Open Thinkering


Why I’m trying to make myself redundant.

cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr

(cc-by-nc-sa Kaptain Kobold @ Flickr)

A week tomorrow The Northumberland Church of England Academy opens its doors to students for the first time. As you’re probably aware by now, my role there is Director of E-Learning. I want to be in a position within three years whereby I’ve made myself redundant.

I’ve had the same conversation with a number of people. It usually centres around two basic questions:

  • What will you be doing as Director of E-Learning?
  • What’s the next step after this position?

The answer to the first should be easy, but it’s not. Whilst I’ve got a job description, things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as they appear on paper – as I’ve found out already! It’s also been written by someone who’s not an expert in the field, and therefore should be seen as a starting point to an evolving role. In the main, however, my priorities remain those I set out in my interview presentation:

  1. Attendance – providing for  ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning.
  2. Behaviour – ensuring accurate and up-to-date information flows freely between relevant parties to enable Academy spaces to be conducive to learning.
  3. Communication – allowing for every member of the Academy to be (potentially) accessible both synchronously and asynchronously at any time.
  4. Design – promoting best practices, workflows and – of course – Open Source Software.
  5. Engagement – making staff aware of the latest and greatest, as well as how older technologies can be fused with new ones in a pedagogically-sound way.

If I do my job properly, I should be akin to a Sherpa, guiding and leading the way for Academy staff and students. Communication is my main priority in the first instance, with Google Apps Education Edition and our Frog Learning Platform being the focus. Once these are being used adequately, the second stage is to promote best practices. In this respect, it’s all about the heuristics – something I’ve blogged about before.

The final stage is to ensure technologies are being used to engage students. You’d think I’d start there, wouldn’t you? But I reckon by getting staff enthusiastic about the tools I’m helping provide, this will rub off on the students and lead to engagement in any case. I’m of the opinion that we’re talking less than 5% of staff who will really need their hands holding. Peer learning and time-saving elements become valuable when you’ve got 400 members of staff to get around…

So in the meeting I’ve got next Wednesday where I’m to outline my vision for E-Learning at the Academy to the Teaching & Learning group, the above is pretty much what I’m going to say. I want to be redundant within three years. I want a culture of experimentation, collaboration and blending to take such hold that they don’t need a ‘Director of E-Learning’ any more. I see the role as being akin to that of the DVD recorder: it was a necessary step between VHS recorders and hard-disk based PVRs (like Sky+) but that’s all. I’d like to see aspects of the Director of E-Learning role to merge with those of the Director of Teaching & Learning and Director of Operations.

We come back, then, to the second question I’ve been asked several times – what will I do after this position? What will happen if I’m successful in making myself redundant? My answer: I don’t know. This position didn’t exist three years ago!

Are you trying to make yourself redundant? How/why? :-p

19 thoughts on “Why I’m trying to make myself redundant.

  1. Ever thought of starting your own company (and becoming a real Director as opposed to just using the misleading title – IMHO “Director” should never be used unless you are a Director as in the true accountable sense) and offering your services to your current employer – best approach for not needing a “director of e-learning” is not to have one in the first place; if a culture shange is needed develop internally and/or nurture with external experience.

    Go on, be brave, resign and offer your services for 6 months to accelerate this change rather than draw it out for 3 years…

      1. Cynicism is not your usual style, Doug!

        Consultants often work to fixed-term objectives which is what are suggesting.

        Oh, and Director of Chaos? Tom Peters is too eighties, isn’t he?

        It shouldn’t all be about change. How about Director of Innovation and Stability (and knowing the difference) ?

        I am sure you will still be having an impact in your job after next :-)

        1. Oh, ‘Director of Chaos’ comes from Peters, does it? Didn’t know.

          In my (albeit limited) experience, too many consultants are overpaid and ineffective. To be sure, I’ve come across some excellent ones, but I’d much rather be able to work alongside people day-by-day. :-)

  2. Hi Doug,

    Interesting question and very laudable aim. I am totally with you regarding your position on becoming a consultant….

    If I were a teacher in your new school I’d much rather you were Director of Leading-by-example than Director of Telling-people-what-to-do-because-I-know-better.

    Have you thought of leading an academic department after your 3 years and then move onto deputy headship. I think change is more likely to happen and stay happened if the person leading the change is involved more deeply than a here-today-gone-tomorrow consultant, who, by definition, is only able to offer a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Wouldn’t it be nicer if your new role, whatever that may be, involved keeping that light lit for the long term?

    1. Head of Dept. after Director of E-Learning? That would involve a pay cut! ;-)

      But seriously, I don’t think there’s a clear career path for what I want to do. And I’m fine with that!

      1. It’s not all about the money, is it Doug? ;-)

        Seriously, the fact that you aim to stay for the longer term and lead the change will mean a lot to all your new colleagues.

        After that, who knows? However much we like to predict the future, the fact is that we have no clue what it will bring. In the meantime, I’ll wish you good luck for in 3 years time!

        1. Well, it’s got to be *partly* about the money when it means my wife doesn’t
          have to work so she can bring up our kids!

          I’m certainly not saying that after 3 years it’s ‘sayonara’ to NCEA, just
          that I’ve got a 3-year plan after which hopefully my job will be done. :-)

  3. That’s a laudable aim Doug. I like your tactic of getting the staff enthusiastic first and hoping this will rub off on the students. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I can see it leading to a much more sustainable e-learning environment than getting the students to push possibly reluctant teachers into it.

