David Hopkins

Working, and growing, as a Learning Technologist

For the past few years I keep hearing the phrase that we are “preparing students for jobs/roles that don’t yet exist”. I’m sure the majority of people have seen this video (below) but if not then I urge you to spend 5 minutes and watch it.

You could consider this the fourth part in the ‘What is a Learning Technologist’ series.  See my profile page for links to the rest of the series.

What I want to work on is the future of the phrase that (at time-stamp 0:46) “we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist … using technologies that haven’t been invented … in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet” and whether we apply this to ourselves, and our own roles?

My thought is this: if we are preparing students for roles that don’t exist (yet) what are we doing to prepare ourselves for this change, for the roles in which we are already employed? Do we update our own list of roles and responsibilities to match the changing environment we are expected to work in? I’ve been in my current role for 4 and a half years and the job specification has not changed even though my daily tasks, responsibilities and capabilities has radically altered. In fact it would be safe to say that even the environment I work in, the people I work with, and the students I support is so very different from when I started. Yet my ‘role’, or the description my role is assigned, has not altered.

Let’s go back to the video again. At 3:32 the video ‘claims’ (I haven’t checked the facts) that new technical information is doubling every two years and that “for students starting a 4 year technical degree this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of study” and, if you carry this further, will be outdated by two ‘generations’ of change by the time they finish their first year of employment. If you take this further back it is also likely that the learning materials the students start using in their first year are not up to date, perhaps two or three years old, therefore their final year of study could be as much as 4 ‘generations’ old.  This is not preparing students for the job market.

Bring this into line with employment and job specifications for Learning Technology professionals … how many of us are spending our working day on things that we did not do last year, or use tools that were not available last year, or the year before? How much of this daily activity is written into our contract or job specification, yet it is something that we  involve ourselves with, and engage in, in order to complete our tasks and responsibilities in our current role and/or environment?

Add the often rigid structure used by employers regarding role/pay progression routes into this mix and you can see where I am coming from – how do we as individuals, or as a discipline of Learning Technology, advance our own role and responsibilities in a structure that is not capable of recognising the unique talent?

While it is not appropriate for employers to update or  modify their employee career ‘structures’ as often as the above might suggest, is there scope for periodic reviews of the whole, or in part, to establish a route for individuals to shine through and be rewarded for their work above and beyond the role suggests?

I don’t know if I’ve been able to capture my thoughts adequately, or eloquently enough here, but I welcome your thoughts on whether your role is ‘future proof’ or you also feel like the industry we work in is leaving you behind ‘officially’ while you keep up to speed because of your own private pride/desire/dedication to your job? As always, please leave a comment if this post/idea has made you think.