Wednesday, October 10, 2012

E-learning Developer vs. Web Developer

by Jonathan Shoaf

You know when to hire a plumber. You know when to hire an electrician. But do you know when to hire an e-learning developer? How do you know if you need a web developer?

Let's take a look at those roles. First, let's look at an e-learning developer.  An e-learning developer will have the following abilities:
  • Knowledge of how to use an e-learning development tools such as Adobe Captivate, Lectora, or Articulate. Many developers specialize in one particular tool. However, it is not uncommon to for an e-learning developer to be skilled in several tools at the same time.
  • Multimedia.  An e-learning developer will be able to use a variety of sounds, graphics, and video formats in an e-learning project.
  • Basic knowledge of e-learning deployment options. This includes developing for web, LMS, and even DVD distribution. An e-learning developer should have a basic knowledge of the versions of SCORM and know which version is appropriate for a project.
  • Knows the importance of instructional design on a project and respects the pedagogical choices made in a project.
Let's get real. You can't expect everyone who calls themselves an e-learning developer to have these skills. However, those are the skills you should look for when hiring an e-learning developer.

That's a pretty comprehensive list. So you may be asking why would I pay extra for a web developer? To answer that, let's look at some of the abilities you will gain in a web developer:
  • Knowledge of the underlying technologies of e-learning development tools. E-learning development tools are usually based on HTML or Flash technologies. A web developer has a deeper understanding of these technologies and can extend the abilities of these tools with that knowledge.
  • Integration. A web developer will know how to integrate an e-learning project with a variety of web-based tools. Got a PHP or ASP based server that need to talk to your e-learning? A web developer is the answer.
  • Multimedia. A web developer's knowledge of multimedia will often surpass that of an e-learning developer. A web developer will understand bandwidth and browser limitations related to multimedia and develop accordingly.
  • Ability to fix issues with an LMS. A web developer may have no prior experience with SCORM but they will be able to fix it or enhance it. SCORM is based on Javascript and web developers take pride in their ability to be a Javascript Ninjas.
I've found that web developer's generally have these basic skills. They often come from computer science backgrounds and schooling making them more predictable than e-learning developers. That said, you still need to filter candidates accordingly.

Do you think this will have an impact on your hiring decisions in the future?


  1. Yes, An eLearning developer must be skilled in tools like Captivate, Lectora etc, he should have the knowledge of Visual desigfning, Grpahic designing, intergration of components, Instructional designing and LMS to deploy the elearning courses on a host. I would also like to add somthing more to the blog that, elarning courses can also be translated and localized, so an elearning developer must be aware of translating and localizing the courses


  2. Generally I could not differentiate but you differentiate with very well even we could understand the quality of developers.

  3. It seems the elearning developer need to have ideas about web development because web developers have deeper understanding on HTML or Flash technologies, which are part and parcel of e-learning websites.
    Thanks for the valuable information.


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