edvisor Instructional Designer Learning design learning designer

Thoughts on: “Many hats, one heart”: A scoping review on the professional identity of learning designers (Altena, Ng, Hinze, Poulsen & Parrish, 2019)

While I did read this when it first came out at the ASCILITE 2019 conference, I revisit it now that I’ve done my own deep dive into the activities and knowledge areas that help to define different edvisor role types including Learning Designers (LDs).

I know and respect all of the authors of this paper and we are (mostly) part of the same community of edvisors in Australasia. We have parallel research interests but different perspectives and focuses. I say this because there are some things in this conference paper that I question or comment on but this is mostly just because of differences with my chosen approaches. As part of the growing field of scholarship on Third Space education workers, instructional/learning designers and associated practitioners, there is much value to find in this paper.

Most of this comes from my notes as I read through the paper and can be scattered.

Learning Designers are increasingly employed in universities to support institutional digital and pedagogical transformation agendas

Altena et al. 2019 P.1

This opening sentence speaks volumes to me because it touches on two points of contention in this space, particularly among LDs. Firstly, maybe it just flowed better on the page but I note that digital (technological) appears before pedagogical. How much of an LD’s job is technology oriented and how much is about pedagogy is a hot topic, with many LDs (in my experience) feeling that their pedagogical expertise often undervalued at the expense of providing technical support. Secondly, the question of who LDs primarily serve – the teachers or the institution – is often raised in commentary of people questioning the value of LDs and their peers (or, more the case, the need for to change teaching practices).

This paper is about a scan of the literature intended to identify key attributes (using Barnett’s knowing-doing-being framework) that offer a clearer definition of LDs than is currently available. It claims to find

the unique capabilities of learning designers as transformative change agents to student learning

Altena et al. 2019 P.1

This is probably the point at which our respective research projects and aims diverge, as I contend (for now, at least) that there are three key role types of people doing work with this focus in Australian Higher Education – academic developers, education technologists and learning designers – and there are many overlaps between these three. I do believe though that there are also distinctive characteristics of each that we can use to differentiate them, so I am interested to see what they find.

Interestingly, the search terms used included learning technologist and educational technologist but no variation of academic developer. Whether this is an acknowledgement that ADs exist and are sufficiently different or not is unclear. Given my personal belief that Ed Techs and LDs are notably different roles, I find it interesting that they were included in the search. At the same time, given the liminality of many role names in this space, it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable (but I’d love to see more detail in the data about the two).

Literature published in peer reviewed journals or conferences between 2008 – 2019 centred around the work of LDs in Higher Ed was methodically reviewed and filtered and found 29 worthwhile articles. As a scan of the global literature (compared to my Australian focus) it is not surprising that North American publications were highly represented (80%) but this did lead me to wonder if the practices and experiences of North American Learning/Instructional Designers are reflective of the wider cohort. (Again though, I acknowledge that I am using a much narrower lens). Which leads to another question – why would it be different? (Though I suspect it just is)

The authors note that they were surprised that Learning Technologist didn’t appear in their sample of papers – given the North American lean of the sample, the term instructional technologist might have been more helpful. I’ve seen that appear a bit in their literature about this space.

The attributes/descriptors that they found relating to LDs showed a definite skew in the literature towards ‘doings’ (n=26) over ‘knowings’ (n=9) or ‘beings’ (n=5). This is utter speculation but I wonder whether much of this research was written by non-practitioners and may have had more of a focus on the outcomes of LD activity than the nature of LDs and their identities. If that were the case, we might reasonably expect to hear more about doings/activities. There could be other reasons, of course and in my own research, I explored relatively equal numbers of activities and knowledge areas. I didn’t look at ‘beings’ in much depth at all other than in trying to extract data about perceived ‘purpose’ from an open text question about what people do in their roles. Exploring values and ideology deeper in future data collection is definitely high on my agenda though.

Altena et al. looked at the most commonly discussed knowledge areas, activities and values/purposes from the papers in their review to help shed light on attributes that may help define LDs.

