Sunday, 29 November 2009

Some thoughts on collaborative group working in an asynchronous forum

We've finished the collaborative activity 6.3, and to be honest the requirement to refelect on it in TMA02 is like asking me to go and relive a car crash. I can reflect on this in a positive way, by completely detatching it from the specifics of our own group experience, but I don't find the kinds of reflections in our group forums which criticise the actions of certain individuals helpful, and so won't be responding there. Similarly, my reflections here are about group work in general, and not our specific roles, tasks, or outcomes.

One reflection I had early on was regarding the importance of understanding roles in group. It was suggested that we should allocate roles at the beginning of the task, but I think this is actually very hard for any group to do from the position of not knowing the individuals in the group, and not yet having a clear conception of the task. While it might be useful to have individuals take on specific roles, in a group which does not know each other well you cannot tell who will be suited to what roles. This problem isn't unique to online forums (there'll be a similar difficulty in any ad-hoc team), but the additional constraints and problems of asynchronous communication make this all the harder for a new online team.

Communication in an asynchronous forum is fraught with well-documented difficulties, including misinterpretations leading to upset or offence, problems with crossed threads (e.g. two people writing at the same time, and so unable to see the other's response, and therefore appearing to ignore it or to duplicate suggestions) and the sheer difficulty of catching up with a multi-threaded discussion if you are away from any period of time. There are difficulties with language and explanations - what appears clear in the author's head can easily be interpreted differently by readers. Given the lack of opportunity to clarify misunderstandings, the asynchronous online forum seems to require extra levels of clarity, precision and tact, including judging when not to respond. There is also a difficulty in reaching agreements or decisions when there is no way to know when individual participants will be available to read and respond.

The nature of the collaborative forum forces participants to use certain agreed working methods. While these may be accepted by all members of the group, it is likely that no one method will be the optimum for everyone's individual learning and working styles. Organisation which one person sees as adding clarity may muddy the waters for another, for example the use of several locations for different elements of discussion - for some it may be very useful to keep aspects discreet, for others this may just add to confusion of where to find content.

Clearly, given my use of a car crash analogy, this group work has actually been a hurtful experience. More frustrating is that I'm not clear what I was supposed to learn from it - and I have seen comments from so many demotivated students in this past fortnight. The requirement to reflect on the group's success is fine done in private, but postings to group forums just seem likely to further inflame misunderstandings and upset. This has left me very likely to be very wary of engaging with group work in future, and rather than help me build trust and community, has left me wanting to run screaming from the place. I don't believe this was the OU's target, but the reflection seems to be requiring further raking over of ground which many of us just want to move on from and leave behind.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

My professional values...

The first thing I should note here is that this statement is almost certainly incomplete. Trying to complete an exhaustive list would be impractical, and I suspect that I will realise I have missed values as I read the comments of my course colleagues.

As an underpinning for my professional behaviour in general I would begin by echoing the core values of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) (of which I am a Member):
honesty, integrity, fairness, confidentiality, competence, objectivity, environmental sustainability and health, safety and risk.

These provide a firm foundation, but obviously don't offer any guidance on educational or educational technology aspects. For the technology-enhanced-learning aspects I would look to the values of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT):

  • Commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning
  • Commitment to keep up to date with new technologies
  • Empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and specialisms
  • Commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice.

However, these also do not give voice to the educational values which I hold. I feel that I have a commitment to learners, and to the support and development of learning opportunities in general. This includes respect for individual learners, to supporting and enhancing their learning by incorporating relevant research outcomes. I feel passionate about the transformative power of education (in all its guises), and committed to learning opportunities for all.

The Higher Education Academy values include a commitment to continuing professional development and evaluation of practice, which (while I do not share their higher education focus) I also support. Commitment to developing my competence and understanding of pedagogical issues, including methods of supporting and enhancing teaching and learning is one of my core professional values, and is my prime reason for undertaking the MA ODE.

