#ALTC Blog

Maren Deepwell in conversation with Ian Dolphin

#ALTC Blog - 09/12/19

This time I am joined by Ian Dolphin, the Executive Director of the Apereo Foundation. Ian and I have a lot in common and I am glad to be able to share this brief glimpse into his community and the work Ian does:

Maren: Tell us about what you are currently working on?

Ian: There are a couple of major areas of work for the Apereo Foundation at present. The Apereo incubation process, which is designed to help software develop from being a ‘good idea’ to being realised, working software with a sustaining community, is four years old. We’re taking a good look at how that process has worked with a view to its iteration and continued development. We’re also reviewing our annual events. Apereo and our close partners support eight or nine community events around the world each year. We’re radically changing our main international conference next June to include a greater focus on teaching and learning, and to be more inclusive. With a global membership, including the global South, and global software adoption, that’s challenging. In a broader sense, our community is grappling with issues surrounding privacy and technology in higher education. Those issues aren’t going away, in my opinion, and we need vastly more awareness of issues surrounding technology use and privacy in the sector.

Maren: What influences your work? 

Ian: More than anything, the communities Apereo supports. I am continually inspired by the small and large scale innovation our communities enable for Apereo institutions, their learners, and educators.

Maren: Current recommended reading?  

Ian: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff; Future Histories: What Ada Lovelace, Tom Paine, and the Paris Commune Teach Us about Digital Technology by Lizzie O’Shea; The New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle. You might notice a theme … I believe anyone involved with technology should constantly challenge it’s applicability and use.

Maren: How do you make your to-do lists.. analogue or digital or both? 

Ian: I tend to jot things down the old-fashioned way with a notebook and pen, but then review and consolidate a couple of times each day. At that point, everything becomes digital, and shared between the devices I use.

Maren: On work travel, you are never without..? 

Ian: Too much – I’ve never learned to travel light! Laptop, phone, ebook reader, camera, noise cancelling headphones and music player are my essentials.

Maren: Which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)? 

Ian: I’m not sure this fits the categories, but open source software has had a massive impact on my working life. I became involved in open source software in the late ‘90’s – early naughties to help solve problems for the institution I worked for. Since then, either in my former role at Jisc, or working for Sakai and later Apereo, I have felt privileged to work with communities reaching for practical innovation to support learning, teaching and research. I suspect almost anyone involved in open source software would at least mention the word “community” as a significant reason for their engagement. I certainly would.

Maren: Who are your learning technology heroes?

Ian: The communities I represent.

Maren: If you had learning technology superpowers for a day, what would you change? 

Ian: The rigid product category of ‘Learning Management System’ or ‘Virtual Learning Environment’. It’s about time to shed the constraints that accompany the LMS and get outside its particular box. Open source software, such as that created by Apereo software communities, has a significant role to play in this.

Maren: What are your favourite hashtags?  

Ian: apereo #oss , and #edtech.

Maren: What’s the best way for someone to learn more about what you do?  

Ian: I’m @iandolphin24 on Twitter, check out www.apereo.org . If you want to know where I am (or where I’ve just been) Flickr is often the best bet, where I’m iandolphin24.

Maren: Thanks for taking the time to join me, Ian, #altc!

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Employing a student intern to make a library video What can go right or awry

#ALTC Blog - 04/12/19

N Dixon, Learning Technologist at ARU Library

We employed an ARU student (Kate Laver, MA Film and Television Production) as an intern for an employability initiative and working closely with us she produced a promotional but educational video for the library. The 12-week, part-time internship was a fantastic opportunity for students either finishing or part way through a course to get practical experience of producing videos to a brief. Here I describe my perspective of working with Kate to produce the video.

Getting started

In terms of influences, there are loads of videos out there that introduce libraries to new students, including walkabout tours, marketing videos and screencasts. Many are made by library staff, professional video production companies or created by students as part of their assessment. For us it was important to get an authentic voice because YouTubers (who are also students) like Ibz Mo can reveal more about study habits and library use than professionally produced videos. We also wanted something fun, engaging and memorable that would appeal to students who use social media and show a more humorous side to the library.  Other influences included TopekaLibrary’s parody of a Taylor Swift videoBYU Library’s ‘Ask a Librarian’ and Fayetteville Free Library’s lib dub style.

Our video is called Ferret Grey’s Re-Searching for the Drop Bear which is shot in a spoof nature documentary style. In the video, a new student called Ferret Grey is looking for information on drop bears and Ferret looks everywhere, eventually finding out drop bears don’t exist. In the end he sees his Subject Librarian to get help and realises they were the drop bear he was looking for all along. By using narrative, we thought students could identify with Ferret plus it allows for subtle interactions which brings up surprises every time you watch the video.

By employing Kate as an intern, we established a good balance between her ideas and our brief. Our preference was that the video was a maximum of three minutes for optimum engagement viewing time and the video was to include the ‘three S’s’ of the library – Space, Support and Services. (We excluded Stuff because this video was aimed at new students from all faculties and we didn’t want it to go out of date too quickly.) Kate had a lot of experience in producing and editing videos and with her background in illustration she was able to use animation with tools like TV Paint and Premier Pro as another way to engage the audience, with Kick the PJ and School Of Life being two of Kate’s influences. 

Challenges and considerations

Having a clear brief with regular communication was important so the video remained within scope. After researching the above ideas from YouTube it would have been easy to go off track, and although Kate had her own perspective of the library as a student it was important to emphasise the broad range of services the library has to offer so the video would appeal to all ARU students from each faculty. Although showed students using study spaces and services such as the help desk in the video, there are loads of other things we didn’t show – online resources, laptop loans, information literacy sessions so we had to be realistic that not everything can appear in a three-minute video.

Keeping the timeline of the project on track was another challenge, especially when consulting colleagues on the content as the video was developed. For example, the first cut of the video brought strong suggestions on how we could improve the narrative which weren’t flagged up at the storyboard stage. Although this did mean reshooting significant parts of the video it meant the second cut made more sense. This still brought some (completely different) suggestions on how to better represent the library but to implement these changes required a highly defined script and even more re-shoots. Getting feedback is fine but you sometimes have to draw a line when the video fits the brief (engaging, memorable and fun), so we had to remember we couldn’t please everyone.

One of the issues was that when using untrained actors (i.e. enthusiastic students and library staff) you can write a script, but the actors do not always say what you intended. We recruited our main actor Max Elgar (also MA Film and Television Production at ARU) for an initial half day of shooting then another for re-shoots, so every scene had to be shot in three takes at most. In this scenario, we kept the script simple for the actors to follow and we prioritised which scenes we shot first.

