Being a Learning Technologist

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Having – and communicating – a clear idea of what a learning technologist does is important: for the academics who do, or might, work with us; for the project leads who might want to hire someone to ‘do elearning’ whatever that may mean; for those overseeing for professional development. It’s especially important and exciting now the role is being formally reviewed here at Cardiff.

In the last couple of years, the community of learning technologists at Cardiff University seems to have greatly strengthened. There are huge benefits – we share practice, ideas, and solutions to common problems. But we also have the opportunity to reflect on what is common and what differs in the work we do, the skills we use and the attributes we develop.

Of course, we all do something a bit different – so, inspired by a suggestion from my colleague Jin Tan (in the pub the other night) I’m following in her footsteps to say a bit about what I do in my current role. We hope that other learning technologists here at Cardiff will blog about their work too – contributing to an overall picture of both the common aspects and diversity of what we do.

My role is as a member of the small team at the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Centre, based at Cardiff with social science PhD students at Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea too. I came to this from the registry (also here at Cardiff) where I consulted on learning technology with schools right across the University – and before that, 9 years teaching and managing in a Further Education college.

  • I work with academics – specialists in social science and social science research methods – to adapt training for online delivery. This may be material they have developed and delivered face to face. They know what their learners should get from the material, I know how how that learning might take place online.
  • I find ways to make face to face training and workshops accessible to learners at a distance. It’s not always possible to spend enough time with presenters and workshop leaders to fully redesign and redeliver sessions online, but there’s often value in recording or streaming part or all of a session. Again, I’m making design decisions about the resulting online learning experience based on both pedagogical and technological considerations.
  • Both of these tasks will require work developing, editing, and publishing the material that we design and capture. We’re a small team, and I’m the only learning technologist so it’ll be me who fires up Final Cut or Xerte and produces the media!
  • I support and facilitate online interactions – sometimes with a live-stream we can bring in questions from our remote audience, and my role then is to act as a conduit between students who are remote and the presenter in the room.
  • Our Centre is here to support – as well as fund – PhD students, and I see that as including developing digital literacies. That might involve me contributing to workshops on things like digital storytelling. It certainly involves providing advice and support on academic blogging and use of social media – and finding ways to promote and showcase existing practice – such as with our ‘blog of blogs‘.
  • I need to understand the needs and aspirations of both the academics leading our doctoral pathways, and the research students we are funding. That means spending time talking with them about what they are doing, what they would like to do, and how I can support them.
  • Related to this is community building – for example through our online networks, and our student reps – to create the channels of engagement that can inform my work and the Centre’s.
  • Then there is the University-facing side of my job: we are a small Centre, relying on central support, and though we have our own server and AV kit, seeking out advice from the most appropriate quarter has been a key part of my job. Thankfully we’ve had some great advice and support. I would also like to say we’ve given something back – for example through my involvement in the LearnPlus project, which I’ve contributed to as well as benefited from!

Of course, as a learning technologist at Cardiff University I have also (like all of my colleagues) engaged with the community of practice, been involved in discussion, debate, mutual support, and convened and contributed to events and activities that I hope have promoted the wider discussion around pedagogy and digital literacy with the University.

Author: Simon Wood

E-learning officer, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

17 thoughts on “Being a Learning Technologist”

  1. So pleased you’ve put this “out there” – your work is SO important to the future success of CU’s online learning community, and there are few around with your skill-set, dedication and enthusiasm. I know you well, I hope this blog post introduces you a bit better to those that have yet to meet you and work with you.

  2. I seem to have taken a while to find this for some reason, but this is very important stuff, so I’m going to repost myself on Twitter and Yammer. Thanks Simon for an excellent piece.

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