The top ‘knowings’ (knowledge areas) were:

Instructional design and models (n=13)
Technical knowledge (n=13)
Knowledge through professional learning (n=13)
Learning theories (n=11)
Educational research (n=9)

I assume technical knowledge to be related to the use of educational technologies but what “knowledge through professional learning” means is a little less clear. Is this other assorted skill sets that they needed training for or might it be knowledge relating to the provision of training? (Which would seem to me to be high on the list and otherwise absent). Similarly ‘educational research’ might refer to remaining current on emerging research or undertaking research. Here I see the Australian experience as possibly being somewhat different to the North American one, as (acknowledged by the authors), LDs here are rarely given the opportunity to engage in research.

They go on to categorise knowledge areas as ‘Threshold concepts’ (mostly the theory but also some technology knowledge), ‘Just in time knowledge (more reactive knowledge and maintaining currency) and also “Contribution to knew knowledge” relating mostly to research. In my own research I am starting to see different sub-categories of pedagogical knowledge that align with the first two – though the ‘threshold concepts’ I suspect are more strongly aligned with Academic developer identity.

The top ‘doings’ (activities) were:

Course and assessment design (n=18)
Providing expert advice (n=15)
Relationship building (n=15)
Project management (n=12)
Digital asset management (n=12)

These get categorised into Course and curriculum design, Project management, Professional development, Stakeholder engagement and Assess production/technical support. Again, these broadly align with activity categories that I’ve found but I would suggest that curriculum design is more strongly associated with ADs and technical support (including systems administration) with Ed Technologists. (Which isn’t to say LDs do none of that, just less).

Some future questions for me to ask in subsequent data collection that this prompts are something along the lines of – what do you do and what should you be doing? what would you like to be doing in your role?

The final attributes most commonly associated with LDs they found in the literature relate to ‘being’. I need to explore identity theory a bit more because this seems valuable but I think it also links a bit to Kemmis’ ‘relatings’ and the cultural/contextual parts of practice theory in general. These were:

Shared vision (n=5)
Establishing governance (n=5)
Having leadership (n=4)
Being ethical (n=2)

The governance and leadership parts speak to me here and may be gaps in what I have gathered data on to date in terms of key practices. (There is a whole separate piece on the activities, values and knowledge areas of junior vs senior edvisors and also those in central vs faculty teams that complicates this)

A couple of handy final quotes to wrap up that may be useful later:

…the values, attributes and ontological perspectives of learning designers are implied or rarely articulated within the papers

Altena et al. 2019 P.4

…if we are to move this profession forward, further research that seeks to establish higher education benchmarks for the entry to knowledge, skills and personal values, attributes and ontological perspectives required of learning designers working within the higher education sector is needed

Altena et al. 2019 P.5

This paper offers some useful insights into the vibe of research describing learning designers. It shows the complexity of these roles as they juggle everything from pedagogy to technology and managing people/projects to creating new knowledge. The more work we see like this, the clearer the picture may become.

assessment edvisor Learning design simulation

Ed Tech must reads – Column 12

First published in Campus Morning Mail Tuesday 2nd November 2021

A heutagogical approach for the assessment of Internet Communication Technology (ICT) assignments in higher education from International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education (Open Access)

With students increasingly identifying as online content creators, and the slowly evolving nature of academic publishing, it makes sense to harness Internet platforms in their education. Lynch, Sage, Hitchcock and Sage here outline some formal structures to support a more self-determined form of assessment, where learners are as mindful of the external audience for the resources they create in their courses as they are of their teachers. This article offers a comprehensive guide to the theory behind this approach as well as some exemplar rubrics. The only issue that I would possibly take is the breathless excitement about this as a new mode – not to toot my own horn but I had my students posting blogs for assessment a decade ago. Perhaps without the rich theoretical framework though.

Bringing Clinical Simulation & Active Learning Strategies into the Classroom During COVID-19 from Healthy Simulation

Medical disciplines have long been leaders in the adoption of technology enhanced learning and teaching, with a particular need to be able to give learners as much authentic practical experience as possible while also being safe and logistically feasible. In this informative but brief post, Amy Curtis describes the practical changes that were required in a university nursing program in the South East US in response to COVID19.

Administrators are not the enemy from The Chronicle of Higher Education

Brian Rosenberg is the President in residence of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and pulls no punches with this strongly worded cri de coeur – the subheading is “Faculty contempt for nonfaculty employees is unjustified and destructive”. It isn’t a long read but covers a decent amount of ground about academia, from the primacy of expertise to toxic behaviour in hierarchies.