One conflict that I note as I write this is between my current professional practice, and the professional values I hold personally. In particular, I work in an organisation where the majority of work is defence focused. I have begun a new role as an Instructional Designer, and this requires adherence to the military's preferred methods of training. While understanding, supporting and working for client needs is a feature of many professional codes, I am left with a tension because of my pedagogical views on the value of students becoming independent learners, or the development of metacognitive skills, for example. This tension is not specific to military training, but I suspect common in many fields where there is a requirement to train students in specified procedures, and a need for consistency of delivery. However, issues like this challenge my values of supporting the student as an individual and applying research-evidenced best practice to specific tasks.

Differing professional values

In this post, for activity 7.1. I explore the professional values mentioned by the Association for Learning Technology in the CMALT prospectus, by the Higher Education Academy, and by several other professional bodies.

The ALT's CMALT prospects specifies a surprisingly limited list of only four values:
  • Commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning
  • Commitment to keep up to date with new technologies
  • Empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and specialisms
  • Commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice
While the document does mention in passing "taking a committed and serious approach to professional development" and "critical reflection on practice, achievements and expertise", (and therefore implies that these are also professional values), I found it surprising that these aspects were not made explicit, and that while it is mentioned that CMALT will allow you to demonstrate these attributes, they are not an underlying principle.

The professional values expressed by the UK Higher Education Authority are:
  1. Respect for individual learners 
  2. Commitment to incorporating the process and outcomes of relevant research, scholarship and/or professional practice 
  3. Commitment to development of learning communities 
  4. Commitment to encouraging participation in higher education, acknowledging diversity and promoting equality of opportunity 
  5. Commitment to continuing professional development and evaluation of practice 
Point 5 here makes clear the value of commitment to professional development. There are further notable differences between the ALT and HEA's value statements. I found it particularly striking that the ALT makes no mention of values which directly involve learners. While it is a society of technologists, there is a need to understand the learners for whom they develop technology, and I feel that learning technology professionals ought to have a professional commitment to students, whether or not they work directly with them. Stemming from this need I would also expect a learning technologist to have an understanding of educational or pedagogical principles, and hence a value of commitment to appropriate understanding and application of these principles.

Interestingly, neither the ALT or the HEA make any reference to ethical principles or standards, and consequently there is no comment on procedures if such standards are not met. There is also no mention of quality, or the aspiration towards it, for professional knowledge, application or behaviour.

Other organisations, such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) provide more detailed codes of conduct. For example, the IET has 22 rules of conduct, each of which are underpinned by one or more of 8 principles (honesty, integrity, fairness, confidentiality, competence, objectivity, environmental sustainability and health, safety and risk).

It is possible that the less prescriptive approach of the ALT and HEA are indicative of a teaching profession which has (until relatively recently) had considerable freedom in its own organisation. Conversely (and in particular for the ALT), it may be considered unsurprising that a fledgling profession (if indeed it is one) has not yet established the depth and rigour that underpin professions such as engineering or medicine. However, the fundamental principles such as honesty, integrity and fairness, as exemplified by the IET's code of conduct, might be considered to be universal, and so should be expressed somewhere.

Some organisations, such as the IET or the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), have a value set which further illuminates the key activities of the profession. For example, the BACP values include a commitment to:
  • Respecting human rights and dignity 
  • Ensuring the integrity of practitioner-client relationships 
  • Enhancing the quality of professional knowledge and its application 
  • Alleviating personal distress and suffering 
  • Fostering a sense of self that is meaningful to the person(s) concerned 
  • Increasing personal effectiveness 
  • Enhancing the quality of relationships between people 
  • Appreciating the variety of human experience and culture 
  • Striving for the fair and adequate provision of counselling and psychotherapy services. 
By contrast, the ALT's only values which make clear their professional activities are commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and learning, and to keeping up to date with new technologies. It seems that there is much left unsaid in these statements about what learning technology professionals do. Perhaps this is again due to the relatively undefined nature of the profession, and to the fact that it incorporates many roles. In fact, the ALT themselves acknowledge this in their statement that "values and codes of practice differ from institution to institution, discipline to discipline, role to role, and may evolve through time". It is therefore perhaps understandable that their listed values are not as prescriptive as more defined professions, but I fear that this lack of coherence may hamper attempts to become a recognised profession.

