As the recipient of a weekly job notification email for higher education services of various kinds, I keep an eye on what jobs related to learning development and online learning are on offer. I pass along good opportunities through my twitter feed, and I like to comment on trends, issues and other points of interest here in the blog.
The most recent list includes an advert for “Online Learning Educators” from a prominent UK university. The university wants to create a brand new online course for an exciting new subject area. There are professors who will act as the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and directors of the course, but the university needs new staff to develop the courses.
The advert states:
You will play a leading role in developing a full online undergraduate-level course in [subject], working with a small team of academic and support staff to produce world-class content, assessments and learning outcomes for all students at the [university].
Specifically, you will: a) develop a new online course in [subject] that will be made available for all [university] students and that will provide a world-class online learning experience b) liaise with colleagues across the University to ensure content is delivered on time and that formal approvals at School, College and University are obtained on schedule c) work in tandem with one another to ensure complimentary course development d) work closely with the project leaders (Prof X and Prof Y), the steering group and other academic staff contributors, support staff, and IT to ensure that the content and student experience is exemplary e) coordinate review/testing of the course prior to official launch.
You will have experience in [subject] education and a passion for enhancing the student experience. You will have a strong track record in successful project delivery in the [subject] education area. You will have experience of development and delivery of [subject]-related training. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are also required.
In the interest of anonymity, I have left off the identifying details, but suffice it to say that we’re not talking intense specialisation here.
Instructional Designers (IDs) need to be experts in instructional design — which is a specialist area in its own right. Why are they also required to be experts in the specific subject matter of the course?
There are already SMEs to provide the raw content. This subject of this job advert is interdisciplinary with little or no need for highly specific technologies. Moreover, as the course is intended for the entire student population, it will be quite basic.
An experienced instructional designer will be flexible and knowledgeable about working with a wide variety of subject areas, but some fields, maths or music for example, require knowledge of specific apps to design the most effective and appropriate learning activities. A good network of instructional designers can help bridge gaps and share knowledge, while the SMEs themselves will be aware of the most widely used learning technologies in their own subject.
I can only conclude that either the project leaders are being unnecessarily anxious about the posts (and in danger of defeating their own aims), or they already have their chosen candidates in mind and the job advert is only there as the “transparency” smokescreen required of public sector hires.