Introducing design thinking online to large business education courses for twenty-first century learning from Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice

Vallis (USyd) and Redmond (USQ) discuss the application of design thinking principles that are, in essence, a more human centred angle on problem solving, in teaching business disciplines. They interview academics and student in a first-year course in this case study to delve into its usefulness in this practice and find some handy benefits.

Opinion: There’s nothing appealing about the Metaverse from Game Developer

When Facebook is in the news it can be easy to tune out these days but this opinion piece from Bryant Francis about Mark Zuckerberg’s rebranding of the parent company as ‘Meta’ and their roadmap for a remarkably Second Life-like all encompassing virtual social world is worth a read. While this isn’t about the educational applications of such a space, it points out a number of the logical flaws and so-what questions that aren’t yet being discussed enough.

Analysis edvisor presentation survey TEL edvisors

Research update #61: The massive data dump

I have a reason for not having posted for a little while, for a change. I’ve been swimming in the data from my first survey, learning about statistics and stats tools and generally working to get my head around what the survey tells me about the edvisor landscape, how our work is perceived and valued and what activities/knowledge might be connected more to one of the three roles than others.

I’m in the process of putting together a document capturing the many facets of this data – some points stand out more than others – and it is currently around 192 pages. This includes a LOT of bar charts and I’m still pulling everything together to be able to go through and try my hand at analysing things down to a few pithy pages for the thesis.

Meanwhile, I had a slot in the most recent TELedvisors webinar, among some people that I’d like to consider peers also conducting research in this space – Evonne Irwin (Uni of Newcastle), Natalia Veles (James Cook University) and Karin Barac (Griffith Uni). (To be honest though, their presentations all meshed together theory and practice so cleverly that peer feels slightly aspirational)

I think that because I have spent so much time in recent months with this data, and so little time discussing it with anyone, I got a bit caught up and turned my 10 mins into something of a data dump. The information was there but not so much the discussion about why it mattered. Something to consider more next time.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here’s what I had to say.

edvisor Instructional Designer organisation thesis

Thoughts on: The Organizational Structures of Instructional Design Teams in Higher Education: A Multiple Case Study (Drysdale, 2018) (Thesis)

I carried on a bit about how great Uibelhoer’s thesis was recently in covering some much neglected ground and offering some new ways to think about the research I’m doing in my own one. This thesis is one that I’ve had on the pile for a while but I did note that it was also well referenced in Uibelhoer’s. I’ve just finished pulling together some 7000+ words of notes and quotes and ideas from it, so this will not be a post at the same scale but I’ll mention some key reasons why this one is also great.

I’m not sure why I avoided the American literature for so long – I guess because my focus was on the work of edvisors in the Australian HE context. But really, there are so many common issues between the two sectors and I’ve found so much stuff (some written well after I started looking, to be fair) that speaks to things that I had thought to be major gaps in the literature that I am lightly kicking myself.

In a nutshell, Drysdale explores the question of what kind of organisational structures in HE institutions enable edvisors to have the most impact in the work they do supporting (in this case) online learning. I think that it is because many of the researchers that I’ve been reading lately are also Instructional Designer/Edvisor practitioners (rather than interested academics) that I’ve been finding a deeper understanding of some of the nuance in these situations. In particular, ask any edvisor and they will tell you that there are centralised teams and there are faculty based (using the Australian meaning relating to colleges/discipline areas, not faculty=teachers) teams and frequently never the twain shall meet. On top of this, some edvisors as classed as academics and report to academics and others are professional staff with other reporting lines. (To my knowledge, for the most part in Australia, few edvisor units report to IT or other administrative units but this is something that I do need to pursue)

Drysdale does three case studies of ID/edvisor teams supporting and/or leading online learning initiatives in 3 different unis with different structures:

“a centralized dedicated instructional design team with academic reporting lines and distributed curricular authority,

a centralized dedicated instructional design team with administrative reporting lines and distributed curricular authority,

a decentralized or blended-structure instructional design team,
with either academic or administrative reporting lines, and distributed curricular authority.”

