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.