The concepts of practice and competence - post 2

Second paper for activity 6.1...

"Competences for Online Teaching: A Special Report" Peter Goodyear et al.

This paper presents the outcomes of a workshop on competences for online teaching, held in the UK in 2000.

The begins by noting that while there is much hype around the growth in the market for online learning, the research evidence for this rate of growth is lacking. However, despite the hyperbole, it acknowledges that online learning is growing, and that part of this growth will be due to the reduction in expensive human resources. It notes (as you'd expect teacher/trainer/lecturer authors) that "more agile companies are realizing ... that a judicious mix of technology and teachers... can help achieve greater learning effectiveness".

The workshop reported on was tasked with sketching out the roles and competences associated with online teaching, and also to give a critique of the competency-based approach to understanding teaching. The authors also note the alternatives of humanistic or cognitivist perspectives, and state that while they are not explored in the paper, they should not be overlooked.

In considering the terminology used, the paper considers that major corporations and virtual universities seek to operate in a global context, and so consequently, definitions of the competences of effective online teaching should be expressed in a way which minimizes problems of interpretation across national, linguistic and cultural boundaries. For me, this suggested that there was as assumption that the competences would be the same across cultures, but this seems to run counter to Hillier's point that students and staff (even within the same culture) can have different views on competence/excellence, and with the Association for Learning Technology (ALT)'s view that "values and codes of practice differ from institution to institution, discipline to discipline, role to role" (and presumably therefore also between cultures).

A major outcome of the workshop was the identification and description of the main roles of an online teacher. The authors note that while all the roles are unlikely to be of equal importance in any one specific instance of online teaching, they should all be understood. The roles identified were:
  • Content facilitator
  • Technologist
  • Designer
  • Manager/administrator
  • Process facilitator
  • Adviser/counsellor
  • Assessor
  • Researcher.
The workshop also identified candidate competences associated with each of the above roles (except adviser), see original paper, p.71. The authors made the interesting observation that a "number of statements are colored by an educational philosophy, which is not necessarily associated with online teaching and learning". This may reflect the attitudes and backgrounds of the workshop attendees (who are not identified, but which was sponsored by the International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction, the Centre for Studies in Advanced Learning Technology, and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the UK universities funding councils). It is possible that many of the attendees will have had a background in non-online teaching and learning, and access to online learning products, tools and research was far less when this paper was written nearly 10 years ago. These conditions would make it unsurprising that more general education philosophies are widely reflected in the competences identified. However, this observation may also relate to the underlying fact that online education is still education, however it is delivered. Conceptions of good practice in education have evolved over time, and online provision is a very new facet (in historical terms). This also reflects the ALT view that e-learning will become an embedded normal part of most learners' experience, and that therefore the term 'e-learning' will fall into disuse. They suggest using the term 'learning technology', reflecting the fact that technologies are used to support learning, teaching, and assessment.

Goodyear, P., Salmon, G., Spector, J.M., Steeples, C. & Tickner, S. (2001) 'Competences for Online Teaching: A Special Report' Educational Technology Research and Development, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 65-72

The concepts of practice and competence - post 1

Two papers to read for activity 6.1, on the subject of good practive and competence. There were no specific guidelines for the activity, so these are a few notes on the papers. First up:

"The question for competence, good practice and excellence" Yvonne Hillier.

This article is situated in the government-sponsored discourse around the development of professional bodies for higher education (HE), and hence has a focus on policy and on HE in particular. The paper identifies challenges in defining and assessing competence, good practice and excellence in teaching and learning.

