Last month I took up a new role as Online CPD Coordinator for STEM Learning Ltd. at the National STEM Learning Centre. For the first time in my career I will be working outside of higher education.
There are obvious similarities, in particular the opportunity to work closely with subject experts to create valuable learning experiences. This doesn’t mean I’m turning my back on higher education, as I will be drawing on the theories and practice within technology-enhanced learning to shape CPD online learning, considering innovative and blended models too, and similarly feed back into discussion about staff development in university environments. If we also think about university education, there is increasing emphasis on employability, industry partnerships and sustained, ongoing professional development beyond undergraduate level. There may end up being more overlap than either domain realise. What I am looking forward to is exploring and developing learning in a new context.
Avoiding separate spheres
I hope that being outside of HE will still allow me to contribute to discussion, debate and research in the field of learning technology. I say that, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, because of a somewhat unexpected response to my promoting the York TEL Handbook earlier this year using my personal email rather than my old University account. The reply was bordering on requiring me to justify my credentials, as if the authorship of experience outside of university walls didn’t merit reading. Perhaps I am being unfair, but it will be interesting to see ‘from the other side of the playground’ both how much I can contribute and whether there will be any added critique of my work and thoughts because I’m now not part of the establishment.
What I don’t envisage doing is to claim expertise of what is going to change in the higher education lecture room, the changes in learners’ expectations or skills, the trending enterprise services universities will be adopting or the way teaching has to adapt to new funding models. These things are perhaps best explored (actively, without relying on assumption) by those in higher education, drawing upon direct experience and collaboration with students.
I will attempt to keep abreast of the debates, new technology, new pedagogic rationale, policy influence. Then, from an informed perspective, perhaps one that critiques and demands justification of higher education learning and teaching practice, I can offer a point of view from outside the bubble.