1b: Technical knowledge and ability in the use of Learning Technology

Description and Evidence

This embedded Google Sheet divides all the software I regularly use in a professional setting into four separate tabs: Documents/Sharing, Web/EdTech, Media and Social. I have put all the applications that were new to me over the last four years in bold. These are only the key ones that I use at least reasonably regularly.

Detailed example: Microsoft PowerPoint

Qub icon, a red periodic table image Ulster icon, a bright blue periodic table image Heriot-Watt icon, a dark blue periodic table imageAs a developer I have always had access to industry-standard software such as Adobe, TechSmith and Articulate to create elearning resources. However, as a learning technologist/academic developer I strive to empower colleagues to utilise the institution wide platforms.

  • Utilising PowerPoint for multiple means outside of presentations; videos, animations, image editing, vector graphics, posters, infographics
  • Rethinking traditional presentations eg Pecha Kucha, Limerick etc
  • Students as Partners examples


Going into the pandemic, I wasn’t confident about being to help colleagues with Blackboard and Panopto video platform as I felt I had only learned the basics since joining Ulster. However, I quickly became aware that everyone in the team felt they had gaps or weaknesses in their knowledge and this gave me reassurance that I could go into any support drop-in session and immediately help when I could but then be able to direct anything outside of my knowledge to another team member. We also quickly began to put queries into our MS Teams area to get fast responses as well as share any new nugget with the whole team. I was amazed at how fast I became an expert in many areas and technologies in such as short time (CV2CV3).

A comment during one of my drop-in sessions hit home about the level of knowledge and experience that learning technologists possess; the academic had been given a module to teach in Blackboard in the coming weeks and did not even know what Blackboard WAS. In a moment of stress and exasperation they declared ‘that you need a degree in all this‘. It made me realise in an instant that whilst we do, we have degrees, accreditation and constantly learn and relearn aspects of learning technology but those who we support have minimal training in education technology (CV1).

Yet, in the face of the pandemic, academic staff were forced to shift their teaching spaces. Some had never utilised learning technology and needed to learn how to navigate the VLE, produce flipped video resources, conduct live webinars and more. Despite my high level of technical knowledge, it was crucial that I didn’t impose what I thought to be the most appropriate solution rather I had to step back and view the problem through the eyes of the person I was speaking to. I would check which technology they were most comfortable with and which technology they believed their students had the most confidence in. From this starting point we then worked together to ensure they were going into the online experience with the maximum amount of technical confidence possible.

In situations where the level of stress or the workload asked of colleagues, I would strategically take the decision to step in and bring my expertise in to help them directly other than supporting them to be autonomous. For example, I would choose to go to a live session to ensure that breakout rooms where set up and started, or I would edit and upload a video recording to the institutional system, Panopto or I would go into a module and set up Blackboard groups and allocate the students myself. This was a fine balancing act that I had to negotiate and required all of my emotional intelligence skills.

Hopefully, once things finally calm, then those in leadership can rethink how to change the approach to digital skills development to address the lack of general digital skills and literacies for all staff rather than enthusiasts. It is absolutely crucial that staff are given sufficient time to dedicate to these activities.

You are clearly doing outstanding work and are at the forefront in the area of digital learning and classroom technologies. There is clear and growing evidence of leadership and mentorship, and you are developing a very strong and deserved reputation as a leader in the field.“, Senior FHEA feedback

Going into the future as an academic,  I am concerned that I will lose some of my technical skills and knowledge as I am not working with systems directly or providing technical support to colleagues. This is something that I will need to be cognisant of and plan my own professional development to include some more technical development. However, as a researcher I also feel like I am beginning a journey with new systems such as Zotero referencing manager, NVivo qualitative analysis software and more and will be learning a new set of skills there and of course I will continue to utilise and champion PowerPoint as a powerful creative tool that all staff and students have access to (CV2). I also know that my strong knowledge and skills will enhance my teaching.

Really enjoyed your PP webinar. Have been a PP fan for ever, it is as you say an unsung and badly underutilised hero of HE. … Fortunately PP has moved on a bit but I agree the pedagogy and design hasn’t really. Maybe we need another project! Anyways, great to see someone else flying the flag.”, Feedback from ALT17 participant (CV2CV3, CV4)

1c Supporting the deployment of learning technologies >>