HE is the subject of various initiative to increase participation. It is also subject to various bodies' assessments of the quality of provision. "There is an increasing recognition that good practice in teaching and learning plays an essential part of achieving government targets" (p.1). However, teaching is a social practice, reliant on an interchange between tutor and learner, and between learners themselves. Achieving excellence requires an understanding of what constitutes excellence in teaching and learning, but learners differ in their definition of excellence. Indeed, the conceptions of excellence expressed by learners are not matched by those of the QAA or ILT.

[This raises the question of what might constitute excellence in a course delivered online and with minimal tutor/learner exchange. Presumably there is a requirement for a high standard of materials, but a course which offered only excellent materials would be unlikely to be viewed as excellent - so what more is needed? Presumably the learning opportunities, activities and support must also be of a high standard... Unfortunately that is where this musing must end for now, as an exploration of what excellence means in an online course requires a lot more research than I can manage alongside this course!]

Back to Hillier... the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) evaluates applicants on four criteria:

  • the ability to influence students positively, to inspire students, and to enable them to achieve specific learning outcomes
  • the ability to influence and inspire colleagues in their teaching, learning and assessment practice
  • the ability to influence the wider national community of learners and (HE) teachers in relation to teaching, learning and assessment
  • the ability to demonstrate a reflective approach to teaching/supporting learning.
Hillier notes that the characteristics of excellence identified in policy models of teaching relate to:
  • planning
  • resources
  • explicit statements of outcomes.
These differ from staff and student definitions of excellence which include;
  • enthusiasm
  • creativity
  • interpersonal skills.
"Excellence is not something that is a defined outcome, but is part of a process where competence is the starting point for the pursuit of excellence."

Given the difficulties in defining excellence, the conflicting views as to what it means, and the consequential problems in measuring excellence, it is not surprising that Hillier concludes by noting that excellence is becoming less central to the research agenda, possibly for the pragmatic reason that it is so hard to quantify.

Hillier, Y. (2002) ‘The quest for competence, good practice and excellence’ (online), The Higher Education Academy. Available from: (accessed 22 November 2009).

Friday, 20 November 2009

Case study: Documenting student learning in outcomes-based education

Core activity 6.2 requires us to browse through some of the case studies from the Carnegie Foundation's Gallery of Teaching and Learning uses of the KEEP Toolkit. We need to find one or two examples where the claims made for benefits to learning are particularly convincing (or otherwise), prepare a brief comment on these cases and post to our group.

Case study: Documenting student learning in outcomes-based education 
The School of Information Technology and Communications Design, CSU Monterey Bay uses a series of Major Learning Outcomes (MLOs) as core requirements for graduation. MLOs are physical proof and example of knowledge gained on a course, and starting in Spring 2004, students used the KEEP Toolkit to produce an eportfolio page demonstrating the MLO evidence.

  • To encourage students to document and reflect upon their learning experience
  • To make this knowledge explicit to themselves, their instructors, their family, and their prospective employers.
Key principles of practice:
  • Promoting reflection on learning
  • Allowed tutors to provide prompt feedback and guidance to deeper student reflection
  • Developing a record of ones learning experience
  • MLOs clearly communicate expectations and outcomes 
  • Acknowledges the value of collaborative learning and sharing information freely
  • Encourages students to demonstrate developing competencies over a period of time, allowing students to map progress
Would you recommend this case study for the presentation?
Includes links to 3 excellent eportfolios, and covers a range of practices, so I would recommend this one for the presentation.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Thoughts on Oliver

What do Learning Technologists do? Oliver, M., 2002. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 39(4), 245.

Oliver describes learning technologists as one group of the 'new professionals', a group that are in roles that 'seem to be hybrid, marginal and yet central to institutional processes of change', and who are typically 'aged under 35, with five or fewer years of experience of the role, and whose qualifications are not always related to the post' (p.245).

