When I am usually asked ‘what do you do?’ by friends or relatives I consider my reply however most of the time I state that I work with digital learning technologies within a university. This is usually met with the statement ‘do you turn things off and on again?’ to which I quickly retort ‘I recycle the power’ (yes, I am hilarious and will be appearing alongside in this year’s pantomime smash ‘sleeping beauty and her 7 online personas’).
I have worked within Digital Learning Applications & Media team (the tech aspect of learning technology) as a service manager for 6 years and within those years I have been fortunate to learn new skills and broaden my role however trying to explain to my Uncle Trevor that my role involves provisioning, reviewing, sustaining and critiquing the digital learning services, can be a bore to him (hence the recycle line) however to me it highlights how learning technology is now coming into focus for IS departments and institutions.
In my previous job (at another university) I worked in IS with daily tasks including building and monitoring servers, managing over 1000 fat\thin client desktops, scripting software and managing print services. All these aspects are core IS systems however over the last 6 years we are seeing more feedback (from various internal and external surveys\studies) and analysis of all digital services, which can include access to Word on a working PC and learning and teaching tools (e.g. Learning management system that host course content, student record system that host the students’ progress, media asset management systems).
My previous experience of learning technology is that it was regarded as a periphery aspect of IS, supported by a small team who use funny language (e.g. multi-modal, learning design, pedagogy, peer review) and would usually be ignored for most of the year (unless we deployed changes to web browsers or they bought a new product). However, with the explosion of online 24/7 resources that are heavily focused on design, research and user experience we have seen a change in what users what and how they want to consume it.
Throw in wider access to cheaper hardware and cloud technologies over the last 5 years plus a userbase that is surrounded (but we shouldn’t presume engaging) in online tools\services and technology then we can start to see why institutions want to focus more on learning technology provision (which facilitates knowledge sharing and learning).
This leads back to the point of this Blog, what do I do?
Well there is no easy answer and that’s the point. Technology is constantly evolving along with users expectations and requirements (plus education is now a very competitive market, I feel another blog coming about consumers, students ,AI and learning) thus IS depts must also embrace the changing IS sphere to include learning technology (as these tools have a global reach) along with managing current infrastructure, data regulations, accessibility regulations, user experience, leading edge technologies, building bespoke solutions and market research (to name a few) whilst having both eyes on what is around the corner (I am fortunate to work within an IS department that does all these).
From the DPIA I am currently reviewing, the EQIA I am trying to start, the chat bot platform I am researching or the computational notebook platform I am documenting, it all reflects how IS roles are varied, evolving challenging and exciting (if not slightly scary….but in a good way not a Pennywise the clown way).
So in review of this blog when asked again in a pub what I do, I am going to say a bit of everything…. followed by the recyle the power comment.