One of the first activities on the course has been to reflect on what it means to be an elearning professional. This was explored alongside the shared views of several of the course tutors.
I found it interesting firstly to reflect more broadly on what it means to be a professional and this led me back to my previous course where we looked at one aspect of learning, of participating in a community of practice (Wenger, 1998), where those new to a field learn the practice that defines the profession or community by being immersed within the profession e.g. nursing students learning alongside qualified professionals in a hospital setting.
This community perspective linked with comments from Gill Kirkup, “there’s something about membership of a community which acknowledges you as a professional” and she goes on to suggest this acknowledgement can be through an entry qualification, or other ways of acknowledging that what one does is at a standard and a level to be recognised as a good example of practice in the chosen field. I was also drawn to Robin Goodfellow’s comments on professionalism:
“When it comes to professionalism in this field I’d be inclined to make a distinction between ‘little p’ professionalism, which basically means knowing one’s job and doing it well . . .and ‘big P’ professionalism, which really means belonging to a particular kind of occupational club.”
He went on to develop the idea that ‘big P’ professionals have a responsibility, both towards their profession and those people on whose behalf they work and that in the context of education this is around a ‘commitment to learning for civilisation as well as personal development’.
I also identified with Gill Kirkup’s comments on specialism, “like most people in a career you work from being a kind of generalist towards being a specialist”, which led me to think about the need for expertise, knowledge and distinct skills and competencies to be accepted as a legitimate practitioner in a profession. These attributes become more focused as one progresses and conscious effort is no longer required for the everyday and less demanding tasks, and is thus engaged in the more demanding and strategic tasks within the profession.
In elearning, the actual acknowledgement of good practice is in many ways in its infancy and it is suggested that this course, and similar ones for those delivering education or training using technology, are one way of providing evidence of fitness to practice and an acknowledgement from this particular professional community.
Having reflected briefly on what it means to be a professional, and moving on to consider more specifically elearning as a profession and in particular being an elearning professional, I engaged with Chris Jones’ exploration of whether it really is a distinct profession ‘or simply an aspect of other professions’. Many people contribute to the field of elearning, eg. in the role of teacher or as an educational technologist, but is it necessary when related to delivering elearning that the professional should be identified as an elearning professional, rather than simply being an aspect of the 21st century teachers’ or educational technologist’s role? This is something I look forward to exploring further through the term of the course.
Finally, my preference as I embark on exploring these themes further is actually for the term ‘technology-enhanced’ learning for the field, rather than ‘elearning’. I also have a preference for the model of the profession as ‘an aspect of other professions’, where I see professionals coming from a variety of professions that contribute to the field of technology-enhanced learning, without the need to necessarily distinguish the professional specifically as an ‘elearning’ professional over a learning professional, or an ‘elearning’ technologist over an educational technologist.
Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.