In terms of other practical considerations it was important to build in time for Kate to get to know the team, our procedures as well as learning office tools like MS Outlook which were important for planning and communication. Kate also had a mentor from our team not involved in the video, so there were plenty of support to help her develop her skills.

Kate used her illustration skills in TV Paint and Premier Pro 

An unintended in-joke as the PC wasn’t working at the time, though the side benefit is the video is less likely to age without the library website The Canon C100 was great for establishing background shots of the library and up-close scenes with actors

Author Info: N Dixon, Learning Technologist at ARU Library, neil.dixon@anglia.ac.uk

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Digital Literacy: Concepts Challenged by the Occupation

#ALTC Blog - 10/11/19

Post by John Traxler

Digital literacy is a prerequisite to digital learning, and a vital aspect of the working lives of learning technologists. It embraces the knowledge, skills, attitudes and access that enable individuals to survive, prosper and flourish in an increasingly digital world. Its conceptualisation and implementation have however mostly taken place in the developed world, specifically Europe.  Even in this relatively stable and homogeneous environment, its development has not been uncontested, with fears it is merely the IT curriculum rebranded for the current graduate employment market.  Outside these environments, however, the challenges and opportunities can be dramatically different, as can the cultural, educational, political and technological contexts.

Palestine is under Israeli occupation. There are pervasive problems in maintaining the continuity, consistency and quality of a school system under constant pressure. This is due to “routine” interruptions and disruptions from the occupation, specifically the checkpoints, curfews and closedowns, but also episodes of injury, imprisonment, violence and death.

Children playing near a checkpoint in Palestine (Photo by John Traxler)

Digital technologies could be used to address each set of problems and challenges on a reactive and piecemeal basis but part of the research described here used fieldwork to explore the possibility that ‘digital literacy’, in the form understood and experienced by learning technologists in Europe, was inadequate elsewhere and specifically in Palestine because of:

  • The focus on the individual with no mention of the community and the culture
  • The lack of recognition of the impact and hegemony of global English or of American digital technology
  • The potential importance of digital space and digital identity for a community and culture with severe constraints on its physical space and its physical identity
  • The need to express widespread trauma, loss and pain in circumstances where physically meeting or demonstrating were prohibited or problematic

This blog discusses empirical research to explore digital literacy within the context of the Israeli occupation of Palestine specifically in relation to teachers and their students, by focussing on accounts of the impact of the occupation and on the current use of digital technologies. Many poignant quotes illustrate the situation; one teacher says

The learner suffers from a psychological crisis and sleeps next to his family in Al- Shweikeh because one of his relatives was martyred and the soldiers come every night to search the house which led to the child’s fear of everyone at school and the constant going to the lavatory.

This is just one quote, typical of many, coming from Palestinian primary teachers in Nablus, in the north of occupied Palestine. They were describing the impact of the Israeli occupation on their professional lives and the lives of their learners but also describing the role of digital learning technology in a complex and troubled environment. The quotes come from focus groups held in December 2018 with six groups of teachers on the campus of An Najah National University in Nablus, organised by the Faculty of Educational Sciences. The topics grew out of a large-scale survey of over 500 teachers that explored the impact of the occupation on teachers’ professional lives.

One teacher remarked that no child in her class was unaffected by a death or wounding in the immediate family.

To give some further context, the teachers describe the difficulties of the daily commute, listing,

“The daily checkpoints between the school and the house, involuntary returning from the checkpoint to the house, the late arrival [at] the school, the separation wall and standing in front of the gates for hours.”

And interruptions to teaching and learning, variously

”Teachers are afraid when the Israeli soldiers pass by the school; that affects my performance thus reduces the quality of teaching.”

“The Israeli army’s entry into the school leads to violence and squabbles which affects the learning environment.”

“The presence of the tank in front of the school and the denial of access to the school were a major reason for our inability to focus on education as the time was wasted by talking about it amongst students.”

The teachers also describe how learners are affected by experiences in their everyday lives outside school,

“… having an empty chair with a martyr’s photo on it and the refusal of students to sit on the chair in order to commemorate and respect the martyr, leads all the students to continuing talking about him and remembering the incident.”

And

 “Absence from school to visit family members in prisons such as mother, father and its effect on the student’s psychological health, lack of financial resources because of the occupation, and the limited education to rote learning because of the absence of activities.”

Also, elsewhere,

“The mother sleeps in prayer clothes because the soldiers might invade the house while the family is sleeping, the arrest of students at a school in one of the Jenin camps, …”

Parts of both the survey and focus groups explored teachers’ use of digital technology, such as SMS, websites and videos, to support learning in the face of the situation they describe. They used whatever was available, but the survey revealed technically savvy teachers in reasonable well-equipped schools alongside other teachers with much less competence, support and infrastructure.

The findings also described the combined impact of the lack of specifically Palestinian digital resources and of restrictions on travel, particularly to Jerusalem, depriving their students of a fuller sense of their Palestinian identity.

A classroom in Palestine (Photo by John Traxler)

The methodological details are available (Traxler et al 2019). This followed earlier work (Traxler 2018) that was critical in a more general sense of the gap between the high ideals in which digital literacy is conceptualised and articulated and the patchy way it is often then implemented. This would be especially worrying if it was uncritically ‘copy-and-pasted’ on to the Palestinian education system. Given problems with criticality and capacity in parts of academia in the cultures of the Middle East, this is a significant risk. The findings could underpin a more comprehensive and appropriate definition of digital literacy for the Palestinian education system, from kindergarten and schools to higher education and adult community learning. This would start from a more holistic and comprehensive analysis of the threats, pressures, experiences, resources and opportunities of individuals, their community and their culture and asking how digital technologies can contribute to lives and learning that they value. Digital literacy could be defined as the attitudes, access, competences and knowledge to take them from the former to the latter. This approach would moreover be generally applicable to any community and culture, thereby creating greater ownership and understanding of digital learning.

This project, funded by a Council for British Research in the Levant travel grant and led by John Traxler, assisted by colleagues from An Najah University in Nablus, built on the author’s on-going missions and projects in the region, including significant work with UNRWA, the British Council and EU Erasmus programmes, in Palestine, in the wider region including Lebanon and Gaza, and with refugees in Europe. An earlier blog post by John Traxler describes “A couple of days’ work in Gaza“.

References

Traxler, J., Khaif, Z., Nevill, A. & Affouneh, S., et al (2019) Living Under Occupation: Palestinian Teachers’ Experiences and their Digital Responses, Research in Learning Technology, https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/2263

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21, https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1983

John Traxler (FRSA), Professor of Digital Learning, University of Wolverhampton, john.traxler@wlv.ac.uk | johntraxler on twitter and skype

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

What makes a Learning Technologist Part 2 of 4: Career paths

#ALTC Blog - 04/11/19

A post by Karoline Nanfeldt, Learning Technologist at Heriot-Watt University, www.karolinenanfeldt.com, @knanfeldt

Background to the series

Inspired by topical discussions on the diversity, complexity and uniqueness of Learning Technologist roles, Daniel Scott (Nottingham Trent University) and Simon Thomson (University of Liverpool) recently invited the ALTC community to share their stories of becoming a ‘Learning Technologist’ in all its guises and across a range of educational contexts.

