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Networked practice

In this video, the people who helped create this course talk about their experience of boundary crossing within digital learning teams.
BIANCA FROST: My role at Deakin University is a senior education developer. It’s a kind of a diverse role. I wear lots of different hats. You can be doing anything from learning design to multimedia production and coordination, working very closely with academics and other subject matter experts to bring their vision to life, work very closely with the digital development team in terms of doing course builds, images, narrative building, a whole heap of stuff.
LEIGH GLANVILL: I’ve been working in higher education sector for around 10 years, mostly around project management and project coordination. I guess within that time frame, we’ve moved away from print delivery towards more online and digital services and that’s sort of being the path my work has taken.
ANTHONY NEYLAN: So my background is pretty much 15 years as a potter. I’m pretty passionate about anything that’s creative. At some particular stage, the opportunity came to apply that creativity to learning materials and I took that and I’ve been here ever since.
TRAVIS ZIMMER: I’m a graphic designer, and I do info-graphics and graphs for CloudDeakin and FutureLearn.
LEIGH GLANVILL: So I’m looking after project management of the digital deliverables. We’ve got a lot of people involved from across the university. So it’s getting our key academic and technical leads involved at the right junctures to deliver the resources that we’re producing.
ANTHONY NEYLAN: I’m working mostly as an Illustrator and collaborating on some animations for the unit.
BIANCA FROST: Because Chie is an expert in her own right, it’s really more about supporting Chie and helping bring her vision to life. But also there’s a coordination element in terms of, again, working very closely with the digital developers for the build, image selection, the videographer’s, animators, back end work in terms of administration. We make sure we’ve got reading lists, course pages, assessment documents.
TRAVIS ZIMMER: My contribution to this course is I do two info-graphics in design thinking and backward design.
ANTHONY NEYLAN: So in digital learning, I get to show academics or share with academics my point of view on materials that they’re trying to teach. And I’m able to enable them and help them see that possibilities can eventuate that they had actually never thought were could. So challenges would be that the challenge of sometimes juggling too many creative projects at the same time. Also sometimes you just have to give over on solutions that you feel you’re quite sure are a great solution to something. But it may not actually work well with your academics. So you actually sometimes have to compromise your creative thoughts on things.
TRAVIS ZIMMER: The opportunity in digital design is creating nice, engaging content for the students. The challenge is for us as graphic designers is copyright. We’re not sure if we can use the images sometimes.
BIANCA FROST: I think the opportunities in digital learning is what makes it so exciting. The fact is you’re working across multiple mediums with multiple team members with different specialisations. So I’m not just alone working with copy. The fact that you can work with video, with images, creating animations, it’s the diversity of the role and the opportunity to create all kinds of digital assets from videos to podcasts and everything in between. So, all the great things about digital learning, all the creativity that it offers also can produce challenges, especially when you’re working in multi-member, multi-disciplinary teams, and bringing everyone’s vision together, working seamlessly because you don’t want to step on other people’s toes.
But sometimes there is that boundary crossing where that naturally occurs. So, it’s very much about teamwork, collaboration and if you can get that right and communicate really, really well, it’s not so much of a challenge but again, an opportunity.
LEIGH GLANVILL: The opportunities are around making something truly great and engaging for our learners. The challenge is keeping it contemporary, keeping it interesting, and also maintaining the resources that we’ve produced.
ANTHONY NEYLAN: Boundary crossing absolutely happens. And I see it as a positive. Sometimes it’s really good to actually have people bringi their perspective of their specialist area into what you do. It allows you to see things from a different point of view.
BIANCA FROST: Digital learning isn’t just a manufacturing line where you pass on one task to the next person, to the next person, to the next person. There’s a lot of crossover. You’ve got multiple development happening at the same time, simultaneously. So you’re always working backwards and forwards and crossing between different skill sets with different people.

As part of their networked practice, digital learning practitioners often wear multiple hats, cross boundaries and perform complex knowledge work to bring about the best outcomes for learners.

Earlier, we looked at the role of empathy in design thinking and collaborative, learner-centric approaches to educational service design.

In the previous step, we discussed the changing role of educators in digital learning practice. In this step we examine team teaching and boundary crossing as examples of networked practice.

Team teaching in digital learning

In digital learning practice, no single individual brings all the necessary skills and expertise required to create premium digital learning experiences.

For example, learning designers apply their expertise to identify how learners will most effectively engage with learning content, materials and tasks. Meanwhile, learning technologists and multimedia producers realise the dream of beautifully designed media assets and tools that learners will want to interact with.

From digital pedagogy and learning technology, to multimedia production and project management – and more – the enactment of these transformations requires a holistic team-based approach.

Ambiguity and boundary crossing

Given the field of digital learning is still relatively new and emerging, the fluidity and ambiguity of what roles, responsibilities and functions need to be involved are reflected in the kinds of language used to describe them.

For example, depending on the organisation, role and context, digital learning practitioners may be called academic developers, instructional designers, learning designers, learning technologists, interactive media developers, digital developers or technical support officers – just to name a few.

A small study that looked at a selection of 37 teaching and learning position descriptions found that the roles and practices assigned to these different job titles were unclear and overlapping.

In short, the boundaries of professional roles and responsibilities are often blurred and frequently intersect.

As a result, this impacts on how digital learning practitioners and the work they do, are perceived. It also influences how we feel about ourselves as professionals working in the field of digital learning.

Your task

Watch the video to learn more about the work of the multi-disciplinary team members who contributed to the creation of this course.

Given your professional role, use the comments to reflect on and discuss the following:

  • What are you thoughts about how digital learning roles are described and distinguished?
  • What sort of boundary crossing and knowledge work do you do?
  • What opportunities and challenges have you come across and overcome when working in digital learning teams?
  • Are you part of a group that brings together, engages and shares knowledge and resources among digital learning practitioners (such as TELedvisors below)? Can you share with your peers?

Behind the scenes: Chie’s story

In 2017 I became a co-convenor of a special interest group called TELedvisors (aka Technology-Enhanced Learning/TEL advisors), formed under the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE). As a member, I’ve learned so much from being part of this community. The group now welcomes more than 250 active members across Australasia and aims to bring together, engage and share knowledge and resources among digital learning practitioners via active monthly webinars, discussion forums and local meet-ups. As a fellow digital learning practitioner, you may also benefit from participating in this group.

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Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design

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