Learning Designers as Digital Nomads

Will more higher ed people go permanently mobile?

March 5, 2018

This week I met a digital nomad learning designer.

Apparently, I totally missed the whole digital nomad thing.

A quick Google search on digital nomads brought up tons of articles.  There is a great February 2018 piece in the NYTimes Magazine called,  When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office.  A recent Outside Magazine piece is called Is the 'Digital Nomad' Life as Good as It Sounds?

Google gives 1,380,000 more results for “digital nomad”.  So apparently this is a thing.

If you are as clueless as I was about the digital nomad life, here is the quick and dirty summary.  Digital nomads, as you would expect, combine global travel with laptop mediated employment.  They work wherever they live, and live wherever they work.

Anyone who has gone full digital nomad does not have a permanent address, a lease, or a mortgage.  What they do have is the need to earn an income by working.  The digital nomad either works remotely for a single employer, or strings consulting and freelance jobs together in the digital gig economy.

The digital nomad life is such a thing that companies such as Roam have been started to cater to this creative wandering class.  Roam has live / work spaces in Bali, Miami, London and Tokyo - with more on the way.  For $500 a week you get a sparsely furnished private bedroom and bathroom, good WiFi, and access to a communal kitchen.  You also get a community of fellow remote workers and freelancers, all working together on their separate projects.

In many ways, the role of a learning designer seems perfect for the digital nomad lifestyle.

Once a personal / face-to-face relationship is established between a learning designer and an instructor, it seems to me that the work can continue from a distance.

A learning designer, particularly one working on online courses, can utilize the same tools to develop online courses as are used to teach the online course.  Collaboration can occur in the learning management system (LMS), and on the synchronous meeting platforms in which synchronous classes are run.

Quality learning designers are much in demand.  I’ve concluded some time ago that the critical component of building quality online, low-residency, or blended courses or programs is the presence of a learning designer.

Learning designers are the indispensable ingredient of new online programs.  Skimp on your investment in hiring learning designers, and the quality of the teaching experience will suffer for faculty, and the quality of the learning experience will suffer for students.

Learning designers are the new rock stars of higher education.  To recruit these learning designer rock stars we might have to shift how we think of hiring.

Maybe we should be more willing to bootstrap our learning designer hiring practices.  Bring learning designers on for projects where the revenues justify the cost of hiring.  And then we should be willing to work with this new cadre of digital nomad learning designers who may emerge on the scene.

Our institutions should become digital nomad learning designer friendly.  We should should view the digital nomad trend as an opportunity to expand the higher education talent pool.

Are you a learning designer who might embrace the digital nomad identity?

What about the digital nomad lifestyle for instructors teaching online courses?

Could you imagine having no fixed address, but a set of skills that are in demand in the new postsecondary knowledge economy?

Does the digital nomad lifestyle appeal to you?


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