Drysdale, 2020 P.54

Spoiler alert, he found that overall, IDs/edvisors working in a centralised structure, with academic reporting lines (I assume they also held academic roles) were the most effective and encountered the fewest barriers in leading online learning initiatives.

Obviously this is a relatively small study, interviewing an ID, an academic and a leader in each of the institutions and there could well be more at play (institutional culture for instance) but Drysdale does a decent job in allowing for this as much as possible in the work.

For now, I might just highlight some of the most valuable ideas that I found in the thesis. Lots of great new literature resources for one – again, I don’t know why I didn’t look beyond Australia for the most part in my earlier scans. That said, it’s interesting that in all the US theses that I’ve read recently, nobody seems to be aware of Whitchurch’s work on Third Space workers in Higher Ed. So maybe we can all be a little insular at times.

I have a few new theoretical frameworks to explore – Systems theory (Patton, 2015) which explores how organisational systems work. There are also a few takes on leadership – Transformational Leadership, Authentic Leadership and Shared Leadership. The idea that leadership practices are influenced by organisational structures makes a lot of sense but is something I haven’t considered in depth until now. (Sometimes I do really wonder how much my thesis is actually about education at all compared to sociology and organisations and power)

There’s a lot to think about as well in terms of where control of curriculum and course content sits and what impact this has on institution level learning and teaching initiatives. Building on that, something that I don’t think anyone has really explored but which I do hear regularly as an argument for faculty/decentralised edvisor units is how disciplinary needs and focuses do necessitate discipline specific learning designer (etc) approaches. I can appreciate that there are truths to this but unpacking that from the need to feel special is a job of work. (One that absolutely needs to be done though)

Role clarity – more accurately the lack of it – absolutely came up. Holding academic positions with parity to “standard” academics in these cases did certainly seem to minimise that though. I have many conflicting positions about academic vs professional roles. I’ve always held a professional role and believe that the skills and knowledge of the edvisor should be recognised regardless, but at the same time, I understand that people in organisations can live in any number of tribes that are important to them.

A few other things came to mind that I haven’t yet seen covered but which are absolutely emerging in the sector – where do edvisors/IDs from external (often corporate) providers sit in this picture?

Questions about what it actually is that IDs do are perennial and there is some nice work in here exploring what the literature has to say and some of the practitioners. This is absolutely something that I am also focussing on. An interesting stat to emerge was that most IDs spend <50% of their time actually doing instructional design. Much of the rest of administration, training and tech support. (I’ll leave the bigger question of whether those things are also design in essence to another time). The kinds of training that IDs/edvisors provide is touched on, referring to work by Meyer and Murrell (2014) showing that it is a mix of tech and pedagogy training, with the tech side valued less but perhaps done more.

It’s been fantastic looking at the recent work being done in this space – I can still see that mine is adjacent but aligned, so I’m not concerned about not bringing something new to the party. Many of the issues that we as edvisors face do appear to be fairly global and it’s great to be a part of the conversation surrounding it.

education design edvisor Instructional Designer pedagogy thesis

Thoughts on: Practicing what they preach: A case study exploring the experiences of Instructional Designers as educators of an online teaching certificate program (Uibelhoer, 2020)(Thesis)

lightbulb in thought bubble

Of all the theses that I’ve read recently, this one has been the most valuable – for several reasons. Chiefly, it fills a gap in several areas of the literature around edvisors relating to edvisor perceptions of how they are supported by their institutions (and the support they need), the impact of having faculty/college based and centrally based edvisor units, faculty autonomy/academic freedom, the pedagogical and design frameworks used by edvisors and the ways that organisational structures and reporting lines impact edvisor effectiveness.

Which is a lot.

I’ve had two opposing reactions to this – panic about how I will now find something new to say and appreciation that when I put my ideas out there, I can at least say “well Uibelhoer thinks so too”. (Honestly I’m not that worried and it has been fantastic to see how universal some of the challenges and possible solutions are)

A few other things that I’ve liked – just the clean readability of the thing. Uibelhoer doesn’t tie himself up in linguistic knots trying to sound clever, he simply tells the story in engaging, clear and direct language that moves the ideas forward and progressively builds a compelling case for them.

