Insights from Award-Winning Collaborators

By Jane Secker and Chris Morrison

This blog post is written jointly by Jane Secker and Chris Morrison who were highly commended in the ALT Awards in 2023 for Leadership in Digital Education. The award was in recognition of the work they did during the pandemic to provide support to the higher education community on copyright and online learning issues. This included establishing the ALT Copyright and Online Learning Special Interest Group and a webinar series which still runs to date. 

Jane and Chris research, write, present and muck around together and have successfully collaborated for over 10 years, following discovering (incidentally in a Brighton beach bar) their shared passion to make learning about copyright fun, empowering and engaging.  

They tell us…. 

Last year we were jointly presented with a ‘highly commended’ award for Leadership in Digital Education. We do many things as a collaborative venture, finding over 10 years ago that we had shared interests (copyright, Star Wars, libraries, music, doing what we can to make the world a better place). But we also discovered that we had complimentary skills and values. As set out in one of our favourite books, Thomas Shenk’s Powers of Two, many creative partnerships (Lennon & McCartney, Marie & Pierre Curie, Ant & Dec – ok maybe not Ant & Dec) prove that two heads really are better than one. In our particular mix of leadership, we combine one person’s tendency towards perfectionism (looking at you Chris) and counter that with the other’s drive to get things done, tick off an action and move onto the next thing (sound like anyone Jane?). But bring that together and you have some kind of magic…. Plus, for anyone who’s spent any time in our company, a lot of bickering! 

Leadership however has traditionally been seen as an individual endeavour – that leading is about one person’s ability to create a vision and to motivate a team. However, in this increasingly challenging and diverse world, we are seeing a growing recognition that one person cannot do everything, there simply isn’t the time. And of course, we all have blind spots that we need trusted colleagues and friends to help us with. Therefore, co-chairs can be a really effective way to lead an organisation and share the load, but also amplify your message and make sure you aren’t just reflecting your own personal preferences to the detriment of your team or community.  

We were honoured to receive the ALT Award for the work we did during the pandemic and since then. It felt like a real recognition of what we had achieved and it was wonderful to attend the Gala Dinner and be applauded by the digital education community.  

It’s a relatively simple process to write an application and you can self-nominate. The key thing is to think about the impact of your work. Writing reflective pieces like for AdvanceHE fellowship and CMALT where you have to document the impact of your work, can be great to draw upon. Remember it’s not all about metrics too, it’s about how your practice might be changing and supporting others. And the award was great to include on our CVs, shout about on LinkedIn and include in our respective promotion applications. It also led to us both getting a personal congratulations from Senior Managers at both our institutions.  

So, if you think you wouldn’t be eligible for the leadership award because you don’t fit the bill of a typical ‘leader’ think again. If you work in partnership with someone else, or create and share a vision for something in learning technology in a non-traditional way then don’t be constrained by your or other people’s previous thinking. We encourage you to apply for the ALT Awards 2024 and wish you luck.  

We are now open for entries until Tuesday 11 June 2024, and we welcome submissions from individuals and teams based anywhere in the world. The awards are free to enter. Learn More.

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