We are looking for three new colleagues at work, one of them a learning developer and since I got first hand knowledge of what the job is like, I thought it’d be a good idea to share what I did last week. It may not have been a typical week in the life of a learning developer but you’ll get a flavour of things and may be tempted to come over and join the team. I did nearly a year and a half ago, and it’s worked pretty well for me.
I normally get to the office at around 8.30 am. I live in the city centre and I walk to work. (Yes, I’m still one those rare specimens in the Netherlands who prefer to walk rather than cycle). It takes me under 20 minutes at a leisurely pace, which means I can gather my thoughts en route and organise my day while being careful not to get run over (by a bike. Or two).
Last Monday started with a meeting in the library to finalise activities for our event as part of Open Education Week, followed by a ‘bila’ with learning developers’ coordinator Sofia –this is a one-to-one chat we all have every six weeks or so, a chance to run through plans, raise concerns or discuss whatever needs to be discussed at an individual level. It is, in my opinion, just as important as functioning as a team, which is what we do on a regular basis. After lunch I spent some time reviewing Circular Economy: An Introduction. This MOOC launched on Wednesday and is already in its 9th run; normally it wouldn’t require a lot of attention but since there was new content added, we decided to take a closer look and iron things out. That would have been me, the researcher who’s updating the course and the two new teaching assistants (TAs). These guys are students who get trained by us (and paid!) to do a variety of tasks, from building online courses directly in the platform to facilitating forum discussions, helping out with assessment and feedback, and so forth. After that, I had to deal with beta testers for Taming Big Data Streams: on the one side there were the practicalities of asking them to create an account on open edX so that I could give them access to the course; on the other, the more significant explaining what we were looking for from them, in this case feedback primarily on assignments: were the instructions clear, the timings correct, etc. My last meeting of the day was with outgoing Manager of Teaching and Learning Services Willem van Valkenburg: in moving to his new role as Director of the Extension School (that’s us by the way), he’s passed on to me some of his ‘open’ responsibilities and I’m the new open education process manager (but I’ll save this for another blog post).
On Tuesdays I’m on secondment to the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering. I joined them only two weeks ago and until August as educational adviser. They are revising their whole bachelor curriculum and intent on implementing a blended learning approach, so that’s where I come in. Together with José Hekkens, the faculty’s coordinator for online and blended education, we are devising a plan to support teachers in blending their courses. (There’s more but it’s best if I leave it for another blog post too).
On Wednesday I had a first meeting at 9 am with the course team that worked on Circular Economy for a Sustainable Built Environment. Having already evaluated the previous instructor-paced run and decided on improvements, we discussed plans for the second run of the MOOC –it should come out as a self-paced at the end of this month. They are also working on a new professional course from the Faculty of Architecture, Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment, a slightly bumpier road: we see often that teachers underestimate the amount of time and work that go into creating an online course; our estimate is that on average nine months go by between receiving approval of a proposal and launching a course, which means a realistic look at everyone’s calendars. And even then, there are always hiccups. What do we do? Assess the situation, be flexible, look for a solution and get on with it. And we are all in this together. We had plans to start Circular Building Products in May, now it’s more likely to be September. Fine. Let’s do it.
Next, it was the turn of Rethink the City: this is another re-run from Architecture but they have created a new module, they are not using all the content from the previous run, and the TA is also new so we sat together to run through her tasks, what she needed help with, and help her prioritise ahead of launch. I was supposed to meet with Udo, the team’s instructional designer, to take a look at the back end of a website in relation to a Dutch language course we are working on, but we were both busy with other stuff. We decided to leave it for another day (we are an open plan office so it is very easy to talk when you need someone rather than send an email and wait for an answer).
The morning of every second Thursday we learning developers get together for our course development process team meeting. What’s that about? Exactly what it says on the tin! Last Thursday we were joined for an update by a colleague from the New Media Centre. We have a close relationship with them as we collaborate in all matters visual (I like their motto ‘We look education straight in the eye’). There was also some sharing of experiences (or shall I say misadventures?) with open response assessments in edX, and plans to visit Wageningen learning developers, yay! After lunch, I had time to take part in our voluntary, daily 30 minutes Dutch chat, where we (try to) chat in Dutch about work: Nederlands is een moeilijke taal, and more difficult to use it in a work environment (ik ben onderwijs ontwikkelaar!). Ok, it’s true, you don’t need it, everyone speaks English but if you want to learn Dutch (and I do), you can, and the support is there for you.
On Friday a colleague from the Teaching Lab asked me whether I’d be able to talk to them about community management (and reminisce about GO-GN days). That’s now arranged for next week. I then spent most of the day in Architecture, with the same course team I met on Wednesday. They had been working on the story board of their course so we had a closer look at it together: did it all make sense? are we aligning learning objectives and assessment? are we asking learners to do too much? All the little things they need to be reminded of.
And then we (the office) went out for dinner! To celebrate St Valentine’s (not) –you see, it’s important to have fun too and that we do as often as we can.
So I’ve probably missed something but in any case, feel free to fill in the gaps with a thousand emails and two thousand quick chats to liaise with teachers, TAs, the team’s visual designer, the video publishing team, the Teaching Lab, communications, marketing… Did you see Willem’s response to Brandon’s tweet a while ago?
Learning developer is what we call them
— Willem van Valkenburg (@wfvanvalkenburg) December 20, 2019
Spot on! Would you like to come and work with us? I think you do 😉
If you think you got what it takes to fill Willem’s shoes, go to Manager Teaching and Learning Services (in Dutch).
Deadline: March 1st, 2020. Good luck! I hope to see you soon.