I have been a ‘learning technologist’ for about 8 or 9 years – it’s a role I fell into via Web development and an MA is Eighteenth Century History!
I read for my degrees in the early 90s and wasn’t accustomed to using technology much beyond word processing essays; when I first went to University you could only send email to other universities! In the final year of my undergraduate degree my tutor introduced us to email discussion forums, which opened my eyes to a whole world of possibilities. Suddenly, as a third year undergraduate, we were able to ‘listen to’ and join in discussions with real researchers and academics. We could hear the debates that previously only took place in staff seminars and postgraduate tutorials. And if we felt brave enough we could ask a question, or even join in. At the end of my final year I used a web browser for the first time!
I worked whilst studying for an MA part-time, and learned to word processing, had a job as a trainee graphic designer, learned HTML (because no-one else wanted to!) and eventually got a job as a Web developer. My role sat in the same team as the learning technologist and when she left I got the opportunity to take on responsibility for the VLE.
During the last 9 years my job has changed massively, but a number of key elements have stayed the same. I still train people to use the VLE, I still answer questions about why people can’t login. But there is much more to CAL / e-learning / TEL than there was. We are involved in university policy and strategy, we have projects that are funded by external bodies, we run large-scale online exams, we help staff to decide what tools and techniques suit a range of class sizes, teaching scenarios and activities.
But I often reflect on those days of email discussion lists and the new horizons that they opened. My job has the potential to help academics and students access resources and opportunities that are far beyond what I was able to do as a student – opportunities to see and experience so many resources, to take part in new ways of learning, reflecting and understanding your chosen field of study. In some ways I wish I was able to take my degree again, and experience what it’s like to learn through blogging, find video resources, take part in online discussions. Maybe that’s why I’m doing this course …