Beetham (2002) identified 10 central activities for learning technologists, with the most important being "keeping abreast of technology" (p.246). However, much of the rest of the paper seems to show learning technologists themselves placing more emphasis on collaboration and understanding the teaching and learning requirement. There is no mention of them actually implementing any technology, and the quotes in the paper suggetss most actually felt quite far away from technical aspects - in fact almost derisory of it.

The paper only seems to talk about learning technologists in a higher educational context. I feel that they could also be working elsewhere, perhaps even in industry. I also wondered about roles within the elearning industry itself, and whether roles which blend pedagogy and technologies may use titles such as (or synonamous with) learning technologist.

The author considers that his research "has shown that learning technologists may undertake any of a diverse range of activities, including staff development, research, management and technical support". I would also have included aspects such as elearning course design, elearning material authoring, elearning technology design and development and perhaps understanding/developing elearning strategy in relation to pedagogic needs.

My main concern with this paper was that the learning technologists it discusses seemed to be there to take policies developed by the institution and then somehow get departments to accept them. There seemed to be little evidence of working departments asking these people to do things for them. This struck me as worrying - a group of people with a technology/approach that they need to foist on others. In fact, they look most like consultants. They are there to help get ideas adopted, but are not involved in the implementation.  What Oliver seems to have missed is another complete swathe of people, who are designing and delivering elearning systems (including all the technology, pedagogy and teaching materials, as well as fitting them into conventional courses).  Surely those people are also learning technologists?

The paper by Lisewski and Joyce seemed to imply that the focus of the learning technology profession is on 'technology mediation', which seems contrary to the view of Oliver. I said in my previous post that I felt learning technologist was a broader term. I believe that it constitutes a spectrum of tasks and activities - not all of which may be included in the job specification for any one individual, but which may be part of a learning technologist's role.

Thoughts on Lisewski & Joyce

Examining the five-stage e-moderating model: Designed and emergent practice in the learning technology profession
 Lisewski, B. & Joyce, P., 2003. ALT-J, 11(1), 55-66.  (

This paper "highlights the need for learning technologists to establish their 'academic legitimacy' within the complexities of online learning and teaching practice" and "calls for greater professional reflexivity andcontestation within learning technology practice".

The paper uses the five-stage e-moderating model as an example of the dangers of taking a model or framework, and adopting it (whether deliberately or through a gradual process) such that it becomes prescriptive, unquestioned, or an assumed approach for all scenarios (regardless of its fitness for purpose).

Much of the paper appears to suggest that the learning technology profession is not sufficiently questioning or reflexive of its own practice, although it does consider that 'the learning technology profession as a coherent body of expertise is a relatively new phenomenon" - i.e. arguing that learning technology is a profession (contrary to my own thoughts on the lack of rigour, recognition and institutional accreditation identified in activity 5.2 after reading Warrior).

Also, while the five-stage model is extensively used as an example of the dangers of overuse of what was intended only as a framework, in the conclusion the authors acknowledge that "given our relative youth as a profession it is understandable that the five-stage model of online interaction has become a dominant paradigm for one area of our practice", recognising that there is of course more to the learning technology profession than blind following of a single model.