In-conjunction with ALT, a short questionnaire was created to capture the community’s stories. Working with Chris Melia (University of Central Lancashire), we have now pulled together these stories and are presenting them as a series of ALT blog posts entitled: “What makes a Learning Technologist?”. Submissions were made anonymously and credited where necessary – we are only publishing those who have given us permission to do so. Even if participants did not what to have their story published via the blog, we encouraged them to consider completing the form so we could capture the breadth of journeys to becoming a Learning Technologist. We hope this will prove a valuable source of information for the ALT community, that aims to articulate the often-debated, ambiguous and multi-faceted role.

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) defines Learning Technology as the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment. Our community is made up of people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of Learning Technology. We believe that you don’t necessarily need to be called ‘Learning Technologist’ to be one.

Setting the scene

Many thanks to those who shared their stories with us – 38 responded to our questionnaire. As the blog posts on this topic will reveal in the next few months, the submissions tell very unique stories of how individuals came to be Learning Technologists or are indeed in the process of developing into one. The responses include insights on how they perceive their role, what it entails, the best parts of it, and some of challenges they are up against. 

I was asked if I wanted to write this second blog post in the series, about the career path people took to become a Learning Technologist. This blog post will cover the question “What ‘career’ path did you travel to get to your current position?” from the questionnaire. You can find Part 1: Job Titles, here.

Presenting the data & telling the stories

Perhaps not surprising to anyone who has asked a Learning Technologist how they got to their role – not one of the responses described the same career path. It was therefore a rather difficult task to really sum up the data, considering every individuals story was unique. This also highlights the difficulty in providing some simple advice around what experience is needed to become a Learning Technologist. I think Chris Melia sums up everyone’s story fairly well: 

My own career pathway to learning technology, probably isn’t the most conventional one!

Chris Melia

Another response started out with… 

Am I allowed to laugh at this point?

Ros Walker

I have tried to sum up the data by looking at similarities in the backgrounds of those who went into learning technology as a career: 

Not everyone mentioned their background, but this was one way to provide an overview of the data. There were a few trends from some of the respondents. Some did not mention their educational background, but there do seem to be a few degrees that pop up – including computer science, multimedia and languages. Many also have a background in teaching, before becoming intrigued by what technology could offer in a learning and teaching context. It seems that teaching often progresses to an interest in utilising technologies more, and leads individuals to seek out a role in learning technology. Quite a few participants mentioned teaching languages as their initial area. I think Daniel Scott’s blog offers a very good insight into how people transition into learning technology.

While many of these paths are unique, there are also similarities.

I used to be a teacher and manager in FE. I did a Masters in Multimedia and Virtual Environments, then got a job as a Learning Technologist in HE.

Simon Wood

I trained as a linguist, and worked as a languages teacher. From there, I realised that computers could help pupils with their learning.

Ros Walker

There were three respondents (myself included) who had been involved with learning technology as a student. Matt East described how he became heavily involved in technology-enhanced learning as a student president. Similarly, I myself became a Learning Technologist after being a student intern on the roll-out of lecture recording at our institution.

Madeline Paterson commented that she had been in the field since the 1980s, and that while the context and technologies have changed, the core skills remain remarkably similar.

What are the progression routes for Learning Technologists?

When we talked about this blog post, we ended up having an interesting discussion around potential progression routes once you have landed yourself a learning technology role.

We agreed that there is not one clear-cut or direct route to becoming a Learning Technologist. However, many enjoy moving into learning technology, as it allows them to combine a love for learning and teaching with technology. In addition it allows us to be both technical and pedagogical, all at the same time.

But how do you professionally progress once you feel comfortable with both the technology and the pedagogy? If you read the weekly digests, most LT roles have a salary from around 15k-25k per year in FE and 25k-45k per year in HE. It is also becoming more increasingly common that these roles are on fixed-term contracts of less than two years.

Learning Technologists also often use their enthusiasm to get involved in projects outside their usual remit – to continuously improve their expertise in new areas. Yet, this is usually more of a sideways move than career progression per-se.

Many Learning Technologists are willing to put in the hard work to gain further accreditation, such as Certified Membership of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT) as well as Fellowship of HEA – or at least feel like they have to be very committed to their CPD, to maintain their credibility or to demonstrate commitment. Several also complete further postgraduate studies or doctorates. But still – there is almost an invisible ceiling if you would like to progress. It is difficult to decipher what the right route is once you have “seen and done it all” in a learning technology role.

What we could identify during our discussions, were three of the typical routes for progressing upwards in learning technology:

  1. Professional services management – e.g. Head of Digital Learning and Head of Technology Enhanced Learning
  2. Academic development (though we often lack the doctorate or perceived academic skills to progress into such a role)
  3. Corporate/commercial sector

These are not necessarily right for everyone, yet institutions rarely offer more specialised or senior positions without management responsibilities.

We also identified that career paths often seem to be like the diagram below:

This is obviously slightly provocative discussion, but nevertheless an important one. Can you relate to the feeling of a ceiling to your own career progression?

We highlighted that this may be due to a lack of perceived value for Learning Technologists at a more senior level. Maybe it is because we are often willing to be flexible with what we do and our responsibilities. I wrote a blog post on my own blog, trying to put into words some of my initial thoughts around what a Learning Technologist does. Maybe the CPD we do undertake is not recognised as valuable by our institutions, or recognised to support our further career progression.

Trying to think of when you can fit in all the CPD! (Image by LuvCoffee on pixabay.com)

However, CMALT helps to formalise your skills – especially with the development of the Associate and Senior route on top of the standard CMALT. It also gives you an opportunity to further reflect and understand your role as a Learning Technologist.

We are potentially going into a future where we are looking to define new roles that currently don’t exist, as we grow more specialised and increase our online delivery of learning and teaching.

One anonymous contributor said that they initially moved into a lecturer role – which involved supporting other lecturers to use technology, but still allowed them to research and teach. They are now in a professional services role, which they are enjoying less.

Another said that she came into the industry after her local authority decided they wanted one in the 00’s – and so her first task was to figure out exactly what they wanted.

Vocational routes

Whilst a ‘traditional route’ to becoming a Learning Technologist is not always visible, there are vocational qualifications that can get you started on this journey or get you nationally recognised. The qualifications below were developed with the intention of creating direct career pathways into learning technology and eLearning roles, or recognising knowledge and skills of those already in them.

