This presentation addresses the theme of Empowerment in Learning Technology by examining two different institutional schemes introduced to support staff applying for Certified Membership of the Association of Learning Technology (CMALT) accreditation. Gaining CMALT is a globally-recognised mark of professional development for those working with Learning Technology. Certification is achieved following the successful submission of a peer-reviewed reflective portfolio, which includes supporting evidence (ALT, n.d). The award of CMALT accreditation is a career milestone for learning technology staff in particular, building professional confidence, encouraging ongoing reflective practice and empowering staff to participate in the wider ALT community. The value of achieving CMALT is linked to the professionalisation of learning technology roles and the recognition of the importance they play in education. It recognises the value of digital capabilities in a learning and teaching context; and its importance is noted in projects such as Jisc’s ongoing ‘Building Digital Capacity’ project (Jisc, nd. a). This project includes the ‘Learning Technology Mapping’ (Jisc, nd. b), which is loosely mapped to the CMALT framework.
CMALT is undertaken independently by an individual, but in recent years several institutions have established institutional cohorts to support submission (McDowell et al 2013). The cohort approach provides applicants with additional support around an external, professionally accredited scheme and is used in other areas. For example, it is one of the models used to support the Higher Education Academy (HEA) teaching accreditation scheme (HEA, 2014). The cohort approach for CMALT allows an institution to acknowledge the value placed on learning technology, to support the professional development of staff and so to build institutional capacity for learning technology.
In this presentation, we will share the approaches and experiences of supporting a cohort of staff through CMALT accreditation currently in place at two different organisations (a consortium of six HE institutions in England and a large university in Scotland). We will demonstrate how an institutional cohort offers further benefits since it builds a network of support through regular meetings and activities, providing encouragement and dedicated time to write and reflect. The cohort builds a network of support within an institution or across institutions e.g. in the consortium’s cohort, a supportive relationship developed between academics and professional support staff across institutions.
The cohort encourages the formation of supportive networks, which may be considered as a Community of Practice as described by Wenger, 2007. Connections take a variety of forms:
Connecting different roles, for example administrative, teaching and support staff.
Building relationships across various models of support e.g. centrally and locally deployed services.
Providing role models for staff new to the institution and/or to learning technology.
The experience of achieving CMALT with a cohort can be a very different experience from an individual submission. We use the analogy of joining a gym: you’re more likely to go to a Zumba class with friends than on your own! Having institutional support for a scheme legitimises its value, raises the profile of learning technology and rewards participation in various ways including funding, time to participate and acknowledgement of professional achievement.
In this presentation, we will describe our own institutional experiences and share an openly licenced framework, which can be used as a blueprint for planning your own institutional approach.
ALT (nd.) About CMALT, https://www.alt.ac.uk/certified-membership
Jisc (nd. a) Building Digital Capacity
Jisc (nd. b) Learning Technology Mapping
McDowell, James, Raistrick, Andrew and Merrington, Jane (2013) Enhancing institutional practice through CMALT accreditation. In: ALT-C 2013 – Building new cultures of learning, 10th – 12th September 2013, University of Nottingham, UK.
The Higher Education Academy (HEA), 2014, Institutional approaches to HEA accreditation https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/downloads/institutional_approaches_to_hea_accreditation_final_version.pdf
Wenger, E., (2007). Communities of Practice. Cambridge University Press