Although I am active on twitter the most interesting conversations I have about Higher Education are located into private whatsApp groups. This academic year has seen a lot of conversation about who is doing what, tips that people can share around and policy discussion.
As the sector turns from an emergency pivot (remote instruction) and builds a truly blended experience, it has become apparent that the sector is lacking people who have the right mixture of overlapping skills in three different areas.
Look a diagram!
To develop an excellent blended experience in Universities never designed or culturally oriented to do this is going to be a challenge. Based on the conversations I am having with leaders across the mission groups – there is a gap at the level of the organisational table where strategy starts to get turned into operational practice.
Often this is an Associate Dean tasked with taking broad University positions and trying to turn them into operational practice at the ground but might be a department head. It is the technical that seems to represent the gap.
When I say these is a technical gap – I do not mean an understanding of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) or the ability of an individual to understand how technology X can be used in class room situation Y. I’m talking about individuals who have enough of an knowledge of infrastructure to understand how the University or school wide implementation of a technology or SaaS platform will influence the pedagogical practices in a school. At the same time they understand the operational processes and cultural norms of said school.
This is also not something that you can get from other expert groups in the University with ease.
Learning Technologists have an excellent understanding of the pedagogical and technical but often because of organisational structures do not have a complete picture of the operational and socio-political drivers in a school. Sometimes they do not have them because of underlying HR or cultural issues that cannot be discussed openly. They also do not occupy positions of authority in the schools that allow them to directly influence operational doctrine.
Academic staff who have come up through a L&T route have a solid grasp of the pedagogical and the operational but many have little or no wider technical knowledge and therefore cannot think ahead enough to foresee potential implementation challenges. They also often have no direct line to the strategic level.
The truly technical have their hands full actually implementing new systems and making the University virtual so that removes them.
The rare beast is the integrator who understands just enough about each aspect and therefore is able to formulate responses that can be embedded quickly and effectively. They can also hit the alarm if something is going to be a costly disaster.
From the conversations I’m having, they are very rare. My feeling is that as we get into the next academic year and blended learning plans start to face reality that we will see an increased demand for people who can do the above.
We might even see some new job titles in the way that ‘Student Experience’ became popular a few years ago…