This blog was originally posted on the former Higher Education Academy website.
Katie Stripe is e-learning technologist for the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London. After working in the Czech Republic as an English Language teacher Katie returned to the UK to complete a teaching diploma and gain qualified teacher status. She has been working at NHLI since 2013 first with MSc Preventive Cardiology and now in the department working on all MSc taught courses.
I finally received my HEA Fellowship just before Christmas last year but it was a tough road and I am not sure I would have managed it without the help and support of the Imperial College London EDU team. As a learning technologist, in fact in life generally, I have not taken the route of least resistance in my career. I am a teacher but I did that in a rather backwards way as well. Teaching English as a foreign language in Prague and in Brighton, completing my Diploma in teaching in the lifelong learning sector (DTLLS) as a distance learner while living in Prague then on returning to the UK hoping to step into teaching adult education literacy and numeracy I completely missed. I ended up working as language support at the University of Brighton and then sort of stumbled, slipped and fell into learning technologies.
That was five years ago and it couldn’t have worked out better. FHEA however was a challenge for me – I am passionate about education and I have done my time at the front of a classroom but that is no longer my bread and butter. Education however, is. Completing my Certified Membership of the Association of Learning Technologists (CMALT), a relatively young discipline with my membership number being 321, cemented my place in that community I still felt peripheral to higher education teaching even though it is a job I have been doing for years. I embarked on HEA fellowship as a way of proving to the wider community that I am more than just IT support for their virtual learning environment but that I am also an experienced, qualified and passionate educator.
My first submission was fine – but it was not enough to get my full Fellowship. There were challenges around actual teaching and assessment which I found hard to demonstrate in my role as I don’t ‘actually’ teach. Of course I do – just not in your traditional “stand in a room with a bunch of students” way. The process of rewriting the application led me on a journey of deconstructing my day-to-day and really looking for the pedagogy in it -which was always there but the process for me of unlocking that has made me a lot more confident in being able to state my pedagogical opinions with colleagues. What I learned about my role is that instructional design is a form of education delivery – I may not write the content, or even at times understand it, but the way that content is presented to students online is hugely important. The other revelation was about those students I was adamant I didn’t have, again, of course, I do.
The education teams that I work with on a daily basis become my students every time they phone me and ask for help and I have to make sure they are competent enough to do high stakes tasks such as online marking. That is a constant process of information delivery, formative assessment and evaluation it just doesn’t look like a lecture. If I am honest there were times when I was truly frustrated with how hard it was to get FHEA on a non-traditional pathway and while I think there could be more guidance for LT’s and the other education support staff who are playing an ever increasing role in HE, the journey of discovery for me was a good one and I think totally worth it.
Find out more about Fellowship.