Those who have teaching or training experience may like to increase their skillset or progress to a role focused on these topics. Likewise, those that have computing or graphic design experience can work towards these to become Instructional Designers or Learning Technologists. The qualifications can also give you an insight to what skills and attributes a Learning Technologist role requires. I highly recommend these to anyone that has the role or an interest in learning technology to support and enhance learning and teaching and eLearning design.

Summary

Closing thought: It never ceases to amaze me how people get into learning technology, and how the diversity of their backgrounds benefits the the wider community. I hope the thoughts around progression will spark some interesting discussions. Do you feel like there is a progression as a Learning Technologist? Are there any CPD opportunities or qualifications that you would recommend to others?

Contributors consented to display name

Emily Armstrong; Sonya McChristie; Duncan MacIver; Tom Buckley; Matt East; Craig Campbell; Madeline Paterson; Teresa MacKinnon; Richard Oelmann; Sarah; Leanne Fitton; Ross Ward; Ros Walker; Vicky Brown; Rae Bowdler; Simon Wood; Daniel Scott; Andy Tattersall; Rachel Hartshorne; Chris Melia

Upcoming blog post

The next blog post of this series (3 of 4) will explore some of the key roles and responsibilities of ‘Learning Technologists’. It is expected to be published in January 2019.

Karoline Nanfeldt – Learning Technologist, Heriot-Watt University
www.karolinenanfeldt.com, @knanfeldt

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Maren Deepwell in conversation with Pat Lockley

#ALTC Blog - 15/10/19

This time I am joined by Pat Lockley (@pgogy), Chief Pogoing Penguin, Pgogy Webstuff. Pat’s work has long inspired me and one of my favourite projects that Pat is involved in is the PressED Conference – a tweeting WordPress conference. So I am particularly excited to find out more about Pat’s work and what’s on his mind just now:

Maren: Tell us about what you are currently working on?

Pat: So I’m mostly working on a glaucoma disease progression and treatment model for Moorfields / UCL. I’ve only just finished a version of it, and the delay is largely down to the fact it’s hard to stop helping prevent blindness to answer questions.

How does an ALT member end up here – well, it started with working on various courses to help build capacity for ophthalmologists in West Africa. These courses happen on UCL’s Extend platform, and are available to various cohorts as part of a blended learning project with the online courses used as a prerequisite of a practical course in West Africa. So I started out making articulate content for them. I’ve seen a lot of sliced up eyeballs for my troubles…..

Bar that, I am working on a few WordPress sites (I pretty much am always doing this). Just finished migration the Sociological Review onto WordPress. Helping out with a UWE / Loughborough / Warwick project on storytelling and droughts with some visualisations. Helping a charity to develop a new theme, moving another charity to a new host. Just helped the Foundation Year Network to get more from their WordPress install. I work on a ridiculous number of projects at any one time. I am sure I’ve missed one. 

I spend a lot of time in WordPress, and so I’m helping out the WordPress Governance Project – https://wpgovernance.com/ . The goal of the project is try to introduce a governance structure so people using and developing WordPress know how and what decisions are being made. Anyone who is interested can get involved in the project, so join in if you want to contribute.

Individually, though this may question the meaning of the word “work”, I am working on giving back to projects I use, perhaps not use, perhaps rely on. So as well as the governance project I help out with WP Campus Security Blog (https://wpcampus.org/category/security/). Which is a vital read if you’re using WordPress at all. WP Campus is worth a look too. It’s an awesome conference on using WordPress in Education – https://wpcampus.org/. They organised a fund to help sort out the accessibility issues in the new WordPress editor. Really important stuff.

Longer term, I’m working on building a WordPress security tool, an improvement on the neoliberal tyre fire that is openness, and a top secret project to help get rid of some of the barriers that mire almost every thing in elearning.

Maren: What influences your work? 

Pat: Choice. There’s nothing more than I dread than saying no. That’s not through some acquiescent, submissive character trait but just the sense of admitting something isn’t possible saddens me. Perhaps there’s a terrier like never quit trait in me that just wants to get things done.  Do I believe there’s such a thing as a lost cause? No.

Before I got into elearning, I was in IT support. I spent a long time working out how to fix problems. It was a bit of a culture shock to suddenly have such big systems around me which I couldn’t change / or couldn’t be changed at all.

When writing code to make open source, it’s always on the back of your mind how others may use it. So you’ll see little side paths and short cuts all the time. An example of this is when me made the laws MOOC for the University of London. You can see some of the thinking behind it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uw6mmKtKduo. We tried to assume there was never one path everyone would take and built accordingly.

Maren: Current recommended reading?  

Pat: Oi Cat, Oi Dog, Oi Frog and Oi Duck-Billed Platypus. Three seminal elearning texts and not just what I read to my kids before they pretend to go to sleep. They all focus on the dangers of rules and taxonomies created by unquestionable, unelected dictators. Which is basically elearning naming conventions gone awry.

The last education book I read was Illich’s Deschooling Society, which introduced “false public goods” to me as a concept. I’ve found that a really useful tool to look at a lot of things.

Maren: How do you make your to-do lists.. analogue or digital or both? 

Pat: Well, I tend to work on the basis that if it’s important I’ll remember it. I use trello a bit on projects, but I tend to spend a lot of time coming up with new cards and ideas so things tend to get cluttered. Once to-do lists become two dimensional things tend to get a bit weird.

I’m very stream of consciousness in most things, so I tend to not think to do, but instead just do.

Maren: On work travel, you are never without..? 

Pat: Dongle, my almost classic car age Nissan Micra. I have my phone and laptop too, but sadly I’ve not named them yet.

Maren: Which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)? 

Pat: XAMPP (https://www.apachefriends.org/index.html). XAMPP is an easy way to get a web server onto your laptop. Once you’ve got a webserver, you can install WordPress, Moodle…. a fair lot of elearning tech. Using this you can really open up open source code and start to make changes and learn how things work.

Maren: Who are your learning technology heroes?

Pat: Back in the day, I had a band, and on myspace bands had to list their influences on their profile. My band has “who wants to be influenced anyways”. That’s very much my take on heroes. However, we live in a time of imposter syndrome and increased anxiety, so anyone one of you working at a public college or university, working to help people learn, working to help increased public knowledge, is a hero to me.

Someone asked me this question about 7 years ago. The person I named has sadly gone downhill so fast that I am loathe to name someone again in case I’m cursed. However, it might be that I see a lot of villains and not heroes. There are so many people out there who need to really stop and take some time considering their influence and being more careful with their words. There’s so much self-publicity masquerading as debate. Some silver tongues covering us brass necks.

