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28 Feb 2023

How are digital professions changing? Taking a look into EdTech professional futures

How are digital professions changing? Taking a look into EdTech professional futures
The post-pandemic sector landscape continues to change and ALT's Annual Survey'findings have charted how blended and hybrid learning, teaching and assessment are becoming the main mode of learning for a majority of institutions. In 2021/22 many institutions were still expecting a 'return to normal' but over the past twelve months we have seen that for many staff and students, hyflex is here to stay. As a result, there is a growing demand for Learning Technology professionals from apprenticeships and early career positions all the way to leadership roles in Digital Education.

One of the key questions we ask in the survey is how institutions invest in Technology-Enhanced Learning. In 2021/22 we saw an increase in investment in over 30% of institutions overall, which was smaller than during the pandemic, when 45% of institutions reported an increase in their budgets. This year, 2023, we are seeing continued investment, with the top three priorities institutions are investing in being: permanent roles, CPD & training and infrastructure.

In percentage terms, investment in infrastructure remained on the same level from 2021 to 2022, both in terms of investment into online services (77% report an increase) and equipment (70% report an increase).

However, when we compare the data about investing in people, the picture is different and there continues to be an increase. From 2020 to 2021, investment in permanent posts increased from 32% to 54%, and for fixed term posts from 34% to 50%, emphasising the continued and growing demands for Learning Technology professionals in the long term. This year, we are seeing that trend continue, as 55% of institutions reported increased investment in permanent roles. '

Leadership continues to grow as a focus for roles related to digital transformation. The trend from last year, which highlighted that ~20% of roles are now primarily leadership roles, continues and this year's findings show that management and leadership responsibilities are included in a further 36% of roles.

It is these (emerging) leaders that are crucial to institutions realising the opportunities of digital education in the post-pandemic landscape. They are also key to fostering institutional cultures that balance the demands of scaling up digital learning, teaching and assessment at unprecedented levels with the needs of a workforce that is still very much recovering from the impact of the past few years.

This investment in people and infrastructure is a welcome and positive development in the sector. We need to ensure that this investment is made wisely and in the best interests of students and staff.

One of the questions institutions are exploring is how to balance the need to provide a robust and reliable digital infrastructure via which students can access essential services and resources with the range of interactive and collaborative tools that academic staff want to use to bring their subjects alive in online or blended learning environments.

Innovation and infrastructure are often seen to be at each end of the spectrum of digital strategy, and Learning Technologists are often those who find the essential compromises that work for everyone involved and deliver the best possible experience to learners. In this context, their role is becoming ever more important.

ALT can contribute to this through accreditation and professional development, equipping leaders with the skills to create meaningful digital education strategies and through the adoption of the Framework for Ethical Learning Technology'(FELT).

FELT is designed to support individuals, organisations and industry in the ethical use of learning technology across sectors, to create EdTech futures that balance the needs of students, staff and institutions. Teams and individuals can use the freely available FELT Self Assessment Tool'to reflect on a particular project, a new tool or platform.

I look forward to seeing you at our session at Ahead by Bett together with my fellow speakers: Putin Wong, Digital Learning Producer at Central Saint Martin, UAL, and Julie Voce, Head of Digital Education, Deputy Director, LEaD & Senior Lecturer at City, University of London.

We will explore new findings from ALT's benchmark surveys, and share insights from leaders and practical resources to help tackle professional development and recognition challenges in the sector, with the aim of empowering agency and expertise for EdTech futures.

aDr Maren Deepwell is the Chief Executive of ALT, the Association for Learning Technology, the leading professional body for Learning Technology in the UK, representing ~3,500 Members. We support a collaborative community for individuals and organisations from all sectors including Further and Higher Education and industry and provide professional recognition and development. Membership is open to all with a professional interest in using digital technologies for learning, teaching and assessment.

With a background in Anthropology, Dr Deepwell's particular focus is on professional recognition for Learning Technologists, the development of a new ethical framework for professional practice and the future of technology in education.

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