Understanding the way that technology influences and enables learning and teaching practice is a key part of professional development in the higher education sector. Each year we support a small group of colleagues from across the institution to work towards achieving Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). CMALT is a portfolio-based peer-reviewed accreditation, organised by the Association for Learning Technology, for which the University of York is an organisational member, that aims to foster an appreciation of the interplay between learning and technology and support educators and those involved in supporting education to learn from each other. Colleagues have undertaken writing a CMALT portfolio to reflect on their practice, allocate time to learning about a new aspect of technology-enhanced learning and to build up evidence of professional development for other accreditation such as FHEA and AFHEA (see the mapping of CMALT to the UKPSF).
Carmen Álvarez-Mayo, Associate Lecturer, LFA, is one of our first participants to achieve CMALT after completing her portfolio last year and discusses her experience of participating in our CMALT Portfolio Writing Group.
Experience of writing a CMALT portfolio
I’ve always been interested in learning and technology. During 2002 I did a full-time 9 month long course, a HNC, in Multimedia and after that, combining my teaching knowledge and experience, I started to develop free websites for Spanish learners.
I read some information about the CMALT accreditation in a Yorkshare E-learning newsletter and decided to approach the team to find out more about it. CMALT enables those whose work involves learning technology to have their experience and capabilities certified by peers, and demonstrate that they are taking a committed and serious approach to their professional development. The CMALT network was developed 10 years ago and it is used across education sectors in the UK and internationally to provide recognition for skills, experience and professional development in Learning Technology.
It seemed interesting and I thought it would be a good idea to join the University’s CMALT peer group, getting to know people from other departments and discussing our experiences using learning technology and applying technology to learning. I thought that it should be a very edifying experience, being able to establish links and share knowledge with colleagues from different backgrounds and with very diverse experiences. Moreover, it would allow me to continue my professional development, having my learning technology work and capabilities reviewed and certified by peers.
The group sessions run by the e-learning team were very well organised, really interesting and useful. Meeting colleagues from other departments, being able to hear about their experiences and discussing what we do and the different technology we use was engaging and inspiring. All CMALT portfolios must include a number of sections, and depending on your background, some of them can be rather daunting. For example, in my case, though I was familiar with some aspects of legislation, for example, regarding inclusivity and the Equality Act, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), intellectual property and copyright, the Wider Context was the section I found most challenging. It is very important to keep up with legislation, understanding that it needs to be adapted as technology changes, bringing on new challenges.
Working towards CMALT I’ve spent time reflecting on my own experience and practice, allowing me to explore and understand better the interplay between learning and technology. And now that I am a CMALT holder I think that I can keep up with technology better, being in touch with other CMALT holders through the ALT website and mail groups, sharing advice, good practice and experience across a wide range of fields.
How the Portfolio Writing Group works
The group is led by a member of the ELDT who has completed CMALT and assesses CMALT portfolios from other institutions. We start with a kick-off meeting that prompts you to plan out your portfolio and areas of development. Then, in each subsequent meeting we introduce one of the five sections of the CMALT portfolio, discussing in the group what practice might be best evidenced for that section and identifying ways to address any gaps in experience or knowledge. The final meeting is an opportunity to showcase your specialist area. During the meetings we encourage you to share practice with other participants and use the group as a sounding board to help you best explain and reflect on your work. The ELDT will help you review what you have written and cover any key concepts that you might not be aware of. The meetings are scheduled over four-to-six months, depending on the group’s requirements, but also to keep momentum going to support your portfolio writing.
Across the sector a wide range of people involved in learning and teaching have achieved CMALT accreditation, including lecturers, learning technologists, librarians and academic developers. If you would like to join our next group, please contact Dr Richard Walker (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register your interest. Application to CMALT has a small fee attached and you should arrange this with your line manager.