You didn’t ask me to list the villains though. Shame eh

Oh, Natalie Lafferty’s bravery in doing the pressED (pressedconf.org) conference with me was somewhere beyond heroic. 

Maren: If you had learning technology superpowers for a day, what would you change? 

Pat: I’d fly around and gather up every VLE and then fly to the nearest black hole and push them in. Then I’d take that black hole and push that into another black hole. Then I’d take that black hole and push it to the edge of the universe, take a selfie with it (black holes have lovely smiles) and then leave it. I’d still write every now and then, I’m not a monster.

If you think that’s excessive, ask yourself if I’ve really made them harder to use and more inaccessible by placing them in a black holes at the edge of the universe?

To be immodest for one brief moment and paraphrase Bentham, but VLEs are no longer nonsense on stilts but nonsense on stilts on rollerskates. Calling them wobbly gives the false impression it was ever not wobbly.  It’s not even the fault of the VLE, it’s the fault of sending one tool to do a million jobs, and finding that masters of a trade beat jacks-of-all-trades. The single tool culture / approach / methodology is just a sunk-cost fallacy. 

Giving people a choice of system brings overheads, but using a system which has an ability to be slightly more varied would be a good start and I suspect start to reduce time spent saying “no, it can’t do that”

Maren: What are your favourite hashtags?  

Pat: #pressEdConf19 #pressEdConf18 because I am biased. #lthechat is good.

#altc is also good, and you get to appear on one of those network diagrams Martin draws each morning. It must take him ages to do. He should be paid more.

Maren: What’s the best way for someone to learn more about what you do?  

Pat: If you’ve got this far and you’re still interested, @pgogy on twitter or on facebook. At some I need to restart my blog. I do a lot of stuff no one knows about, and it makes sense to start sharing that.

Maren: Thanks for taking the time to join me, Pat, #altc!

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

The importance of induction courses in online international programmes

#ALTC Blog - 10/10/19

A common assumption when launching online programmes aimed at global audiences is that, provided the potential applicants fulfil the entry requirements (e.g. English language requirements, academic qualifications, etc.) they are already well prepared to start their online studies. Yet this is a dangerous assumption.

My experience leading the delivery of online international programmes is that, international students come from diverse education systems and may not be aware of the skills required when studying online, a delivery model that some students may not be familiar with. Hence the importance of the induction course.

What are the benefits of having an induction course in an online international programme?

The purpose of an induction course is twofold:

  • To make new students aware of the type of skills and knowledge that they need to develop to be successful in their studies.
  • To inform those new students about the resources and support provided by the programme to help students develop those skills.

The induction course is essentially the gateway to everything students need to know before they start their courses.

When developing an online induction course, we need to address three key questions:

  • What topic/contents should the course cover?
  • How much support would the induction course require in terms of academic, technology and admin support?
  • What sort of interventions/remedial plan can we put in place for those students who require additional help?

Julie Andrews would say, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start: the course topics.

What topic/contents should an induction course include?

When designing induction courses, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or work in silos. Your induction course can be built upon existing high-quality materials already available in your institution. You only need to repurpose those resources providing a digital narrative to students. Likewise, other colleagues may benefit from your induction course and repurpose it for their own requirements. These are the benefits when educators work as a community of practice.

The induction course should typically cover topics such as:

  • Technology for studying online (and include minimum requirements to study online).
  • Digital literacy.
  • Academic, organisational and time-management skills.
  • Referencing and scholarship.
  • Library resources.
  • Other students support services etc.

Some induction courses also mention academic regulations, deferrals and other aspects that are usually covered in the Student Handbook. My advice is to keep the induction course concise providing links to the relevant resources for further information. As a rule of thumb, an induction should be completed in a couple of hours, including any coursework.

As mentioned before, the costs of writing the course can be reduced by repurposing any resources that your colleagues may have already developed as well as using Open Educational Resources (OER). 

The costs of providing academic support can also be reduced if you include self-assessment methods in which students can self-assess different sets of skills, comparing their answers with a model answer or generic feedback. Activities based on self-assessment can save the tutor’s time while underpinning students’ assessment literacy, a skill that students will need to develop to understand the assessment methods of their academic courses.

Admin and technology-related costs for running an induction course are usually low provided the course is delivered via the institutional Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)/learning platform and the enrolment procedures are integrated with the institution’s Management Information Systems (MIS).  Under those assumptions, admin support can be kept to a minimum of a couple of hours per week, just to monitor student progress through the course. Most VLEs in the market include reporting tools that can facilitate this task.  

The induction course can also include ‘getting-started-with’ and troubleshooting guides in which students can test if they have the hardware and software requirements to run the technologies and web tools that will be employed in their online studies. Including technology-testing activities in the induction course can reduce the costs of supporting technology in the long term and will take certainly take away the stress of having to fix technology problems while running synchronous or asynchronous activities in a live course.

Early interventions: what to do and who to contact?

In the induction course, you should make clear to the students who they should contact:

  • For any queries relating to the learning activities, topics or the coursework.
  • For any problems relating to the learning platform or the learning technologies used in the course.

If the induction course is monitored by an online tutor or course administrator, this staff member is usually the ‘first-port-of-call’. Otherwise, students may be directed to different addresses depending on the type of help that they need (i.e. technology-related queries are usually diverted to technical support services while queries relating to the course topics are diverted to an academic tutor).  

Some students may find difficult to self-assess their knowledge and may require additional help. Be prepared to support these queries as self-assessment does not mean zero running costs. Provided the self-assessment coursework is well designed, my experience is that only a low percentage of the students will require additional help with the tasks (let’s estimate less than 5% of the course cohort).

The best way of implementing early interventions in an induction course is to make students aware of the help available for any gaps that they may have identified in their skills and knowledge. The induction course should make clear to students where to go and who to contact depending on the identified shortfalls.

I hope that this blog post gives you a good insight into why, when launching international online programmes, it is important to spend some time developing an induction course:  The ultimate purpose of the induction course is to let students know they are not alone if they find themselves struggling with some of the topics or skills covered, that there is  help in place at the beginning of their studies when remedial action can still be taken.

Post by Mari Cruz García, an education consultant whose expertise is the development of international programmes (online and blended learning). Currently, she works at Heriot-Watt University and is on Twitter at @soyunbotruso1.

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

ALT s new Membership Manager Debbie Baff

#ALTC Blog - 26/09/19

Hello, my name is Debbie Baff and I have recently started as the new Membership Manager for ALT Association for Learning Technology.  I joined on the 1st September 2019 so you may have spotted me during my first week at the #ALTC conference in Edinburgh!

