You probably see the job title bouncing around, but what does an eLearning consultant actually do? In this article we'll find out.
One of my colleagues once wrote an excellent article about the role of an instructional designer and I wanted to write something similar about my role.
I went back and forth on how to write the article - it could've just been a list of bullet points with a bit of filler.
But I wanted to explain how I became a consultant, because I think experience is an essential part of what makes a consultant.
When I quit my job, I didn't know what I was going to do. I knew it would be a role in eLearning - that was never in doubt.
But the what was a little more foggy. (Just like the weather in London on the day I quit).
I had started my career in training, moved into an instructional design role followed by eLearning development and then finally into elearning management.
So I had some skills and relevant experience - but didn't know exactly how I should leverage them.
The first opportunities were very transactional in nature - you deliver X and pay me Y (usually a custom eLearning course).
This lead me into several instructional design and eLearning development projects in which I felt confident and enjoyed.
But after a while I became jaded. I had been doing this job a few years ago and whilst I was happy, did I want to go back to creating content?
I wasn't developing myself or my business.
I thought scaling the business was the answer. The work was coming thick and fast, I was impatient for growth and wanted involvement with bigger projects.
I found some exceptional partners to work with, who took some of the weight off my shoulders. I moved from doing the work to managing the work.
This was definitely a learning curve, but I had managed eLearning projects and teams before - so this was a similar challenge, with some subtle differences.
We delivered some incredible projects, worked with some awesome clients and slowly started to see the basis of what was becoming a successful agency.
But there was something missing.
Whilst my business was growing, I wasn't having the level of impact in my clients' businesses that I had seen in my full-time roles.
I took a step back. Was growing an eLearning design agency what I wanted? Simple question. But it took me a while to realise the answer was no.
I'm passionate about introducing solutions to support learning in the workplace - but my ability to affect change was limited due to the role I'd created for myself.
So onto recent times and making the decision to reposition myself as a consultant.
The transactional nature of the work I was doing as a freelancer and agency owner has changed.
I'm not selling a 'thing' any more. I'm not under pressure to address any problem with "let me fix it with an eLearning course".
I'm saying: "My opinion on how we should consider solving this problem is X and I predict that it will have Y effect".
Do I like being a consultant?
My experience with consulting has been amazing. I'm not tied to any software. I'm not tied to any process. I'm not tied to a style of eLearning.
My only job is to provide the best advice I can.
And the best part is that I can use my skills and experience to work on the projects if I want to - just because I am doing the thinking, doesn't mean I shouldn't also deliver the work if I'm the best person for the job.
But the difference is that I don't have to.
What does an eLearning consultant actually do?
My answer to this question: an eLearning consultant solves problems.
They provide their brain rather than their hands.
Projects on which I have worked in a consultative capacity have included any combination of the following:
- Advice on how to start an eLearning program
- Comparison and recommendations on different styles of eLearning
- Guidance on suitable tools and LMS platforms
- Guidance on mobile learning
- Tactics for promoting a digital learning campaign
- Methods of calculating the potential value of eLearning
- Content development strategy
- Internal and external resourcing of eLearning projects
- Process implementation and management
- Measuring the impact of online training
I'm not claiming to be an expert in all of these and some I don't enjoy as much as others.
But what I am able to do as a consultant is to recognise what is needed and then leverage my growing network of partners to undertake tasks that requires their expertise.
This means that for any given project, I can get 'the right man for the job' and we can work together to deliver the best solution for the client.
This subtle but very real shift satisfies my desire to affect change at a deeper level than I was able to before.
What does an internal eLearning Consultant do?
This article has focused on my own experience as an external consultant. However I regularly see advertisements for eLearning Consultants as internal employees.
How do they differ?
Well I would imagine they are exactly the same, except the individual is focusing all of their energy on one client - the employer.
Whilst I'm not experienced with this type of role, it does seem to create a slight conflict of interest i.e. if a task is identified and the internal consultant isn't best suited to fulfill the task - they may feel responsibility to fill the role of expert rather than bringing in someone else who is better suited.
"They're paying me a salary to be the eLearning expert, I should probably keep busy and do the work too."
I am unsure as to whether this conflict exists, but this is my gut feeling on how that relationship may unfold.
I would be interested to hear from any internal eLearning consultants on how you feel about this.
Hopefully this has given you a good idea of what an eLearning consultant does.
I imagine there are other tasks that we could add to my list. If you think I've missed something then please drop them into the comments.
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