The eLearning industry has grown exponentially in recent years due to an increased awareness around the benefits of technology to enhance learning, teaching and assessment (and actually, the whole student experience). Some of the benefits of technology include;
- Aid learning and retention (see Mayer)
- Anytime, Anyplace access to materials
- Support/facilitate social learning across geographical boundaries
- Environmental advantages
- Reduce travelling
- Reduce costs
To this end, a range of new career pathways has emerged. According to video (below), the top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004. So by this very fact we are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems. This places an obvious challenge on our education system.
The careers developed for the eLearning industry range from being purely technical, to purely pedagogical, with some in between. N.B. the following is a brief summary of some these roles - there will be many things I haven't included, but if any readers if feel I've missed something important, please share your views in the comments section.
Technical jobs: might include scripting/coding to integrate various systems. Take for example, MMU’s Moodle installation. When you log into a unit, the information in the right hand column is created dynamically. The Assessments block, which enables you to access more info about coursework/exams, has been custom developed to link with the University’s Coursework Receipting system. The information it presents doesn’t actually live in Moodle. The same is said for Reading Lists.
Other roles may include the hosting and development of VLEs. For example Moodle is an open source VLE so developers can write bespoke themes based on CSS to adapt the look and feel of the VLE. The same applies to other systems as well; things like repositories and media servers.
Pedagogic jobs: often focus on the direct benefit of technology to teaching, learning and assessment. These roles often include working with course teams to plan what technologies may be used, how they will be integrated, the support structures around integration, and at what points in the course lifecycle they will be introduced. As such, role holders may often be qualified teachers/lecturers, which helps their understanding of theories of learning and teaching, but they may also come from computing backgrounds (or a bit of both).
These roles may also include aspects of training other staff.
Development jobs: These roles are probably more popular in the US than in the UK (I think), and often focus on Instructional Design and Content Development. Therefore role holders will liaise with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) on actual content, and then develop this content into interactive and engaging packages, using a range of tools/technologies. Again, knowledge of teaching and learning might be a pre-requisite in order to understand and integrate suitable opportunities for formative and summative assessment.
Flash has traditionally been a key tool for bespoke software development here, but in recent times 3rd party ‘Rapid Development’ plugins convert Powerpoint presentations into interactive Flash files. Take for example, Articulate Studio, Adobe Presenter or iSpring. Other tools integrate Screencasting (a method of recording the activities of a computer screen) into such Flash packages. There are a number of free tools here, but Camtasia Studio is one of the leaders. This area of the industry is reacting to the Flash Vs HTML 5 debate by developing/releasing versions to output HTML 5 packages (as well as or instead of Flash, and to varying success). Many of these tools offer free 30-day trials.
Job titles across these three categories are often blurred. Variations on the ‘Learning Technologist’ role are quite common, and there is a lot of discussion across the sector related to the actual role of the Learning Technologist.
Further to these three categories, there is another higher level role, considering the strategic deployment of learning technologies. Again, these could be separate roles based on a technical or pedagogical focus, or even cover both.
It's probably fair to suggest these would be typical of roles in the UK Education Sector. If we expand this further, we see roles related to the Learning Management System (LMS) as well as hardware (SMART and Promethan) and software (PebblePad ePortfolios) companies.
- Watch this short (5min) clip, which demonstrates how the advancement in technology has influenced society: Did you know…
- MMU’s Learning & Research Technologies Department - http://lrt.mmu.ac.uk/
- Demos of Articulate can be viewed here - http://www.articulate.com/products/presenter-demos.php
- Current eLearning jobs in Education via Jobs.ac.uk
- The eLearning Network offers a commercial slant
- Further info on CIPD eLearning
This work by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.