CC BY NC 2.0, Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology

My previous role was as a Senior Academic Developer at Swansea University however  I have been involved with ALT for a good few years now as a member and volunteer, as such it is an absolute delight to be officially one of the team on a full time basis ! 

As a bit of background about me, I have a keen interest in Open Education and am Secretary and Co-Chair for the ALT Open Education Special Interest Group .   I’m interested in online, social and networked learning and am in my third year of a part time PHD in E Research and Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University. I tweet at @debbaff and have a somewhat neglected little blog https://debbaffled.wordpress.com/. I’m involved with a number of other initiatives across the open education community such as #lthechat #byod4l and #socmedhe19.  You can find out more info here

My role focuses on leading ALT’s work with its growing Membership and managing the CMALT professional accreditation framework. This is an exciting time for me to be joining the amazing ALT Staff Team particularly as we have just introduced our new Associate CMALT and Senior CMALT pathways so I will certainly have a lot to get my teeth into.  I also support the work of Members and Special Interest Groups, their governance and development through the ALT Assembly. My first assembly meeting as a staff member will be next week and I am really excited to be involved with helping to devise the new ALT Strategy 2020-2025 for the next five years.  As a member, please do get involved directly in the consultation process and make use of our Strategy Suggestion Box

I’m really looking forward to getting to know more members over the forthcoming weeks and months. Please feel free to drop me a line (membership@alt.ac.uk)  to say hello – I would love to hear from you.

My amazing ‘virtual me’ sticker complete with appropriate doses of ‘Deb Pinkness’ courtesy of @mhawksey

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Maren Deepwell in conversation with Mia Zamora

#ALTC Blog - 24/09/19

This time I am joined by Mia Zamora (@MiaZamoraPhD), one of the Co-Chairs for next year’s OER Conference and Associate Professor of English & Director of MA in Writing Studies, Kean University. Mia and I often only get to meet virtually in conference settings, so it’s a particular pleasure for me to find out more about Mia’s work and what’s on her mind just now:

Maren: Tell us about what you are currently working on?

Mia: #OER20 I am thrilled to be invited to co-chair #OER20 with wonderful collaborators Daniel Villar-Onrubia & Jonathan Shaw from the Disruptive Media Learning Lab at Coventry University, UK. We are having a great time working together while we prepare for a very special #OER20 conference. We have been thinking a lot about theories of care, and we have decided to embrace these ideas as the theme for next Spring’s conference. Covering issues of privilege, equity, precarity, power relations and public interest, #OER20 will put the spotlight on both the value and limitations of care in open education. We would like to address several critical questions throughout the conference: -In the age of data surveillance and significant risk on the open web, how can we map out and give visibility to the critical component of care practices? -How can we build sustainable communities, participatory practices, and civic engagement for the public good and a healthier democracy?

Equity Unbound (#unboundeq) is an equity-focused, open, connected, intercultural curriculum that builds critical digital literacies in a global context, highlighting issues of web representation, digital colonialism, safety and security risks, and how these differ across contexts. I have launched this project with co-founders Maha Bali & Catherine Cronin, and we have together developed this curriculum with the motto “the only way to make borders meaningless is to keep insisting on crossing them” (Mounzer, 2016). Together we have included undergraduate and postgraduate students in our own courses, as well as educators and students in other contexts and countries, and also interested individuals outside formal education. This Fall 2019, we are gearing up to energize a new “round” of Equity Unbound collaboration.  This includes a focus on data literacy integrating great resources from Tactical Tech (based in Berlin) including their “Data Detox Kit” and the “Glassroom Exhibition”. In addition, our Equity Unbound research component includes a collaborative autoethnography we are currently writing which critically reflects on both our theory and practice.

Networked Narratives (#NetNarr) – I am also currently writing an article that maps a connected learning approach to the teaching of electronic literature as I share specific strategies for an open pedagogy of play.  My case study is an open participatory course entitled Networked Narratives which I have co-designed and co-taught with Alan Levine over the course of Spring 2017, Spring 2018 & Spring 2019.  Seeking to transform what is possible in the real world, we have designed a world-building fictional community while exercising collective civic imagination.  By taking a cue from the age of alchemy, #NetNarr has been a three year openly networked writing collaboration that pursues transformation through “digital alchemy”. 

Maren: What influences your work? 

Mia: I think there might be two consistent threads that influence all of my work:

The first is my personal and academic interest in transnational experience and identity.  I am Filipino-American, and my early research (in the field of Comparative Literature) was heavily influenced by postcolonial theory, questions of embodiment, and the challenges that arise when crossing both literal and metaphorical borders.  This early work has lead me to my current interest in intercultural learning in open networks and issues of equity in higher education.

The second thread of influence is my ongoing interest in transformation(s) regarding textuality – from the analogue sense of text to digital con(text).  I am someone who thinks alot about how we tell our stories, and how our current storytelling tools have changed what can be written when embracing a computational environment (i.e. electronic literature).  How have our writing and reading (and thinking) processes been transformed by digital tools and open networks of collaboration?

Maren: Current recommended reading?  

Mia: It is summer time!  For me that means I am reading all the time (it is my favorite past time besides taking a walk).  I think of reading as the greatest luxury of all. I savor it, I take my time (and still, I always feel like I don’t get enough reading time).  Here is what I am reading at the moment:

For work: 

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shosanna Zuboff

Algorithims of Opression by Safiya Noble

For my soul:

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr

For my love of mysteries:

The Witch Elm by Tana French

Maren: How do you make your to-do lists.. analogue or digital or both? 

Mia: I have a little blank book that goes with me everywhere.  I write down most of my reflective half-thoughts and the seeds of fleeting ideas in there.  But for itemized lists (i.e. tasks or groceries), I use my notepad in my iphone.

Maren: On work travel, you are never without..? 

Mia: …my little blank book and my iphone. My laptop too.

Maren: Which learning technology makes the biggest difference to your work (and why)? 

Mia: My Reclaim Hosting server!  … So I can make endless websites (subdomains) for my various courses and my other work (learning networks, installations, participatory art projects, etc.).  It is critical to all the things I do.

I will also mention google docs, simply because so much of my best collaborative writing and thinking is done in this context.

Maren: Who are your learning technology heroes?

Mia: This is so so hard to answer.  I could go on and on and speak about so many amazing people.  But I guess I will just try to scratch the surface by mentioning a few:

My dear “Equity Unbound” partners Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin.  These women are a lifeline for me. They nuture my thinking and my reflection, they help me through harder days, and they are just good for my soul.  

Alan Levine is an incredible collaborator and a good friend, and I have learned a million things (little and big things) from working with him.  He also reminds me to stop saying “I’m sorry”. I love him for that.

