In this series of articles, the Educational Technology team will be providing an insight into existing practice using technology for learning and teaching at Falmouth University and also at projects being undertaken within the wider HE sector.
In this post, we are focusing on the role of the Learning Technologist in HE. The Association for Learning Technology provides this definition as a starting point:
Learning technology is the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. Learning technologists are people who are actively involved in managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology.
In UK Higher Education, there is usually a function within the institution to support this. Yet, because the practice is so broad, it could be situated anywhere from within Learning & Teaching, Library Services and IT or embedded within the faculty and that can depend on how it supports strategy and how well the function is understood. And role names could vary from Educational/Learning/Academic Technologist/Advisor/Consultant
A ‘Really Useful’ place to gain a deeper insight is The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book. In his chapter on the structure and roles of Learning Technologists, Peter Reed describes a continuum of job variation from IT focused, which might include server and web development to Education focused, which might include learning design and pedagogy and everywhere in between (Reed 2015: pp. 41 – 51).
The Really Useful Ed. Tech Book islicensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This can make things confusing, as many understand the role of IT support and are aware of the VLE, but not always aware of the range and depth that a Learning Technology service covers. These issues are put succinctly in this timely post by Bex Ferriday, which asks how can we help people better understand the role of the Learning Technologist… not just someone who can fix computers!
At Falmouth, we provide an overview of the team on our site. The Educational Technology team operates within the wider ICT department, though we are closely aligned to both ICT and Learning, Teaching and Employability strategies. The team has a broad experience that covers Reed’s continuum of job variation and we find ourselves dealing with things like configuring authentication to the VLE to testing out new technologies with academic staff to hosting workshops in learning design for blended and online modules/courses. One of the most effective routes into working with our academic staff we have found is by working with our PGCHE. Many of our Focus On… initiatives have been born out of the PGCHE Summer School, where staff are given the space to explore and experiment with learning technology.
We pride ourselves on having an understanding of technology and being able to act as a bridge between technology and pedagogy; being able to explain things clearly to an audience with varying digital practices.
We’d love to hear how it’s approached in other UK HEIs by response to this post or on Twitter.