Personally there were a number of helpful new ideas and theories that I will be able to draw on and use to expand my thinking. I haven’t really given much consideration to faculty autonomy/academic freedom, there’s some nice stuff on collaboration and Collaboration Theory, and there’s also some valuable ideas on the impact of organisational structures, which draws on a thesis from Drysdale (2018) that I also have sitting in my to-read pile.

One other thing that I do need to flag is that there is a stellar overview in the lit review of the various pedagogical approaches in the last century and how they are applied in instructional design. From Behaviorism to Connectivism and beyond, this is something that I will highly recommend to anyone looking for a crash course in educational theory and its practical application.

There are a handful of areas where we have different perspectives – most significantly would be that where I see three distinct (though overlapping) edvisor type roles, the approach in the U.S. seems to be more of instructional designers as kind of a one stop shop for everything these people conventionally do. He does touch on specialisations though and the whole thing has got me wondering whether it is madness trying to foster understanding of 3 separate roles when we have problems doing it with just one.

I’ve glossed over the body of this thesis, which is a case study of development and delivery of pedagogical PD to academics in an institution. As a topic, I suspect this is stronger than my own because it starts from something that seems fairly straightforward but allows for wide exploration of many factors that shape this work and the people that do it. I’ve had an internal resistance to case studies for some reason (which I’ve been rethinking in recent months), possibly because it feels too small for the ideas that I’m trying to bring together. More thinking to do on this I’d say.

One final thought – I do think it would be great to have a global network of the edvisors (and academics) doing research on edvisors. This partially feels like one of those procrastinatory rabbit-hole ideas that I have in place of doing actual work but it’s at the very least something for the backburner.

Uibelhoer, D. (2020). Practicing What They Preach: A Case Study Exploring the Experiences of Instructional Designers as Educators of an Online Teaching Certificate Program [Ph.D., Seton Hall University].
academics attitudes collaboration edvisor research Uncategorized

Thoughts on: 2020 vision: What happens next in education technology research in Australia (Thompson & Lodge, 2020)

The latest issue of AJET (Australasian Journal of Educational Technology) opens with an editorial from two people whose work in the space of TEL I’ve found of interest over the years – Kate Thompson (QUT) and Jason Lodge (UQ).

My entry to this editorial was via a local Higher Ed daily newsletter, the Campus Morning Mail. The title of the entry for it was “For on-line to work, ask the ed-tech experts“. Leaving aside the strange hyphenation of online, this headline led me down the page to see exactly who these ‘ed-tech experts’ are. Apparently the only experts are ed tech researchers. (There is a passing reference to education technologists in the abstract but just one).

I tweeted a few first glance responses – looking back I think they were relatively innocuous:

This was enough to spark some wide-ranging discussions. I think the main issue ultimately was my suggestion that researchers often don’t take a wide or holistic enough view of ed tech and the ed tech ecosystem in institutions (as far as practical implementation goes) and that much of this research is relatively abstract and lab based. Maybe this is slightly unfair but, as someone whose job it is to stay current on ed tech and TEL, I stand by this overall but recognise that it may lack the nuance that was intended.

So let me explain what my concerns are and what I mean.

I believe that discussions and decisions around technologies with a pedagogical focus need to address practical questions of how it can actually get done in a contemporary institution in a way that has significance and meaningful impact.

This is often (not always but frequently) where the thought about the intervention ends. We end up with conclusions along the lines of ‘within the confines of the theoretical framework and recognising that further research is necessary, it appears that ePortfolios benefit learning because of x, y and z. More institutions should implement ePortfolios in context a, b and c’. This, to me, is abstract because while it is important to have this understanding, it almost never offers a path towards this imagined implementation. There’s a big gap between “should” and will.

The process of making meaningful change happen at scale in a Higher Education institution can be an arduous one, shaped by many valid and real factors, that seem to be waved away as the domain of uninformed “decision-makers”, “policymakers”, “economists”, “self-promoters” and “aspiring international keynoters”. The lack of regard in this editorial for anyone who is not an educational researcher clangs loudly against the repeated question about why education researchers don’t play a larger part of the decision making process.