Howard Rheingold is a font of wisdom, a kind mentor, and a kindred free-spirit that inspires me to tend to the big (wonder-filled) picture when life seems too task-oriented.

A quick shout out to two very special communities: 

  1. The Virtually Connecting network – a group of generous, smart, and fun people who keep on learning and discovering in the open.
  2. The “Connected Learning” community from the Digital Media & Learning Research Hub & the National Writing Project.  I have learned so much from so many bright minds in these intertwined networks.
Maren: If you had learning technology superpowers for a day, what would you change? 

Mia: My superpower would be to help everyone understand that data (algorithims) may be able to show us WHAT happens, but not WHY it is happening.  And I would make it clear to everyone that the algorithm often doesn’t offer the big picture. Algorithms can be a useful tool. But if I had this superpower, I would be sure everyone really knew that human behaviour is more than the sum of our data.

Maren: What are your favourite hashtags?  

Mia: Hashtags change (sometimes they are on fire, and sometimes they are sort of dead or quiet).  That said, I would like to mention #connectedlearning, #netnarr, and #unboundeq.

Maren: What’s the best way for someone to learn more about what you do?  

Mia: You can check out my website: miazamoraphd.com. Or check out my twitter (@miazamoraphd) or instagram (miazamoraphd) feeds.

Ask any of my students what I do, and you will hear that I listen and I pay attention, I tell stories, I ask challenging questions, and I model what it means to have a curious and open intellect.  I share my knowledge in order to grow our collective curiosity.

Ask any of my colleagues, and you will hear that I work hard, that I am a mentor to many, that I research and write in a way that is always connected to my teaching.  Also, that I want to change the world at least a little bit for the better, and that I love to explore complex ideas in collaboration.

Ask my children, and they will say that I like to talk to them and hang out, that I read and walk and travel, I doodle and paint, I cook and bake, and that I organize and generally take care of things.  They might throw in that I am a professor, but they don’t care about that all too much.

Ask my husband, and he will probably say I do just about everything (except gardening and guitar, which are his things). 

Maren: I really enjoyed talking to you, thank you Mia!

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer s Report September 2019

#ALTC Blog - 18/09/19
Picture by Chris Bull for Association for Learning Technology, ALT conference 2019 , Edinburgh, Day two – Wednesday 4th September. Dear Members

At the start of the new academic year and with a successful Annual Conference behind us, I am writing to update you about important developments for the Association. 

First, there have been changes to the Board of Trustees and also the staff team in recent months. At this year’s Annual General Meeting the Chair of ALT, Sheila MacNeill, announced the results of this year’s Trustee election to elect two new Trustees to the Board of Trustees and the appointment of the next Vice-Chair. Eight candidates stood for election for two vacancies. Two Trustees were elected: Sharon Flynn and Natalie Lafferty. For the role of Vice-Chair, the selection process was led by a panel consisting of the Chair, President and Chief Executive. The panel recommended the appointment of Keith Smyth which the Board of Trustees has approved. Find out more about the Board of Trustees and individual Trustees

Also, I am delighted to formally welcome two new members of staff, Debbie Baff and Fiona Jones, who have joined the staff team from 1 September and 10 June respectively. Many Members had the opportunity to meet Fiona, our new Administration Officer, and Debbie, who joins ALT as Membership Manager, at the Annual Conference. 

This month also saw the launch of two new CMALT pathways, Associate and Senior CMALT.

Choose your CMALT pathway

You can progress from Associate to CMALT to Senior CMALT or submit your portfolio for any given pathway.

Associate CMALT is likely to be for you if you:
  • Are an early-career professional or have just moved into a Learning Technology-related role.
  • Have fewer than three years’ experience in a Learning Technology-related role.
  • Only engage with Learning Technology as a smaller part of your role, and therefore have a limited range of evidence to draw on.
CMALT is likely to be for you if you:
  • Are an established Learning Technology professional or educational practitioner.
  • Have three or more years’ experience in a Learning Technology-related role.
  • Engage with Learning Technology throughout most aspects of your role.
Senior CMALT is likely to be for you if you:
  • Are an experienced Learning Technology professional or educational practitioner with more than three years’ experience in a Learning Technology-focused role.
  • Engage closely with Learning Technology as a core part of your role.
  • Have management, leadership or strategic responsibilities, or can demonstrate an equivalent level of impact on others through your work.
  • Have a research focus in a relevant field.

The CMALT webpages have been updated to include an overview of the new pathways, updated guidance documents and a guide to choosing the right pathway

There are a number of free webinars scheduled for the coming months to provide information and support for candidates and assessors. You can sign up here. If you have previously registered an interest in Associate or Senior CMALT you will receive an update via email as well. 

Over the coming months, there are a number of developments in the works including a new submission and assessment system for CMALT, more community-created peer support resources and examples of portfolios and support for assessors. 

This is an important strategic milestone for the Association and long-awaited by Members who are seeking new avenues for professional recognition. 

At the meeting of ALT’s Members Assembly in Edinburgh, President of ALT Martin Weller and I also launched the formal consultation with Members for ALT’s next strategy. As a member organisation it is vital that our Members have input into the development of the new strategy and the Strategy Suggestion Box has already received a good number of contributions. 

I would like to invite you warmly to come along to the monthly online consultation meetings with the ALT Assembly, join in with the strategy activities during the upcoming winter conference and also participate in the Annual Survey, which will include a dedicated section on strategic priorities.

If you prefer, please reach out personally and contact me directly if you would like to discuss ALT’s next strategy, future priorities or if you have any other comments or concerns. Email me ceo@alt.ac.uk .

Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), @marendeepwell

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

What makes a Learning Technologist Part 1 of 4: Job titles

#ALTC Blog - 02/09/19

A post by Daniel Scott, Digital Practice Adviser at Nottingham Trent University, b.danielsc@googlemail.com, @_Daniel_Scott

Background to the series

Inspired by topical discussions on the diversity, complexity and uniqueness of Learning Technologist roles, myself and Simon Thomson (University of Liverpool) recently invited the ALTC community to share their stories of becoming a ‘Learning Technologist’ in all its guises and across a range of educational contexts.

In-conjunction with ALT, a short questionnaire was created to capture the community’s stories. Working with Chris Melia (University of Central Lancashire), we have now pulled together these stories and are presenting them as a series of ALT blog posts entitled: “What makes a Learning Technologist?”. Submissions were made anonymously and credited where necessary – we are only publishing those who have given us permission to do so. Even if participants did not what to have their story published via the blog, we encouraged them to consider completing the form so we could capture the breadth of journeys to becoming a Learning Technologist. We hope this will prove a valuable source of information for the ALT community, that aims to articulate the often-debated, ambiguous and multi-faceted role.