The paper raised a number of points which prompted further thoughts (in order that they occurred in the paper, rather than any interpretation of significance):
  • That the learning technology profession is about achieving "the right balance between the pedagogical approach and the appropriate use of a given technology" (p.55). This to me underlines by existing view that the learning technology profession is not just about understanding/using/developing the technology, but that it requires a parallel recognition and understanding of thepedagogies and nuances of the particular teaching and learning scenario.
  • The authors hold "a strong belief that it is important for potential online tutors to experience fully online teaching and learning interaction" (p.56)... as we are doing in H808.
  • The papers makes the point that "although acknowledging that online collaboration can considerably enhance the learning experience,Laurillard (2002) argues that, in collaborative learning, structure and staged timetabling reduces flexibility, compromising 'normal life' which can lead to feelings of guilt and stress as part of the collaborative process". These are certainly elements that I had noticed through participation in H808. While collaboration between a group of dispersed individuals needs some level ofadherence to a timetable, this restriction can make it difficult to work ahead (e.g. to allow for time in future when you know you won't be able to study), or to catch up if behind... and the stress and concern about being behind and needing to meet the timetable can be debilitating in itself
  • The problem is not with using the five-stage model itself, but rather with the danger of it becoming an unquestionable component of online learning design. This indicates the need for reflection and questioning. However, I've seen academics stop questioning and allowing published 'facts' or findings to becomereified - this is unhelpful in whatever profession, and is not limited to learning technology.
  • "The esoteric, emergent and complex technical knowledge that forms the basis of professional identity within the teaching and learning relationship is not immune to being ultimately broken down into simple tasks and standardization (Freidson, 1994)" (p.61). This makes me question whether learning technologists will continue to be needed. If others can (and will) learn the technical skills, what then for the learning technologists? There will always be a developing cutting edge of the technology/learning interface, so will this always be their place? Or will learning technology become a research role? There is a danger of the technology leading the pedagogy, rather than the teaching and learning need driving the required technical solution development.
  • "The profession may have to align itself with one or other of the dominant professions... in order to fulfil its own professional goals" (p.63). Could learning technology become a subset or specialism of a wider (existing?) profession?
  • "There is currently little evidence that learning technology as a profession will supplant or even equal 'academic power' in higher education, but the new pedagogic technologies, such asVLEs and MLEs and all aspects of e-learning, have become central to delivering quality mass education. The profession that mediates these technologies..." (p.63). This seems to me to imply that the focus of the learning technology profession is on 'technology mediation', perhaps in the supply of technology required by the 'real' teachers or academics. My own view is that learning technology is wider than this, and must incorporate pedagogical knowledge and debate also. Perhaps I have previously seen the terms 'learning technologist' and 'elearning practitioner' as potentially synonymous, implicitly acknowledging that different roles within these titles will incorporate more or less technical or teaching focus. This paper suggests that my impression may be incorrect, and that learning technologist is seen by the wider community in a much narrower way.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Professions and professional values - Warrior

The second part of core activity 5.1 was to read Warrior's ‘Reflections of an educational professional’ and to use her thoughts on education as a profession to in framing my own thoughts with regard to elearning. Here are my own preliminary and brief definitions of ‘profession’, ‘elearning’ and ‘elearning professional’ based on the reading

Professionals and professionalism

I read Warrior, and found it triggered some useful thoughts on professionals and professionalism. I felt she got a bit lost at the beginning. I think the question of a professional as someone who is paid (as opposed to an amatuer, who isn't) was a bit of a diversion, as was her discussion of gender discrimination (which might be all correct, but had little to do with the core subject). Once she got going, however, she introduced a number of key concepts and ideas about what a professional is.

I won't comment on her thoughts one by one, but rather give my thoughts that were triggered through my reading of this and other sources.

In my mind, being a professional is related to the following concepts:

Personal initiative - a professional has to be able to make their own decisions and decide courses of action, based on their own knowledge and experience.
Independence - a professional should be trusted and is expected to exercise their own judgement.
Personal responsibility - A professional has to be liable for and takes responsibility for decisions made, and can't hide behind rules and regulations.
Recognised training - a professional will have completed formal, certified training, recognised both formally and by the wider public.
Recognised development path - professionals have a recognised path (or paths) through training, experience and certification.
Experience and career development - professionals demonstrate commitment to a long term career. You can't be called a professional just because you have passed an exam.
Maintenance of skills - a professional is expected to maintain their knowledge of their domain and their skills in working within it.
Paid - I don't think you can have unpaid professionals (although they may do specific activities for nothing, or "pro bono").
Institutional membership - every profession has a recognised national or international body that both represents the collective views of the profession, and is concerned with professional standards and behaviour.
Quality - a professional does high quality work.
Dedicated - professionals are seen as committed to and believing in what they do.
Status - a profession is not a profession if its status is not recognised and respected in the wider community.

