The best way to work with your learning technologist

The role of the learning technologist has increased in profile and demand, says Daniel Scott, digital practice adviser at Nottingham Trent University, and educators need to know how to maximise this kind of support

A cause for change

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many educators and trainers needing to be better equipped and skilled to design and facilitate digital and online teaching.  Many have gone from doing little or no digital/online teaching to fully online in a matter of days or weeks.  This could be a result of many things, such as organisational pressures/restrictions/barriers, lack of available/appropriate learning technologies or infrequent investment in digital skills, all of which impacts on the effective design and application of digital and online learning opportunities.

On the other hand, many educators and trainers may have already been using blended or fully online approaches, making it slightly easier for them to adjust to imminent changes. However, this situation brings many new demands and challenges. So, how do educators and trainers maintain and improve their online offerings to overcome these barriers?

Either way, educators and trainers need to be supported.  There is an abundance of advice and guidance regarding successful online teaching and training and how to make it so, but trawling through website pages can lead to feelings of fatigue as there is simply so much to sift through. What’s needed is a ‘go to’ person to work with you on your needs to help you achieve your desired outcomes, whether that be digital skills, suitable digital technologies or techniques to successfully deliver and facilitate online learning. Enter the learning technologist…

Making the most of your learning technologist

Most modern education and training organisations will have a learning technologist, though their role may be called something else, e.g. instructional designer; learning designer; eLearning developer; educational developer etc. Learning technologists are specialist and critical in education and training organisations to design, implement, improve and innovate digital and online learning solutions. They are:

…people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of learning technology. We believe that you don’t necessarily need to be called ‘learning technologist’ to be oneAssociation for Learning Technology (ALT) (2019)


They develop digital learning materials for blended and online learning and will work with you to plan, create and support you in the use of innovative learning materials and course design –  Scott, D (2018)

For example, they may develop and support staff in making the most of the organisation’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), as well as developing engaging and meaningful online interactive content to be accessed within it. In summary, they can:

  • Help to make digital and online learning experiences more purposeful and successful
  • Work closely with you to determine purpose, source appropriate digital solutions and achieve required outcomes
  • Take an education/training concept/problem to reach a workable digital/online specification/outcome
  • Ensure focus on the learning need/activity and not the just individual tools/technology:
    • When is it right for synchronous/asynchronous?
    • How to engage learners/participants
    • Explore alternative assessment and feedback options
  • Implement third-party tools to supplement/improve the learning experience, i.e. in a VLE

The following is an excerpt from Learning Technology: A Handbook for FE Teachers and Assessors, ‘Making the most of learning technologists’ section in Chapter 2.  It will help you to engage and positively work with a learning technologist-type role, if available in your organisation. This is not exhaustive and your list may include a lot more depending on the context of your organisation.

  • Desire to support you to plan, set up and deliver through learning technology
  • Knowledge and awareness of:
    • impact and evaluation of learning technology and eLearning;
    • current global markets and trends in eLearning and practices;
    • online tools and resources;
    • apps;
    • devices (mobiles, tablets, laptops, touch screen/Interactive Whiteboard, digital cameras, lecture capture, visualiser);
    • accessibility;
    • copyright;
    • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Identify pedagogical need/issue
  • Identify gaps where improvements can be made
  • Ask about the activity/purpose (this is your responsibility too)
  • Build a demo/mock eLearning example if necessary
  • Suggest a choice of approaches to use the application/tool and let you decide which best suits your needs
  • Guided walkthrough demo of application/tool on letting you design, create or set up
  • Respond appropriately and positively to situations and change
  • Curate relevant knowledge, skills, resources, people and places
  • Help you to improve your digital capabilities
  • Ask to be involved in departmental meetings to advise on learning technology-related areas
  • Collaborate with you on suggesting ideas, being involved in your lesson and developing your programme further
  • Visualise an idea then analyse and evaluate how they can use it and apply it to your purposes
  • Follow up discussions with further advice and resources
  • Networking at internal and external events – asking others what they do and decide how you can use their expertise
  • Connect with others – initiate/mediate professional networking relationships
  • Keep up to date with what others do – sourcing latest information and good practice internally and externally
  • Publish and promote their work and findings through blogs, social media and websites.

You may now want to consider investigating and contacting your learning technology/VLE support individual/team to see what support and guidance is available to you.

Further reading

You might also like: Digital agility in the face of coronavirus


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