What is a Learning Technologist?

David HopkinsThe question “what is a Learning Technologist”, I’ve finally realised, can be answerd differently based on who you ask, where they work, and what day of the week it is. We are also sometimes referred to as an Educational Technologist, but never as a Demonstrator.

The Association of Learning Technology describes the following;

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.”

A Learning Technologist is also described, by Johnny Finnis of eZine Articles, as “… a practitioner in the field of learning/educational technology, ie the application of technology to facilitate learning”.

Does that make it any easier? No, how about this … I work with the academic and administrative teams to provide both pedagogical and technical support, for face-to-face learning and online / distance / eLearning goals, and to liaise with the central Institutional departments to ensure smooth running of the VLE and other systems that we use on a day-to-day basis (email, applications, VLE, Internet, etc).

I need to make sure I know the VLE, what it does (and what it doesn’t), how it works, and how to get the best out of it for both staff and students. I need to understand the outcome in order to understand how to set up the activity or learning material (the income). I need to know, understand, and work well with the people involved; the academics who want to use it, the administrators who need to find the results, and the administrators of the systems.

I came to this role from a background in web development and wed design (via a degree in Geology!) where I worked with organisations wanting and needing to use the Internet to ‘connect their community’; patient health care groups, charities, associations, professional bodies, etc. This was invaluable experience as I was able to bring to the role an understanding of how individuals can have different needs from the same system and same ‘materials’. While we may be talking about different uses and reasons for using the Internet, the basis of the changing uses of the Internet is the same, no matter who is using it; students, school children, mature professionals, the over-50’s (and 60’s and 70’s, etc).

Learning Technologists are not always involved in purely online, distance, eLearning or mLearning, we are used to help improve and update face-to-face materials to either introduce a new technique or just to update a presentation, make it more 2009 and less 1999.

“The learning technologist may also find themselves in the more sensitive role of “champion” for new technologies, particularly within the public/university sector. In this case management has decided e-learning is the way forward and the learning technologist is charged with “selling” the idea to an unconvinced or skeptical staff.”

J Finnis quite rightly states (above) that we are also champions for new technologies. Nothing is closer to the truth as I am always involved in workshops and training for new features of the VLE (Blackboard) and introducing new technologies to colleagues … see my presentations on SlideShare for recent examples:

I realise that I am only talking about Learning Technologists in Higher Education, as this is my experience. We are also used in all aspects of education, from primary school to adult learning centres (although we may be known as something different, and the responsibilities may be expanded based on size of organisation), as well as corporate organisations to manage their in-house training departments.

I know I will come back at a later date, re-read this and make some changes and publish an update, so please subscribe to the blog and receive updates via email and you’ll be notified of subsequent changes to this and other posts.

  • I put together a slideshare presentation a while ago which attempted to explain what we did as elearning developers (http://www.slideshare.net/Sarah.Horrigan/new-tools-and-ideas-for-learning-and-teaching-1587284) … and I reckon Slide 6 captures what a learning technologist does. They look at a technology. They get their heads round it. They help other people contextualise it and take off the nerdy sharp edges.

    Nice post!

  • Always interesting to hear how another LT sees their role. It’s a really varied profession which is one of the things I really like. Here’s my take from last year on what I do as a Learning Technologist: mattlingard.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/what-do-i-do/

  • I’ve just received this from Chris Thomson, who was unable to post to the blog due to his school proxy server messing his access up … cheers for taking the time to chase this up, much obliged.

    “It’s the sort of question that has an obvious answer to those in the edtech community but not those outside it. I’ve come to hate being asked what my job is because there’s no easy way to respond. My job title “Training Officer” doesn’t even come close. The assumption is that I’m some sort of technician, a geek (or worse). I hope I’m an educator first and foremost.

    “Frustratingly, the gap between what people think technology can help them with (limited) and what its actually capable of (so much more) is widening.

    “I do like Sarah’s take about “taking off the nerdy edges”. We disover the joys and opportunities of new technologies for others and deal with the pain so others don’t have to.”

    Chris Thomson – http://www.electricchalk.com

  • The question “What is a [job title]?” is always a problem, because sometimes you are talking about a functional description and other times a role in a team. The terms mean little without some context about the organization and the other roles/responsibilities assigned already.

    I blogged a bit about this over the last couple of months. You may be interested in my description of an Instructional Technologist role and how that may fit in with other learning roles:

    This post provides a broader view of how the technology perspective fits in with other fundamental roles:

    These are role descriptions, so functional requirements for a role will vary greatly from organization to organization.


  • Hello- This article is my first exposure to your blog. I couldn’t help but smile while I read your article. I’m currently working in online learning under a different job title, but so many points in your article rang true for me, I know the proper title for my role would be “Instructional Technologist”.

  • In Europe lifelong learning takes now has a different approach, we hope to see more development as a result of new legislation, good luck all teachers!

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  • Joe

    Wouldnt the term teacher be more accurate?

    • Joe – Do mean call ourselves ‘teachers’ instead of Learning Technologist? I would argue against this as, in an educational institute, whether it is primary, secondary, further or higher, there are already ‘teachers’ who are in very different roles and responsibilities than ‘us’.

      If I’ve mis-understood what you mean here please let me know so we can continue the disucssion?

      All the best, David

  • This is a very good post! Interesting to learn about the job from a Learning Technologist’s view.

    A couple of your SlideShare presentations have been removed – would very much like to see them. I’m interested in a Learning Technologist job and am trying to get a better understanding of the role.

    Thanks again for a great read!

    • Muhammad – I had to remove two of the presentations as they contained information my employer did not want displayed outside of their environment; while it was not identifying individuals the presentation did contain the Institution’s, logo which is not permitted.

      I am working on revisions to the presentations so please subscribe to the blog newsletter or to my Twitter stream for an update as to when I complete and publish them.

      All the best, David.

  • Carmel Mullane

    Hi! Is it Okay if I ask anything kinda off topic? I’m trying to view this page on my iphone nonetheless it will not show up appropriately, do you may have any options? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Carmel – not sure what you mean when you say it won’t “show up appropriately” but I’d appreciate it if you could send me a photo of the screen so I can see what’s wrong and look into – if it doesn’t work for you then it might not be working for others!

      All the best, David

  • Thanks for the post

  • Elsie Uriostegui

    Hey there this is a fantastic post. I’m going to e-mail this to my pals. I came on this while exploring on aol I’ll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing.

  • Carlos Plasker

    A learning technologist is a pretend web developer.

    • Smph

      Really? I am actually a web developer who CHOSE to go into eLearning as it is an up and coming field. My “official” title is Learning Technologist, but I guess that makes me a “pretend web developer”, though I have extensive experience in “actual web development”, huh?

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