Seeking the next Chair for ALT: an inside perspective


By Sheila MacNeill and Martin Weller

As we prepare to start the process of finding a new Chair for ALT, we thought it would be useful to share some of our experiences of the position. In this post we (Sheila, current Chair and Martin, current President) share some of our personal reflections on our experiences of the role; some of the things that aren’t in the job description and no-one tells you about. 

The Chair, who is also a Trustee of ALT, chairs the Board of Trustees, and works closely with the Chief Executive. Read more here

Hopefully this will be of interest to anyone thinking about applying for the role. We hope it will also be of interest to everyone in our community and is another example of how as a Board we are committed to our core value of openness.  

Sheila MacNeill, Chair
Serving as a Trustee since September 2014 

Reflecting on my time as Chair of ALT first and foremost makes me smile.  It has, and continues to be, one of the most stimulating, enriching and enjoyable experiences of my professional working life. It is a great thing to have on your CV, and people do treat you differently when you are introduced as Chair.   I have had the honour of being the first Chair to serve under both the old and new constitution, and by September 2020 I will have been Chair for 3 years, not 1 as was the previous practice.

Although I had served a kind of apprenticeship by first being a Trustee, then Vice-Chair when you become “the Chair” things do change. It’s not just  that you physically chair the Board meetings, suddenly you realise that the buck does stop with you. Your signature on official minutes/documentation is the stamp that you have ensured that all the activities the Association has undertaken and is planning have been reviewed with  due diligence and and are carried out to ensure the good standing and continued appropriate development of the Association and the support it provides to,  primarily our membership, but also the wider community that ALT encompasses. 

That said, the additional time commitment and involvement that the role of Chair requires, does have many positive aspects. Not least is the closer working relationship you have with the ALT staff, and in particular the CEO and CIO.  As well as chairing meetings, you are also responsible for senior staff appraisal and development. I have found this aspect of the role particularly rewarding as you get the opportunity to support the development and leadership of the staff.  The past three years have brought a consistency to this process that was lacking before when the Chair changed annually. Support for senior staff such as CEOs and CIOs is vital, if often hidden in many organisations. Being able to develop a much deeper understanding of that role and the support that it requires is a core  part of the role of the Chair. This process has also allowed me to understand more fully the workings of all our the core ALT staff team and hopefully enhance the wider duty of care of the Chair and the Board in relation to staff wellbeing. ALT has a very small core, virtually distributed team so ensuring that everyone is working effectively together is really important to the continued development of the activities and strategic objectives of the organisation.  

I have been fortunate that I have been able to give the time to the role that it requires.  Whilst working at GCU. I never had any issues around getting time to go to meetings and I am grateful for that departmental and in turn institutional support.  If you want to be an effective Chair, you need to ensure that you can give the role the time that it deserves and requires. It’s not too onerous, but you need to ensure that you can balance it with your other commitments.  If your diary is already jammed with meetings, then this is possibly not the role for you at the moment.  

ALT is now an established independent, virtually distributed organisation with a growing membership and community. Our activities are recognised at national and international levels. This is a really exciting time to become part of ensuring the delivery of our new strategy, and taking the association to its next level. 

Martin Weller, President
Serving as a Trustee since September 2015

I served as Vice-Chair and then Chair for 2 years. Previously, I had been slightly on the periphery of the ALT community, and it was an excellent way of getting to know how it operated, and the range of services it offered. Since then I have been President for 3 years and have seen the organisation continue to flourish and adapt. It’s professionally rewarding in a number of ways. First, it is an effective means of expanding your network with people across the sector. Second, it helps keep you abreast of so many different developments in learning technology. Third, it is an invaluable experience in working within an organisation that is always reviewing and reflecting on how it operates. I have taken many practices from ALT into my own organisation.

But most of all, I would stress that it is a very enjoyable role and experience. The Trustees and team all bring expertise and commitment to the organisation. The value of ALT to its members is apparent in the feedback we receive and in the amount of commitment they show in running interest groups. There are few things in one’s career that are fun, rewarding and stimulating. I would recommend anyone who wants to be part of a dynamic, innovative organisation and work with a highly collegial group to apply. Sheila has outlined the changes that have taken place at ALT very well, and I agree completely that it is a role that makes me smile. 

If you are interested in finding out more, please have a look at the ALT website for the full information. The deadline for applications is 14 February 2020. 

Further Information

There are further opportunities to get involved with ALT and take an active part in our governance, including elections to the Board of Trustees and joining the ALT Assembly. See

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