Friday, 12 April 2013

How to Be a Really Good Learning Technologist - Part 1: What does a Learning Technologist do?

I started in my current Learning Technologist role back in 2005, and attempted to develop my skills and understanding by doing a range of things such as following blogs, reading journals and books, writing blog posts, and attending conferences.

While I have developed my skills, knowledge and understanding over the years, the areas of Learning Technology and Higher Education have changed rather a lot since 2005. To look at where to focus my personal development I thought it might be useful and interesting to try and answer the question - “What is a really good Learning Technologist like in 2013?”. We’ll start by looking at what an Learning Technologist is expected to do.

What does a Learning Technologist do in 2013 in the UK?

In my Learning Technology related roles over the years, I have been involved in a range of tasks such as advising staff on the intelligent and effective use of new technologies, administration of the technologies, preparing staff and students to use them and supporting their use, and creation of course materials.

To get a snapshot view of what is involved in Learning Technology roles across the UK HE sector I searched the site on 10th April 2013 for current vacancies using the search strings ‘Learning Technologist’, ‘Learning Technology’, ‘e-Learning’, ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’, Instructional Designer’, Instructional Technology’, and ‘Educational Technologist’.

There were 10 results that I considered Learning Technologist roles. I have copied the text from the person specifications and job descriptions into backup documents to ensure that they can be accessed when the applications have closed, and listed them below.

  1. Learning Technologist @ University of Leeds
    1. Grade 7 / £30,424- £36,298
    2. Closing date 25 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  2. Learning Technologies Officer @ Coventry University’s London Campus
    1. £29,750 plus bonus and benefits
    2. Closing date 22 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  3. Learning Technology Advisor @ University of Derby
    1. £29,184 - £31,627
    2. Closing date 15 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  4. Learning Technologist @ Royal College of Art
    1. £28,398 – £32,558
    2. Closing date 25 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  5. Assistant Learning Technologist @ Imperial College London
    1. £28,200 - £32,100
    2. Closing date 10 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  6. Academic Technologist @ University of Warwick
    1. Grade 6 / £27,854 - £36,298
    2. Closing date 12 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  7. Web/VLE Officer @ University of Leeds
    1. Grade 6 / £24,766 – £29,541
    2. Closing date 10 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  8. Learning Technology Development Officer @ Edge Hill University
    1. Grade 6 / £24,766 - £27,047
    2. Closing date 17 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  9. TEL Support Officer @ Edge Hill University - 19 April 2013
    1. Grade 5 / £22,020 - £24,049
    2. Closing date 10 April 2013 [original link] [backup document]
  10. Learning Technologist @ University of Leeds
    1. Grade 5 / £20,764 - £24,049
    2. Closing date 10 April 2013  [original link] [backup document]

Adding aspects of the role displayed in these documents to my own experiences, we could argue that a Learning Technologist might be expected to be involved in:
  1. Advising and influencing a range of staff and departments regarding the intelligent and effective use of new technologies/tools/environments in teaching and learning.
    1. Discussing with teaching staff and management about what tools/environments might be appropriate for their use, and how they can put this into practice
    2. Explaining how teaching and learning online differs from teaching in face-to-face environments
    3. Contributing to strategy
    4. Encouraging the embedding of technology-enhanced learning in the curriculum and ‘evangelising’ the use of learning technologies
  2. Administration and management related to the VLE and other tools/environments
    1. Repetitive tasks such as adding student accounts
    2. Procedure development
    3. Managing systems or liaising with those who do
  3. Preparing staff and/or students with the technical and/or pedagogical knowledge required to use the tools/environments
    1. Group teaching and training
    2. One-to-one teaching and training
  4. Supporting staff and students while they use the tools/environments
    1. Creation of just-in-time guides and videos
    2. Ongoing answering of questions and troubleshooting
  5. Course resource creation
    1. Converting existing materials for use online
    2. Creating new materials using a wide range of web development, image manipulation and audiovisual tools
    3. Maintaining existing resources
    4. Using external resources / OER
    5. Develop policy and guidance to ensure quality of resources created across the institution
  6. Curriculum and course design
    1. Designing activities using appropriate tools and environments
    2. Designing resources to meet learning objectives
    3. Using Learning Analytics to understand student experience and learning, and to guide further development of the course
  7. Other scholarly activities
    1. Supporting and taking part in research and resulting publications
    2. Presenting at conferences
From this small number of examples we cannot read much into any patterns spotted. What we can say is that the types of activities in the list above are combined in a wide range of ways to create the job descriptions. 

If there was time to look at a larger sample, I’d be interested to see how the roles vary between Learning Technologists based in different areas such as faculties, libraries, IT departments, and central teaching & learning departments.

In the next part of the series we’ll move on from this quick look at what Learning Technologists do, and try to explore who Learning Technologists are.