Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

Building a community for learning technologists

Construction of the Main Library, 1965-86

Constuction of the main library, University of Edinburgh image collection CC BY

We held our first Learning Technology Community meeting this week; a new group but a very well-established idea. Fifty-eight colleagues, who identify their work in some way as relating to learning technology, attended to hear presentations from Karen Howie, James Bradshaw, Sharon Boyd, and Alex Burford, on their work and experience relating to preparing for online exams.

The University of Edinburgh probably has one of the highest concentrations of learning technologists of any university in the UK. We’ve seen investment over the last 15 years or so in innovative approaches to digital and online education and, in each of those investments, the value of learning technology support has been clearly understood. My initial job here, in 2007, was funded by the Principal’s eLearning Fund (PeLF). Many learning technologists brought in by those PeLF projects are still here (the University has been good at retaining and developing its staff). Just a few years after that in the early 2010s the Distance Education Initiative (DEI) funded the development of new online programmes over a five-year period, many of the projects had learning technology posts built in. More recently the institution invested in professional development for learning technologists through the Certified Member of Learning Technologists Association (CMALT) scheme, creating an institutional environment that is supportive of our profession.

However, recent months have seen the biggest drive to use technology in all University teaching. The global pandemic has pushed teaching into a technology-reliant hybrid mode, inevitably requiring even more learning technologists to support the move. Many new colleagues have joined us over the summer, and practices have shifted quickly. It’s increasingly important that everyone who supports teaching with technology can share ideas and expertise to function effectively.

The University is a big and diverse place, and sometimes peculiarly siloed. Learning technology support isn’t always coordinated across the organisation: we sometimes find it hard to speak across the lines of schools, colleges, local, and central. This fact was well recognised in the past, and it’s why the elearning@ed community existed; a relatively formalised, community-driven group with a committee, elected chair, and even an annual conference. But people move and things change, and despite the best efforts of some, elearning@ed got a little lost. Recent efforts to revive it were overtaken by the pandemic. Hopefully, these new Learning Technology Community meetings will be a way to quickly bring back the community spirit of sharing that we desperately need right now.

We will run another two sessions over the coming weeks, and hope to attract more volunteers to help shape and drive future events. Now, more than ever, learning technologists need to share experience and come together as a community of practice. Hopefully, we can gather the momentum needed to see us through, into what looks like another challenging year in 2021, and beyond.

Upcoming events

  • Monday 23rd November at 2pm: Preparing for semester 2.
  • Monday 7th December at 2pm: Hybrid classrooms.

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