by Karoline Nanfeldt

Tag: spectrum

The End of New Beginnings

So…. good news! I am starting a new position at my current institution, Heriot-Watt University, as a Learning Technologist on our Virtual Learning Environment project, where we will be moving to a new system.

It also marks over a year in my current role, which I started after having been at Edinburgh Uni as an intern and my first learning technologist role. When I left Edinburgh Uni, it was difficult to learn the new way of things. At Edinburgh, I knew how things get done, where you find the nicest toilets and the best cupcakes.

Heriot-Watt was built in the 60s and 70s, and EVERY building is connected. It took me a while before I could figure out where everything was! (You can walk from one end of campus to another indoors in about 20 minutes) I spent my first time here completely misjudging how long it would take to get from one place to another.

On a more serious note, Heriot-Watt also allowed me to form a new identity. Who am I when I’m no longer known as the poster child? What type of learning technologist do I want to be? I am still waiting to write an update to my post on my learning technologist spectrum. This has not always been an easy journey. It is hard to establish your role as the first central learning technologist! I would be lying if I didn’t admit that at times I wondered if I would ever be any good, if I was meant to even be a learning technologist. (or at least meant to be a real adult. Still not sure on that one)

All along, however, I have been blessed with colleagues who have helped me get to grips with everything, and have provided me with constructive criticism as needed. I am finally starting to feel like I’m no longer the new kid on the block – people are starting to know who I am! I wear my two Heriot-Watt values award badges as a sign that I’ve done my own little bit to make a change.

I’m excited to start my new role – but it no longer feels like a new beginning.

Learning Technologist: A dear child has many names

A little picture from graduation with the lovely Anne-Marie who got me into learning technology in the first place

Translating Danish sayings never work as well as I expect, but it is the most appropriate saying to suit my blog post today.

Having now been a Learning Technology Support Officer and an actual Learning Technologist, it is interesting to see the difference in the type of tasks and areas of expertise you can have within what seemingly fits under the same title.

This becomes even clearer when you start looking for jobs in the field. The saying “a dear child has many names” essentially means that while few people now question the importance of learning technologists, there are so many different job titles. You can range from an e-learning designer to a technology enhanced learning support officer. No wonder the discussion of what the best job title is pops on the ALT mailing list semi-regularly.

All of this led me to think of learning technologist jobs as a spectrum. You can see an initial markup below:

My made up spectrum of learning technology

On the one hand, you have jobs which mainly includes instructional design. Jobs very much on the end of this spectrum will spend most of the day creating and managing courses, using pedagogical knowledge to influence course design.

On the other hand, you have people very much dedicated to technology support. Dependent on the size of institution and where they are based, they may be in the central team and support one specific technology (from the virtual learning environment to electronic voting) or be school-based and deal with first-line support such as “My course looks wrong” or “I would like to make a quiz”.

Each side of the scale could have another element added. There are definitely also a second scale that defines the level of specialisation.

Sometimes that are reflected in higher grades or a bigger amount of strategic responsibility for a certain things, other times not at all. No wonder it is really complex figuring out what a learning technologist can offer when they can vary so much. I definitely also think I can add more detail and further develop this spectrum as I myself define what type of learning technologist I would like to become.

The reflections on what type of learning technologist I would like to be could be 10 blog posts in itself. In my previous role, I was very support focused and did not do very much instructional design besides filming and editing a few videos and putting a finishing finesse to certain courses. In contrast, my new role has so far been a lot less daily support, but more revolved around strategy. I have also had the chance to try more instructional design by providing support to our postgraduate certificate in learning and teaching. It has been interesting to try out more parts of the spectrum, and see what suits me best.

Can you see any similarities between what your role involves and this type of spectrum? Is there a part of learning technology I have completely missed out?

I do wonder where on the spectrum something like research into learning technology would go, and how roles that are not fully learning technology would fit in. I think it is fair to say there will probably be a follow-up to this.

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