation results if you have them. Again, keep it brief. Hiring managers are busy, so just hit them with the high points.
Once you’ve got that down, most portfolio content falls into demonstrating competency with one or all of the following categories.
Is there a tool that you really like? If you love Articulate Rise or Storyline 360, why not include part of a module that makes you proud. If you can do amazing things with PowerPoint, then by all means, show that off! Be sure to label the tool that you used and don’t forget to include the context.
This is also a great place to include category two - processes. In your brief write-up, discuss the process used around creating the learning deliverable. Was ADDIE or SAM used? Was it a quick one-off that required creative thinking. It can help to show that you really know what you’re doing if you discuss that.
Finally, consider including some sample documentation to accompany each project. It could be a portion of your needs analysis or even your storyboards. You can place documentation in its own section of your portfolio or place, or just a link to it, next to the learning deliverable that it helped to create.
Of course not all projects that you might want to share are easily hosted on your portfolio website. Elearning modules are a good example of this. Later blog posts will discuss how to host your eLearning projects online and also where to host your portfolio itself.
As a final note, while it’s important to put your best foot forward in your portfolio, don’t be afraid to get creative. Consider including a page that shows works in progress or new things that you’re learning.
Not only does it demonstrate that you’re not afraid to try something new, but it might just land you a job in your area of interest!