The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) defines Learning Technology as the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment. Our community is made up of people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of Learning Technology. We believe that you don’t necessarily need to be called ‘Learning Technologist’ to be one.

Setting the scene

Many thanks to those who shared their stories with us – 38 responded to our questionnaire. As the blog posts on this topic will reveal in the next few months, the submissions tell very unique stories of how individuals came to be Learning Technologists or are indeed in the process of developing into one. The responses include insights on how they perceive their role, what it entails, the best parts of it, and some of challenges they are up against.

To kick off the first blog post of this series, 1 of 4, we will explore the findings from the questions ‘What is your current job title?’ and ‘What would your ideal job title be?’ – Two interesting questions that draw a comparison of the purpose and current duties of a Learning Technologist role, to what interpretations and aspirations they have of it.

Presenting the data & telling the stories

The chart below represents individuals reponses in relation to the questions asked around thier job title.

34% (13) of respondents stated that they had Learning Technologist in their title, whilst 66% (25) had a different title, e.g. education, blended, designer or other that includes duties of a Learning Technologist. 16% (6) said that they are happy with their Learning Technologist title. 11% (4) wanted their title to be Learning Technologist. 74% (28) wanted their title to be more specific or have suffixes/prefixes to indicate seniority or specialisation.

Learning Technologist is fine as it does describe what I do, but it doesn’t mean anything to anyone outside of a university or FE college.

Anonymous

The trends emerging is that there is an increase in the words ‘digital’ and ‘design’ in Learning Technologist titles. Perhaps this is due to many organisations focusing on learning design to increase their online and blended provisions. However, there are different interpretations of the identity of this role. Learning design is mostly perceived as facilitating and coordinating the creativity, collaboration and communication of the vision and development of online courses and resources. But some learning design roles are more technical based, i.e. producing learning and teaching materials. Respondents with ‘manager’ in their title wanted this removing, whilst many showed a desire for more senior based roles and how they view to operate in their contexts. Interestingly, many Learning Technologists have different focuses, even though this is their title. For example, some Learning Technologists focus on more technical support than pedagogical support. Again, this can add confusion and murkiness to the role as it’s a mix of both, but often led by pedagogy.  Furthermore, respondents noted that they would prefer to have ‘developer’ in their title and closer relationships to academia.

Not bothered – title isn’t relevant, actual role is.

Richard Oelmann

Language has a huge role to play in titling and how it conveys the meaning of the Learning Technologist role. It’s important to question and challenge the identity, visibility and understanding of this institutionally – as it does affect how people engage and work with them as professionals. It’s regularly asked ‘what do they do’ – articulation of our purpose is key, along with defining contextual and specific projects we are involved in and how they align to strategic objectives. Equally, it’s crucial knowing where and how we are represented by our ‘cheerleaders’.

Something including digital learning in it. Often the term ‘Learning Technology’ is misunderstood, so it would have to include something specific that really emphases the focus on pedagogy too.

Matt East

A healthy debate can be had on the word ‘technology’ in the job title. Most titles have it before the word learning, with technology appearing more prominent than learning and pedagogy – going against our highly favoured principle of pedagogy before technology. However, for marketing and visibility purposes technology often remains in the title, as it does with many educational technology courses.

Happy with Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor :-) I sometimes wonder if the word ‘technology’ needs removing though – learning is learning!

Leanne Fitton

She who must be obeyed.

Anonymous

Yes! Whilst many in the organisation may hold the title of ‘power’, we as Learning Technologists enable and empower many of our staff to being digitally capable, creative and innovative. Therefore, bow before us! 😉

Photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash

Listed below in alphabetical order are the current and ideal job titles that were submitted to the questionnaire. The main message here is that there isn’t a single defined job title for a Learning Technologist, proving the many facets and nuances of this diverse role.

  • Academic Course Developer
  • Associate Professor  
  • Blended Learning Project Coordinator          
  • Chief Learning Officer
  • Co-Manager (Administration)
  • Development Manager (Learning Technology)        
  • Digital Learning Advisor
  • Digital Learning Coordinator  
  • Digital Learning Designer
  • Digital Learning Manager
  • Digital Learning Technologist
  • Digital Practice Adviser
  • Digital Project Manager
  • Director of Digital Learning
  • Educational or Academic Developer (TEL)
  • Educational Technologist
  • Educator
  • eLearning Officer
  • Head of Digital Learning and Teaching
  • Head of Technology Enhanced Learning
  • Information Specialist
  • Instructional Designer
  • Lead Internal Training Content Specialist
  • Learning Design and Technology Manager  
  • Learning Designer
  • Learning Developer
  • Learning Innovation Advisor
  • Learning Technologies Lead 
  • Learning Technologist           
  • Learning Technology Coordinator
  • Learning Technology Specialist
  • Library Learning & Skills Manager
  • Online Development Officer
  • Research Technology Specialist
  • Senior Digital Learning and Teaching Developer
  • Senior Educational Technologist
  • Senior Learning & Teaching Consultant
  • Senior Learning Technologist
  • Senior Manager: Digital Education
  • Senior Systems Developer – Learning Teaching and Research
  • Teaching Fellow in Technology Enhanced Learning
  • Head of Practical Imagineering and Applied Aesthetics
  • Technologist
  • Technology Enhanced Learning Advisor      
  • Technology Enhanced Learning Consultant
  • Technology Enhanced Learning Manager
Summary

Overall, respondents state that they understand the role of a Learning Technologist and regularly carry out the duties of one. However, it remains an ambiguous role in how it should be labelled and packaged, both internally and externally to an organisation. Whilst the purpose and context of the Learning Technologist role remains broadly unchanged, individuals are now calling for further autonomy of their identity that better reflects their work and values.

Closing thought: As digital is a skill required in many roles and contexts, it can somewhat dilute the purpose of a Learning Technologist role, opening it up to many interpretations. Perhaps simplicity in titling is key here as not to convolute the nature of this diverse role. You can read more about my experiences of Learning Technologist roles, over in my own blog.

Contributors consented to display name

Emily Armstrong; Sonya McChristie; Duncan MacIver; Tom Buckley; Matt East; Craig Campbell; Madeline Paterson; Teresa MacKinnon; Richard Oelmann; Sarah; Leanne Fitton; Ross Ward; Ros Walker; Vicky Brown; Rae Bowdler; Simon Wood; Daniel Scott; Andy Tattersall; Rachel Hartshorne; Chris Melia

Upcoming blog post

The next blog post of this series (2 of 4) will focus on the question: ‘What career path did you take’, and is expected to be published in November 2019.

Daniel Scott – Digital Practice Adviser, Nottingham Trent University
b.danielsc@googlemail.com, @_Daniel_Scott, http://danielscott86.blogspot.com/

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT
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