    Good luck making yourself redundant!

  4. Come on, it’s a career move and nothing about being made “redundant”. Time and time again I’ve seen high profile e-learning positions be used for nothing more that a stepping stone in a career to deputy head, head etc. only for the e-learning initiative to fall back to business as usual.

    How much does this “Director” exercise cost the public purse?; far more that being a consultant for 6-12 months to instill the same change I’d imagine and far less sustainable?.

    Where does this money for this post actually come from?

    Real redundancy would be to become truly independent of the public funded system or acknowledge that a role of this nature is always going to be needed, after all there is always another Academy, school, college etc. to infect. Should be Becta’s role maybe but then they have failed because should they not be redundant by now!

    I don’t mean to knock your obvious enthusiasm, that’s great!, but “director” posts like this are just another public sector overhead? – real success of “e-learning” would be drastic improvements in results with ideally a lower budget else the “e” is just incurring additional cost. Real “e” success often results in redundancy which is sometimes good, yes, your post will be redundant but so will many of your colleagues if you do your job properly – but hopefully the students will benefit because that it all that matters here.

    1. I haven’t the time right now to respond to all of your points as I’m
      on the move, but wanted to make three points:

      1. The Academy involves 2,800+ learners of age 3-19 across 10 sites.
      I’m not sure you’re aware of that!

      2. I think therole you’re describing I that of ‘change agent’ – very
      different than my job description.

      3. I’ll still be teaching and the Academy has two sponsors, so the
      ‘cost to the public purse’ per annum is less than you’d think. The
      difference would probably buy you about 10 days of consultancy. I’m on
      the ground, in the SLT, and able to team-teach. All things I can’t say
      of consultants…

  5. John: I can understand some of your feeling about the job title but it is a common one in some leading schools as well as Academies … and don’t think of it in the traditional Board Director of a company, but person who has the job of giving a particular area some direction.

    It will involve set targets, planning development and growth, dealing with the variances that arise due to the successes and failures, making the decisions and then reporting back to the boss and other stakeholders.

    Erm … actually, not too different to a board director then who has been given a specific area of authority.

    Personally I don’t like the part of the title that say ‘eLearning’, but accept that this is a step change in many schools to ensure that the use of technology in learning needs a heck of a lot of change and training for staff and students and how they learn and work. I am also interested in the overlap of roles at the school with that of Director of T&L and Director of Operations …

    As for where you go on from here … 3 years as Director of eLearning, then 2 as Director of Innovation and you have reached year 5 of the Academy Dev Plan. And remember that it all has to fit around the Academy Development Plan …

  6. Doug, I think your ambition to make yourself redundant is extremely ambitious. I envy your situation if it really seems possible to enthuse enough members of staff in your school about the potential of eLearning in only 3 years. It doesn’t matter what your job is called, but at least your school has cottoned on to the need for a post of this sort. I’m afraid, despite lots of really exciting developments, we still don’t have anyone to take overall responsibility for the development of this vital area of learning and teaching. Perhaps our bottom up approach might be effective but I fear that, without sufficient expertise, we may be thrashing around in the dark and wasting valuable time. Good luck in your post. We will keep a weather eye on this blog and your other web presences for vital clues about the way forward.

  7. Interesting thoughts Doug.

    I once thought I would be redundant from my learning technology (lt) post in 2 years, including rewriting my job description into a temporary one, some reasons I am not (and why the description was not accepted):

    – Institutional changes.
    (No matter how much you may have a vision) budgets, institutional objectives, etc. will impact on the outcomes you can achieve.
    – Success.
    If you become valued and you are a success at embedding new ways of thinking there will always be a role in supporting new technologies, new ways of thinking, etc.
    – You remain the ‘expert’
    Even if people are trained or confident using Frog, etc. there will be a role for central support. If new staff are hired without consideration for LT skills then central support remains important for getting new staff ‘up to speed’.

    Probably other, better, reasons too that I cant think of at the mo.

    The ‘e-learning’ part would hopefully be lost though as you embed ‘e’ into being standard.

  8. I’m coming late to this but the title in the side bar caught my eye…

    To be honest I could care less about your job title – a rose by any other name and all that. However, I find myself more in agreement with Ian Gardner rather than most of the other commentators.

    I’m not sure that it’s possible, or desirable, to “make yourself redundant” in the way you describe. I’ll offer two brief reasons below but will happily expand if anyone cares enough to ask. :-) I’ll base both on your Sherpa analogy. Everest was first conquered (probably) in 1953 So clearly Sherpas are no longer necessary… stuff and nonsense of course. Sherpas are clearly still valued and necessary for all sorts of reasons, for example, new climbers will want to access their experience and experienced climbers will want to explore new routes with them.

    I think these two reasons transfer directly to your situation. New teachers (and learners) will benefit from your experience. First, you’ve been there before and can help them avoid pitfalls as well as helping to bail them out when difficulties arise. Second, the only universal constant is change. There are always new tools, new ideas, new approaches to be evaluated and discarded or adopted as appropriate. Even an experienced learning community will benefit from someone like yourself who will work with them and help them separate the wheat from the chaff.

    So will you be doing the same job in three years time? Probably not. But will you be redundant (as in unnecessary)? I doubt it!

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