As I thought through all this I found it interesting to compare a professional with an expert, a craftsman or a specialist.

You can be an expert in a subject or a domain, without being a professional. You may not work in the domain, you may not be able to hold a position of responsibility, you may not have broad enough expertise (which might make you a specialist) or it may not be in an area recognised as being professional. (By contrast a professional may also be an expert and a specialist)

A craftsman is to be admired for his or her skill, but professionalism is also related to making wider decisions and exercising initiative beyond an object or artefact.

So, after all this wandering, I found it hard to put together a precise definition, but here goes:

A Professional is an individual, recognised for their knowledge and skill in a particular field, and trusted to use their initiative and experience to make important decisions within their area of competence. They will have undergone extensive training in their field, and be certified by a widely recognised national or international body.


Literally, elearning is learning through electronic means. By extension, we can think of elearning as the wider domain concerned with supporting and conducting learning through electronic means.

Interestingly, I don't think you'd talk about "an elearning student", and we don't call someone who teaches using electronic means as an "eteacher" or an "elearning teacher". So that narrows down the definition to:

Elearning: the theory, practices, processes, technology and people that facilitate student learning through electronic means.

elearning professional

Based on the above definitions, we should be able to say that an elearning professional is a professional whose domain of expertise and work is elearning, and who also meets the other criteria for professionals listed above.

Unfortunately that would mean that right now there are no elearning professionals in our new and developing domain. We currently lack a widely recognised professional organisation (although some are developing, such as the Association for Learning Technology) and there is no recognised career path that would differentiate between a professional and a well trained expert.

At present there are certainly professionals (educationalists, chartered engineers, academics, etc) who also are experts in elearning, and who work in the field, but that isn't quite the same.

Perhaps right now we are studying to become the next generation of elearning experts, and once the discipline has matured, and the supporting scaffolding of a profession has been built and recognised, we will be able to join the first wave of elearning professionals.

Warrior, B. (2002) ‘Reflections of an educational professional’ (online), Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education, vol. 1, no. 2

Professions and professional values - Perkin

Core activity 5.2 first required us to read the chapter by Perkin and write a short comment (maximum 500 words) on whether we think his view of modern society is justified, and also to compare Perkin’s view with alternative descriptions of modern society that you are aware of – for example, the ‘information society’

I found the Perkin paper a fascinating politico-socio-economic piece, but  struggled to draw from it too much about professionalism, or the values that entails. I also found it hugely challenging to read and critique, mainly because it is outside my normal sphere of understanding.

My main concern was the age of the paper - 1996 - and thirteen years on I feel his view is no longer justified. Things have moved on enormously since then, in particular due to the internet and the array of knowledge and information dissemination pathways which this has spawned. With this ready access to vast amounts of information, many people and businesses no longer require professionals to provide this knowledge. Obviously expertise and analysis remain valuable, and information always requires interpretation and application, but I suspect the role of a professional as Perkin considered it is changing.

Perkin argues that the terms professional, professional expert and professional expertise should be taken in the widest terms - including the tradional professions, but also 'professional bureaucrats' and 'professional managers'. This aligns with Sockett's definition of a profession as "an occupation with a crucial social function, requiring a high degree of skill and drawing on a systematic body of knowledge", but less with Millerson's "closure of the profession by restircitve organisation" or Lindop's " standards that are publicly acknowledged".

Perkin's wide view of professionals as an elite in a specialised-service based economy seems to echo the initial definition of the information society as a "society in which the creation, distribution, diffusion, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity" and where "the knowledge economy is its economic counterpart whereby wealth is created through the economic exploitation of understanding". However, please note that these are Wikipedia definitions, which is my current level of understanding of the meaning of the 'information society'!