As an education technologist, I recognise myself as one of these ‘others’. My colleagues in learning (etc) design and academic development areas I would suggest are the same. We possess significant expertise that comes from the varied pathways we took into this field, as well as from the practical work we do day in and day out relating to supporting teaching and learning in practice across many educators, disciplines and situations. We are frequently the bridge between many parts of the organisation – teaching and non-teaching – which gives us rare insights into the bigger picture. As professional staff however, we tend to be excluded from undertaking research and contributing to the literature.

What I’d love to see are three things:

  • Meaningful, respectful conversations between education researchers and edvisors to foster understanding of each other does and contributes
  • Genuine research collaborations between education researchers and edvisors
  • Greater use of relevant, evidence based research in institutional operations.

I bump into the frustrations of people in institutions about the pace of change or progress on implementations on a daily basis. I know how easy it can be to attribute these to personal motives rather than deal with the reality of complex systems – I’ve done it myself in the past, to my embarrassment now. The best way forward in my view is with more mutual understanding and respect.

academic developer academic development academics attitudes edvisor Professional staff

Reflecting on: The Academic/Professional divide

YouTube captioning tries so hard but sometimes it doesn’t quite get there

I ran a webinar for the ASCILITE TELedvisors network on Thursday, with a focus on Academic Developers. One of the things that I’m enjoying most about the research process is the way that it lets you put the existing research literature and your own ideas to the test.

Of the three broad edvisor types that I believe reasonably sum us up (Academic Developers, Learning Designers, Education Technologists), it seems that ADs are the most clearly defined. I’d suggest that this is because they are almost entirely academic roles, which makes it much easier for ADs to undertake research relating to their work. One of my go-to references has been the International Journal of Academic Development. I’ve never come across a journal for educational technologists.

Based on the literature, my experiences and those of my colleagues, I’d say that one of the biggest barriers to effective collaboration between edvisors and academics is the academic/professional divide. I’d characterise this as an underlying tribalism that comes from a sense of one side not really understanding the drives and day to day experiences of the other. At its worst there can be an element of snobbery at play but for the most part it seems to come from Higher Ed culture that has customarily been relatively siloed and ‘us and them’.

All of the presenters noted that they felt that by holding an academic role as ADs, academic teaching staff were more likely to take their advice seriously. When I asked what professional staff might do to earn this kind of relationship of trust, most of the answers were variations on a theme of spending 1-1 time with academic teaching staff and demonstrating your knowledge. Which I appreciate but at the same time, this seems to have significant limitations.

Discussion about how professional staff can develop same relationship of trust with academics as Academic Developers have

Another recurring idea was that academic teaching staff will respond more to advice about teaching and learning when it is tied to evidence based research and theory. I can see the value of this and I wonder if there is a case for more effective use of it when it comes to the dissemination of institutional learning and teaching initiatives in particular. Part of me does wonder though, whether this creates an escape clause for some of the less engaged academic teaching staff who might just pick holes in the theory to justify not doing something they had no interest in doing in the first place. But maybe that happens anyway. And maybe worrying about the worst cases at the expense of the greater population isn’t that helpful.

One more area that I think the academic/professional divide is manifested is within edvisor circles. While all the presenters seem respectful of edvisors in professional roles, there did at times seem to be a gap in understanding of the depth of the pedagogical knowledge and skill of learning designers and education technologists. One of the aspects of my research that I’m hoping will shed more light on this is exploring the way that edvisor units are organised in institutions. Whether ADs work alongside LDs and ETs or whether they are all separate. I have a feeling that we lean towards the latter and that this can lead to these understanding gaps. The fact that we had representatives of two AD only communities of practice that there is a strong sense of operating in a specialised domain. (Though I have noticed similar gaps between LDs and ETs at times, in professional roles).

I’ll be very interested to see if there are differences in the levels and types of collaborations based on organisational structures. I think I need to explore organisational theory a little more deeply here – it’s moving away from education to an extent but I suspect that it might be enlightening. Do you have any suggestions about this? Leave a comment (if commenting works) or say hi on twitter – I’m @gamerlearner

academic developer academic development attitudes benchmarking change education design Education Support People edvisor higher education management organisation

Research update #51: Been a long time Been a long time Been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time*

Actually it hasn’t been that lonely at all, life is pretty good on that front, but it certainly has been a long time since I last posted here – coming up to 3 months.

