Imagine you’re the training manager of a small to mid-sized company. Your organization’s CEO was recently at a conference, where she saw a sample course used by a similar company to train partners about customer influences. Now she’s asked the Learning and Development department to produce a course exactly like that one. You suddenly find yourself in the market for an elearning consultant.
What is an elearning consultant?
Elearning consultants are independent professionals who specialize in digital learning. Typically, they help their clients build online training courses, although many offer elearning tool training and LMS support as well. This is a natural extension of their job, since many of their salaried counterparts are expected to provide technology training and support to their employers.
According to PayScale.com, salaried elearning specialists make an average of $55,000 a year, although some can make up to $81,000 a year; but according to a 2015 report by DigitalWits, many elearning professionals enjoy working as freelancers, passing up six-figure salaries to remain independent contractors.
In fact, one article by eLearning Industry suggested that freelance elearning professionals can only be lured back into an office setting by a C-level position.
This is not to say that elearning consultants don’t have experience working for companies. Most independent elearning contractors have a solid background in elearning and training; many have worked for organizations as instructional designers or training coordinators before going freelance. In other words, they do understand the struggles faced by a training manager. They may have even had that job title once.
Related reading: The Top 7 Benefits of Elearning
Who is the best elearning consultant for your project?
Elearning consultants have deep expertise in specific areas. Some are proficient with a specific set of elearning tools, for example. They may work exclusively with one type of tool and may also provide training for that tool. Others may be experts when it comes to instructional design. Others are subject matter experts in one or two areas.
Because the scope of a single consultant is limited to one or two niches, independent elearning professionals are best deployed on small, well-defined projects in their area of expertise. A consultant may not be a good fit if you’re looking for help with a broad training plan or strategy, according to eLearning Industry. However, you may want to hire one to work on a single elearning project — the customer influences training course mentioned above, for example.
Provided that the staff can serve as subject matter experts, the training manager can simply seek out an elearning designer who is an expert in the software your training uses. If the CEO wants an exact (or close) copy of the course she saw at the conference, the training manager might want to find a consultant who also possesses graphic design skills (or who works with a designer).
Finding an independent elearning consultant
Finding an elearning consultant may seem a daunting task; the internet is filled with freelance elearning professionals with differing titles.
Some of the most common include “instructional designer,” “elearning developer,” “learning strategist” and “elearning specialists.” While many of those who refer to themselves as “consultants” are independent contractors, some are employed by agencies.
Related reading: 5 Tips to Get Your SME to Think Like an Instructional Designer
If your company is working on a large elearning project — such as a training program for a department, a mobile learning campaign or simply a large course — an agency might be a more appropriate option, as they usually employ consultants with a wide range of skills. Some elearning firms also act as staffing agencies, pairing consultants with organizations that need them on a temporary or permanent basis.
If you decide to seek out your own freelance elearning professional, prepare to do quite a bit of research. Many consultants offer portfolios on their sites, list the tools they use to create courses as well as their areas of expertise.
Here some examples of the kind of questions you’ll want to ask as you start seeking out elearning consultants:
- Are you familiar with my industry?
- What companies have you worked with and what courses have you designed?
- What elearning authoring tools are you expert in?
- Do you collaborate with other elearning professionals (ie graphic designers or subject matter experts)?
- Will you support the course once it’s been designed?
Research is important when you start your search. You’ll want to find a consultant who is the right fit — for you, your project and your company. While the right consultant can make the process of designing a course easy by taking work of your hands, hiring the wrong elearning professional can set your project back and increase your workload. Putting time and effort in at the beginning can ensure your project will proceed smoothly later.