What makes a Learning Technologist? Personal reflections on the role

There have been a number of blog posts published around the role of a “Learning Technologist”. In particular, a recent post by Simon Thomson entitled “Do we still need Learning Technologists?” (now there’s a clickbait title if ever I saw one!), really helped me to reflect on my own role, responsibilities and overall career path to-date.

A couple of months back, Simon collaborated with Daniel Scott on a survey for colleagues across the sector, to share and reflect on their own experiences and journey to becoming a “Learning Technologist”. The subsequent findings would then be published on the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) blog, across a series of themed posts. Having recently become an editor for the ALT blog, I was particularly keen to find out more and get involved. As a result, the three of us met up to work on a plan of action for the upcoming series.

Whilst the overall findings are currently being reviewed behind-the-scenes, I thought I would share my own complete submission for the “What makes a Learning Technologist?” survey. Having just literally started my own professional blog, this seemed like the perfect time to share my own story so far.

Here goes…

What is your current job title?

Senior Learning Technologist

Briefly summarise what your role is and the duties you undertake?

I am a faculty-based Learning Technologist working directly with Health and Wellbeing, the largest academic faculty at the University of Central Lancashire. Though aligned to the Faculty, structurally my role sits in the University’s Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) team, within Learning and Information Services (LIS).

Some of my main responsibilities include:

  • Developing the digital capability of academic colleagues
  • Supporting the rollout out of new technologies in relation to learning and teaching
  • Advising on the pedagogically-underpinned use of technology to enhance the student experience
  • Fostering communities of practice to share innovative approaches and identify digital champions
  • Supporting academic colleagues in the development of high quality online learning materials
  • Maintaining effective liaison between the Faculty and TELT team
  • Supporting staff to embed 21st Century skills across curricula to develop digitally literate, work-ready graduates

What “career” path did you travel to get to your current position?

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

Upon leaving university with a degree in Sound Engineering and Design, I found seeking employment ‘in the field’ to be increasingly difficult. I initially continued with a part-time retail position I held during my studies, then progressed through a number other positions that led to full-time employment.

I was always attracted to working in education and made a conscious decision to actively seek positions at local institutions, and in particular the University of Central Lancashire. Not long after, a technical support position came up, which was I was successfully appointed to. There began my career in Higher Education and learning technology – so to speak!

Over the next few years, I transitioned through a number of roles that encompassed; multimedia development, supporting the University’s Virtual Learning Environment and an institutional rollout/adoption of event capture and Microsoft Surface technology. This journey led me to my current role as a Senior Learning Technologist.

What would your ideal job title be?

Educational or Academic Developer (TEL)

What’s the best part of your job?

Contributing to the digital development pathway of both staff and students, is something I find particularly rewarding in my role. I am increasingly able to see the direct impact of my work and associated initiatives, on learning, teaching and the student experience at UCLan.

Building effective relationships with course teams and individuals across the Faculty has proved instrumental to a number of successful collaborations. Through our “DigiLearn” initiative, academic colleagues are now more actively sharing their expertise and best practice, as well as supporting each other’s digital journeys.

Representing the institution externally and in-partnership with academic colleagues is something I also find extremely rewarding. I feel it adds an authentic perspective to the impact of the work that we share with our wider communities e.g. Jisc, ALT and Microsoft.

What’s the biggest challenge(s) you face in getting your job done?

I wouldn’t say there are too many challenges associated with my role per se. However, I do believe that my remit is expanding beyond that of a traditional “Learning Technologist”, particularly as it heads deeper into academic and curriculum development.

As any individual’s role or remit grows, there are bound to be implications around having enough time in the day to engage with such an ever-expanding range of both internal and external activities. However, I do tend to thrive off new opportunities and always embrace the next challenge. Having a role which facilitates this intrigue and ambition, has led to a deeply fulfilling career thus far!

As touched on earlier, there are now a number of published posts around the role of a “Learning Technologist” (over the last 12 months alone!). Here are just a few examples that I have found to be of particular interest:

Do we still need Learning Technologists? – Simon Thomson

Learning Technologist: A dear child has many names – Karoline Nanfeldt

Describing my learning technologist role – Daniel Scott

Featured image by Chris Bull for Association For Learning Technology 13/9/18

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