Reading: "The Role of LTs in supporting e-research (eResearch)"

For those who read this blog with any kind of regularity you will know I’m always trying to find new tools to use, and new ways to use them. I find a lot of my information via my Twitter network (PLN: hopkinsdavid) but every now and then something actually comes to me via the print-media … yes, that old fashioned thing called a book, or journal (in this case).

But what of finding a new area of Higher Education where Learning Technologists can be readily utilised, with our background and knowledge of technology and pedagogy?

In the July edition of ALT-J (Association of Learning Technology Journal) there was an article on “The role of learning technologists in supporting e-research”.

Not everyone is going ot be able to read this online with Informaworld, but for those who have access (through UK HE Institutions) you an use this link:

For those who can’t … I’m sorry; I don’t think it’d be a very good idea to download and make available, I’m sure I’d break a few rules!

The abstract says;

“This article explores how the role of learning technologists … may be diversifying to include supporting e-research. It [the group] contributes to the current debate about the emerging profession and the roles it should play in contemporary higher education. Previous studies have shown that, typically, the profession’s role has focused almost exclusively on curriculum development; traditionally, learning technologists work with students and tutors to enhance the learning environment with technology.

“It is suggested that many learning technologists could extend their roles, transferring their knowledge to include supporting e-research. A more inclusive model of the learning technologist’s role in academia could help address the potential polarisation of the profession into researchers and practitioners.”

One aspect of ‘our’ role is to provide assistance to any staff member that needs or asks for it. But how many researchers know about this, or indeed have thought about using technology to, as an example, implement an online focus-group?

With Higher Education Institutions becoming increasingly focused on research then why not use us to help you with this, as well getting us to work on new presentation tools for your under-graduate students?

This article highlights very nicely the way we can bring a different and possibly new viewpoint to the traditional research activities, especially where (as in the article) there are sensitive issues being discussed and individuals involved want a certain degree of separation and anonymity from each other. Even putting that aside, using technology (wiki, blog, discussion board, etc) means you can get a far wider selection of people to include in your research.

With research being conducted by Institution members, it is only natural that they will want to (or have to) use the Institution’s VLE, and can therefore “call upon the learning technologist for individual expert advice and assistance”. The article concludes by saying that;

“an e-research support role is within the scope of most learning technologists, many of whom are also accustomed to carrying out a diverse range of activities in their posts and are used to transferring their knowledge from one situation to another. This paper proposes that rather than endorsing the ‘bipolarisation’ of learning technologists into practitioners or researchers, we should view multi-skilled posts within the profession as a strength, with a set of core values held in common by all that work in a diverse profession.”

I believe that, in order to continue and grow the LT profession and our own individual skill-set, involvement in e-research (I prefer using eResearch, but that’s another discussion for another time) should be encouraged and supported by management and the Institution’s structure.

The conclusion supports this, saying;

“E-research is becoming commonplace and seems certain to increase in the next decade …  it is feasible to use e-learning tools to collect a wealth of rich, qualitative data in OFGs [Online Focus Groups]. Simultaneously, e-learning tools are becoming more sophisticated (especially Web 2.0 tools) and such tools have the potential to support qualitative research in many subject areas across an institution. As a result, learning technologists in the future are likely to be asked to provide expert support for the use of e-learning tools by researchers.”