3 Economic Arguments for Alt-Ac Ed Tech Careers

Why consider an academic ed tech career rather than a traditional post-doc to tenure track gig? Economics.

April 29, 2013

Question: Why consider an academic ed tech career rather than a traditional post-doc to tenure track gig?

Answer: The economics.

The economics? What are these economics in which you speak?

Argument 1. Ed Tech Professionals Create Value:

Demand for a post-secondary education is elastic. Lower costs, improve quality, offer more convenience (or all three) and more people will "buy" our product. We need more educated citizens and workers, and our citizens and workers need more education. Ours is a good business to be in.

But it is very hard to lower costs, improve quality, or offer more convenience (or access). Productivity gains in higher education have been frustratingly difficult to come by. Integrating technology into the organization and delivery of post-secondary education services will provide the most viable path towards lowering costs, improving quality, and increasing access.   

How? Blended learning is the place to start. With a blended learning approach we can better utilize our expensive fixed assets (classrooms, labs, dorms, etc.), without sacrificing learning quality or faculty/student relationships. By bringing more students to our institutions we can spread the costs of education over more learners, lowering the per-student cost while developing new resources to invest in and improve our courses. Increased educational supply can also increase education demand, as costs (and tuition) goes down and quality goes up.

Creating quality blended courses requires the work of skilled and dedicated ed tech professionals. People trained in an academic discipline, with experience in teaching and faculty culture, will often adapt very well to an ed tech role. 

We speak the language of the faculty, we understand their concerns and pain points, and can effectively partner with faculty (and other colleagues such as librarians and media specialists), to efficiently develop blended (and online) courses and programs. These blended (and online) programs and courses can reach new students (say adult working professionals) as well as enable an increase in the number of students served in existing programs.

Argument 2. Demand for Ed Tech Positions Will Grow:

Every academic technology leader that I speak with across the higher ed world is looking to grow their ed tech team. Experienced learning designers and ed tech directors seem to be in short supply.   The rate limiting step to growing blended, online, and non-degree distance programs on campus is not a lack of lack of demand or capital, but the supply of ed tech people to develop and implement these projects.

How many learning designers do you have at your school?  How does that number compare to the number of faculty in a given department (pick your favorite), the number of librarians, or even the number of server administrators and network professionals.

I'm betting that compared to almost every other academic or professional position on campus that the numbers of learning designers, and other academic ed tech people, are relatively small.   And I bet the ones that you do have are extremely busy, with more work than they can possible keep up with.    

Our ability to develop and build new program will increasingly depend on the work of ed tech professionals, as these programs will invariably touch on some aspect of learning technology.  

 Argument 3: Ed Tech Sills are Transferrable to Other Domains - Which May Equal Better Long-Term Economic Security:

One of the most appealing aspects for alt-ac minded people to consider an ed tech path is that the traditional post-secondary campus may not be the only place in which to have an academic career.  I know a good number of PhD's who have decided to take their skills to publishers, education technology companies, and for-profit postsecondary institutions.

An ability to scope out and develop online courses, modules, content, and activities is a skill much in demand by anyone in the education services business.  Creating education can take many forms - it does not always have to happen in a classroom.   

Would you put yourself in the category of an ed tech alt-ac?


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