How we scaled professional recognition for staff working with Learning Technology at the University of Edinburgh
Creating a digital Culture
For the last 18 months I’ve been working on an ongoing project to support the professional development of staff working with learning technology. The University of Edinburgh has ambitious strategic digital plans which envision:
“a digital culture that will culminate in a university where:
- every core service is fully digital;
- every educator is a digital educator;
- every student is a digital student;”
Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services Division of Information Services, saw that growth of a digital education culture would require increasing input from staff working with learning technology. She recognised the value of learning technology staff in this process and the need to supporting their professional development both to retain and attract staff. As a large distributed organisation, building cross institutional connections is also key to realising our institutions digital ambitions.
Professional development with CMALT
We identified Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) as an appropriate professional qualification for staff development (as a CMALT holder herself Mellissa was very familiar with the scheme) and decided that setting up institutional cohort would support the growth of supportive cross institutional networks.
In 2016 I set up the University of Edinburgh CMALT applicants group, which has the aim of:
- Supporting staff through their CMALT certification from application to pass.
- Bringing learning technology staff together from across the Schools, Colleges and Central Support Teams, to encourage networking.
- Supporting the wider institutional Learning Technology community
- Promoting the continued professional development (CPD) options available from the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) beyond CMALT.
Staff working with learning technology at the University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh (U of E) is a large institution, it has 3 Colleges, 20 Schools and 3 Support Groups (located across sites across the city). We have 35,000 + Students and 9,000 + Staff (as FTE).
At the start of the project I set out to identify how many staff were working with learning technology at the U of E. Initial search on our website using terms like ‘learning technologist’ did not yield the numbers I expected. I then worked backwards by identifying staff with a remit in or related to Learning Technology and online distance learning. Following input from colleagues, I had a snap shot of people who might be interested in undertaking accreditation and identified approximately 70 individuals based across the schools, colleges and support groups. One of the reasons they had not been obvious to identify was the range of job titles of the roles they were in – you can see this variety in the wordle below.
Setting a Challenge
We had identified the institutional requirement and the staff development route. But how were we to judge the success of the project?
Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services, framed this as a challenge:
“Can we make University of Edinburgh the employer with the largest number of CMALT accredited staff in the U.K.?”
I took up this challenge and presented it to staff at various events, as I invited them to apply to join our CMALT group. University of Edinburgh staff have really embraced CMALT – in 2016/17 23 joined our cohort and this year another 11 have started their CMALT journey.
What does our CMALT scheme look like?
The University of Edinburgh CMALT Scheme supports staff from across the university to complete their CMALT portfolio by:
- paying applicant fees
- holding regular meetings of the CMALT applicants group
- providing support to put together a portfolio (see sharing initiative page, ALT login required)
- organising half-day writing retreats
If you would like more details about how the cohort is organised you can watch the recoding of the presentation I gave with and Sarah Sherman, at the ALT Winter Conference: The CMALT “Zumba Class”: managing a cohort scheme for CMALT applicants to build institutional capacity for learning technology 
Session recording available at http://go.alt.ac.uk/2Bj1dNO
I’m really pleased to say that 18 months after we set out on this challenge the University of Edinburgh we have the largest number of current CMALT holders of any Institution (you can check this on the CMALT holders list).
Thirteen people have now been accredited or re-accredited through our group, and you can see what they have to say about it via the University of Edinburgh CMALT Holders page.
Would I be disappointed if another institution were to set themselves the same goal? Absolutely not – I’d love to see other institutions supporting their staff in their professional development in this way. If ‘numbers’ can be used to help provide focus for strategic goals I’m all for it – because behind those numbers are excellent, talented hardworking colleagues who deserve the support and recognition for their ongoing hard work and professionalism.
University of Edinburgh CMALT Holders and Applicants with Maren Deepwell CEO of ALT at our November Award Ceremony.
Susan Greig, The University of Edinburgh, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member