So why is that? Well, I moved cities and changed jobs for one thing. After 16 years in Canberra and three at ANU, I’ve finally returned to Melbourne to work as a Senior Learning Technologist at Swinburne University of Technology. It’s a step up in many ways and it also gives me an opportunity to develop some insights about how a centralised TEL support unit works.

In the times that I have found to work on revising my thesis proposal, which my supervisor has assured me can be a little late because life changes are factored in, I’ve been looking at some significant structural issues and fleshing out the core areas that have been a little thin or overlooked. Conducting more empirical research on edvisor numbers, origins and edvisor unit structures absolutely makes sense, given the paucity of existing data – it’s virtually all feelpinions, the closer I look at it – and I’m also starting to realise that while I like Bourdieu’s ideas about power and belonging, I have nothing to say that smarter people haven’t already said about it or used it for.

I’m also trying to work out how this research can dovetail with the wider objectives of the TELedvisors SIG and how both can inform the other. It hadn’t occur to me that this was something that I could talk about in my research proposal but Peter sees it as a strength, so that sounds good to me. This does mean that I need to explore some new ideas (such as Participatory Design and Development) to see if that can give this a framework but my ducks are now all in a row and I’m well into the process of actually rewriting draft 2.

There is a mountain more to learn in my new role – far more management and operational responsibility than I’m accustomed to – and we’re in the midst of some massive projects (transitioning from Blackboard to Canvas, rolling up Echo360 ALP upgrades and training, looking for an ePortfolio, looking at badges, developing an education technology evaluation pipeline) but I’m incredibly glad to be here.

Yesterday’s TELedvisor SIGs both look like they could be particular helpful in both work and study as well. Check them out below.


edvisor PhD writing

Research update #42: Proposal writing day 6. hmm

Yeah this is really going to need a few drafts. The words and the ideas are coming out but it feels less like a review of the literature and more like I’m describing the context and the issues with some supporting citations and quotes at this stage.

It’s ok, there’s time. I think I might take a quick refresher on how lit reviews really work though. One thing I haven’t done enough yet I think is talk about gaps in the literature and also which bits of the literature I question and why.

In looking at the barriers to collaboration, I added a small section discussing why and how edvisors can also create challenges – I’ve certainly known a few people who either didn’t know anywhere near enough or thought they knew far more than they actually did and would just barge in and tell academics that they needed to change without taking the time to understand why they used their current practices. Looking at this section in the context of the whole ‘barriers’ section, it seems disproportionately small and is making me wonder whether I’m being objective enough. Then again, this isn’t something that I’ve really come across in the literature and that’s what I’m meant to be discussing so maybe it’s ok. But it doesn’t feel ok.

edvisor PhD writing

Research update #40: Proposal writing day 4: Edvisors and teachers

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I really didn’t expect to but I’ve caught up to my schedule. It’s largely because I decided that I needed to write words rather than write well although there is also the fact that I decided to trust my recollection of the broad ideas in the literature. Rather than painstakingly find each citation and quote on the fly as I write, I’m going to trust that they are out there and that on my next pass I can take the time to put them in. I think this will also help because I’m building a basic scaffold that seems to be flowing nicely and which should make it easier for me to find and compartmentalise the citations and quotes. I’m also fairly confident that I’ll also rediscover richer ideas that I can use to flesh out what I’ve already said. I’ll need to spend a little more time thinking about what the literature doesn’t say, and how to explain that and why it matters, but it’s been nice being able to put the pedal to the metal and just let the words come out as they want to.

In a nutshell, I covered the fact that the way that edvisor teams are structured and placed in institutions – centrally/college-based and also functionally – can be a barrier to effective work and particularly because of the tensions that exist between institutional and academics’ priorities. (Trying to remember that most good edvisors also have their own values conversation going on about ensuring the best possible learning and teaching amongst this). I moved on to the relationships between academics and edvisors and noted the difference between those from academic vs professional backgrounds. Touched on disciplinary silos, pressures faced by academics to be the experts in all things and the fact that many of them don’t really know what we do – or can do. This can be evident particularly in the research that they write and I think this will be a rich primary source to explore when I move into the research phase.

So I guess there is going to be a little more work than I expected when I’ve written draft one but the words are coming and draft two should not be far behind at all.