|CC BY: Scaffold photo by Icegem|
When I think about the 'structures', I think about a number of things:
- Who is leading TEL at a strategic level? Is this central in the University and/or within Faculties? Are they experienced in this (still relatively young) area? How might this impact on uptake?
- What shape do learning technologists take e.g. 'developer', 'administrative', and/or 'academic' angles, and what department do they sit in? Again, are they in a central team and/or based in Faculty?
In my experience I've worked in a number of teams - I've been based in a central team (as part of a library service) as well as a broader department for learning technologies. I've also been (and am) employed by and within a faculty. Is it better to based within a library service, an IT department, or a centre for learning and teaching? I don't know! Who calls the shots? I've seen librarians, subject-based academics, and those in CETLs.
I think there are tensions and challenges with all these scenarios. Whilst part of a central team it's often hard to break barriers to actually get embedded in schools/departments. Many academics/departments don't engage with central services a great deal (for a number of reasons I suspect). Although, when employed directly within a Faculty, it can still be tough. The flip side is that central teams generally know all about software/systems; when they're being updated; common problems, etc. This often doesn't trickle through quite as well when based in Faculty. Whilst this often doesn't matter if we hold an academic role, it's still nice to know!
Here at Liverpool, there is a small central team of learning technologists (x4) in our eLearning Unit - part of the Centre for Lifelong Learning. The Faculty of Health & Life Sciences have invested in this area though. We have me and my equivalents - Lecturers in Learning Technology. We have one in each of our 6 schools, with my role working across each. This is supported by a TEL Support Team (x8). The view is that we work on high level, strategical issues which are supported by the TEL ST. This setup is a lot more than what many HEIs have, but at the same time, some Medical Schools have all of this just to themselves!
What about the role - academic or non-academic? I think it depends on the individual actually. I certainly love teaching so have enjoyed the academic roles I've had, and it does give me the ability to talk about how I actually use tools/technologies in my teaching, rather than just how people 'could' use them. And it is useful if you want to engage in research as you have your own students! However, there's nothing to suggest non-academic learning technologists don't do an effective job, because they certainly do! I think the expectation level is different though.
So with all of this, I'm sure it barely covers the range of setups that actually exist across the sector. But what is the most effective way to support and develop TEL? What strategies are best employed to develop things? If we were to start a new University and were looking at how we scaffold TEL, where do we start? Obviously there has to be strong leadership and structures to implement and support, but there are just so many options!
Answers on a postcard...
The Reed Diaries by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License