The Liberal Arts of Ed Tech

This post is a mash note to all my colleagues with ed tech jobs and liberal arts backgrounds. 

April 22, 2013

This post is a mash note to all my colleagues with ed tech jobs and liberal arts backgrounds.   

Are you part of this club? Were you a history major, a sociology grad student? (Yes and yes for yours truly). Did you concentrate in English with a minor in Women's Studies? Linguistics or literature, philosophy or political science?   

And have you found that your liberal arts undergraduate or graduate background has led you to ed tech? Perhaps a learning designer, application administrator, educational technologist, or support professional?  

Yesterday it was lit theory, today it is learning theory. Once you discussed Jane Austen, today you are up to speed on educational iPad apps. From linguistics to the LMS, the Great Books to Google Apps.

The thing is - you are not alone. The liberal arts tribe of ed techies is growing. Why could this be so?  

As in most things in life, the answer has to do with supply and demand.


More of us liberal arts natives have migrated to the world of ed tech because our skills are a good fit for the place that learning intersects with technology. Ed tech has always been more about education than technology. Technology is the lever, the tool, the means - education is the ends.   

We dig technology because technologies open doors. We might complain about the limitations and siloed nature of the LMS, but we realize that building a course in a learning management system is an opportunity to re-think what a course should be. Assisting faculty to develop a blended or online course is an opportunity to think about how learning works.

15 years ago (when I started in the ed tech world) we needed to know how to develop websites, code in html, and maybe run a server to work in ed tech. Today the platforms have been commoditized and the authoring is WYSIWYG. We still have data centers and servers, but our applications are increasingly cloud based and rented.   

A liberal arts degree works well if your job requires more communication and less coding. Lots of time giving presentations and listening to the needs of our faculty colleagues, less time at the command line. Ed tech professionals are generalists by necessity, able to communicate with a wide range of subject matter experts in our quest to help create better learning environments.    

We may not rely on the specific knowledge gained through our studies, but we are curious about what you know. A liberal arts degree is terrific preparation for the diverse requirements of today's ed tech professional.


The supply of liberal arts graduate with a desire to work in higher education has grown apace the demand for people with good listening, writing, communication, and presentation skills.

There are simply too few tenure track teaching spots available for people who want to make a life in the academe. And the academically minded are not limited to the terminally degreed.  

A good supply of talented people willing to learn new skills for the privilege of employment in the post-secondary secondary has been a boon to our colleges and universities. As the demand for ed tech tasks has increased with the growth of online and blended learning we have been able to draw on a talent pool of professionals prepared to evolve their skills.   

The liberal artsification (is that even a word?) of ed tech is one of the big higher ed stories of the past couple of decades that has largely gone unnoticed and un-commented on.  

But look around you.   

Can you spot the liberal arts major?


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