It could be argued that today we are moving beyond Perkin's Third revolution, into another where the professional has a different role. The information environment has shifted radically with the internet giving access not just to formal resources, but to a mass of informal information in blogs, web pages, videos and pictures. It is in this new environment that elearning professionals will have to operate, no longer the guardians of specialist knowledge, but rather guiding students through a chaotic and ever changing world of information.

"The Third Revolution - Professional Elites in the Modern World". Harold Perkin (1996), Routledge.

eLearning and professional development

Core activity 5.1 was to explore a number of websites looking for implicit and explicit definitions of elearning professionals, and then to consider how far the areas of professional development contained in H808 so far have been in line with what is going on elsewhere in the elearning world.

Clearly so far in H808 we've looked at eportfolios, reflection, PDP, and development of technical competencies. These are all related to developing skills to be both a successful learner and successful elearning professional (and presumably H808 students aspire to be both). In my exploration of the suggested websites I felt the focus was less on technical skills, and more on the development of communities of practice, accreditation and on the development of competencies particularly for (possibly predominantly )classroom-based teachers and trainers. I think this perception of difference between H808 and the elearning world based on focus on technical skills being a key part of this course is actually mistaken, as I see the technical elements as being included in order to explore the pedagogical principals they support.

The consideration of what it means to be an elearning professional (elsewhere in Unit 5) aligns very well with the variety of terminology that is out there. While I found none of the suggested websites attempting to define 'elearning professional', the scope of what was included (e.g. administration, facilitation, instructional design, teaching, content authoring, mentoring, learning system production) goes some way to illustrating the breadth of the term. Perhaps H808 is pushing boundaries and asking difficult questions by trying to define what we mean by elearning professionalism. Some of the websites certainly don't seem too questioning (e.g. The eLearning Guild, which appears anyone can join if you want to pay up), whereas others have more stringent conceptions of professional development and maintaining competence (e.g. CMALT, membership of which requires assessment by your peers and experts, with periodic updating). Certainly the questioning, reflective attitude promoted by H808 appears to be one cornerstone of professionalism on which the more rigorous websites (CMALT, EIfEL etc) are agreed.


Finally an update for my sadly recently quiet blog. I have a whole list of things on which I want to post, but I'm just not able to at the moment. Hopefully when I've caught up a bit. But now, the post.

Really struggling with studying at the moment. I am behind as a result of 2 weeks off sick, and while I managed to get myself together enough to submit the assignment only 5 days late, I've still been struggling since. I feel exhausted and demotivated. The more behind I feel, the less able to study I feel, and the more behind I get. I'm getting more and more panicked at the thought of the next impending assignment, and less and less able to structure my thoughts or respond to the activities as I feel they deserve.

I need to get myself moving again, so rather than reflecting too much (and risking descending further into gloom) I'm trying to take a pragmatic approach to this. (This probably is as the result of prior reflection anyway - learning from past experience about how to help myself through study struggles).

1 - I was ill, and that's why I got behind
2 - it is impossible to do two week's catchup in one week if you expect to complete the activities to the level you would normally
3 - it's important to move on and ensure I'm ready and able to address the next assignment.

Therefore, the plan:
1 - Attempt the activities, but do not expect to do them to the level I would wish and would usually demand of myself.
2 - Keep moving. Do not get hung up on details or paralysed by the circumstances.

All very bullish. Which unfortunately is not me at all.

I am a perfectionist. I enjoy learning. I want to get the most out of the activities, and I want to show that I can do them well. Further, I think the current activities (on what elearning, professionalism, and the term 'elearning professional' mean) are really interesting, so my struggle to engage with the tasks is frustrating me all the more. Being forced to tackle things in this way is uncomfortable to say the least, and while I know it is actually a good plan for preparing for the next assignment (it is better than reaching the assignment week and still being 2 weeks behind) it still worries me that I won't be as prepared for the assignment as I want to be.