We Need (More) Research on Academic Tech Professionals

Looking for data on where educational technology professionals come from.

April 23, 2013

Commenting on my post The Liberal Arts of Ed Tech, Brian Reid asked:

"What evidence is there that the number of people coming from a liberal arts background into educational technology is growing? Is this in absolute numbers, relative numbers, or both?"

Good questions.

I have no idea about the answers.

Do you?

Where would you start to get answers to these questions?  EDUCAUSEECARThe Sloan Consortium?  Our own higher ed researchers?

Who would fund this type of research?

My hypothesis is that we are seeing a rapid growth of people on our campuses who identify as educators and who also work in technology.  A growing number of educational technologists and learning designers.    
I see a shift in priorities and budgets away from server administrators and even developers, and towards people tasked with developing blended and online courses.

Further, I think that the growth of positions in learning design and education technology is one important factor in a renewed focus and conversation on teaching and learning.

But I might be wrong.

These are observations colored by both my own limited visibility into the operations of colleges and universities, and my biases towards the learning and technology community.

The social scientist in me wants the data.

Is anyone studying the profession of educational technology within higher ed?

Some of the questions that I'd like to explore would include:


  • How many people identify themselves as working in academic or educational technology?
  • How do the numbers of people employed in academic or curricular technology compare to those working in administrative technology roles within a post-secondary setting?
  • How are higher ed technology staff distributed by job classification?
  • What is the distribution between people working for central IT organizations versus those working for individuals schools, departments or units?
  • What is the educational background of people who work in educational technology?  What are the differences in education and background across different technology professionals in higher ed?
  • What is the employment background of educational technologists and learning designers?  Are they coming from non-academic positions?
  • How do these levels of job classifications vary across institutional type?   Public and private?  Large research university to small teaching college?  Region? Selectivity? Tuition costs?  


  • How have employment patterns for technology related higher ed people changed over the past 5 or 10 years?
  • Which job classifications are growing?  Which are declining?
  • How are changing patterns of higher ed staff hiring reflected in budgets and spending?
  • How does employment for educational technology and learning design professionals compare to other non-faculty areas of higher ed, such as librarians (although some librarians have faculty appointments), development, admissions, communications etc. etc.?
  • What can we predict for future job growth in higher ed technology?

The answers to all these questions should matter to anyone concerned about the future of higher education.   

New paradigms such as MOOCs and flipped classrooms have captured our imagination, but the real work of transforming post-secondary teaching and learning will depend on partnerships between faculty, educational technologists, learning designers, librarians, and other education professionals.

The story of what comes next in higher education will at least partly be determined by the people working at the intersection of learning and technology.   

We should find ways to better understand this growing group of campus professionals.


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