Who is Learning Technologist?

Inspired by this article by Steve Hogg and Andrew Doig, I started thinking about who exactly is a Learning Technologist. Here are some thoughts:

It seems that, traditionally, in institutions based on the face-to-face teaching model, Learning Technologist has been, primarily, a staff development role with some degree of technical support. In practice, Learning Technologists provide training and advice on the use of VLEs, online marking, plagiarism detection tools etc. and, to a varying extent, the underlying pedagogies. As a result, a common perception of a Learning Technologist by academics and other staff is the “how-to-use-Moodle-go-to-person”. In this model, Learning Technologists provide both immediate help (“My file won’t upload to Blackboard, what do I do”) and long-term training to enable academics to deliver TEL without continuous support.

Specialist knowledge and advanced skills of Learning Technologists can, however, be utilised in a much wider sense. In institutions aiming at more flexible teaching and learning provision (blended and distance learning), Learning Technologists can work alongside subject-matter experts (SMEs) to develop high-quality learning and teaching content, firmly grounded in the principles of online pedagogies. In this scenario, SMEs provide the content and Learning Technologists work with them to develop and present it in a stimulating and engaging way. Also, as Learning Technologists typically have a better overview of a larger number of modules and courses, they are better placed to work on ensuring consistent standard of learning design, tools and activities. In this sense, Learning Technologists play an integral role in the module and course development process. The intended effect is high quality online provision, engaging for learners and boosting the image of the institution as a flexible learning provider.

The difference between these two scenarios often lies in who initiates technological interventions. In the first scenario, the main responsibility for the online shape and presence of their modules lies with the instructors, with Learning Technologists playing more of an advisory role as and when needed. In the second scenario, Learning Technologists play a much more strategic part, working on ensuring long-term standards. rather than focusing on ad hoc interventions when something doesn’t work. It remains to be seen which role will take precedence, given the changes in the HE sector and the need to attract more revenue – one ways of achieving which can be through high-quality flexible, possibly blended, provision.