Technology-enhanced professional learning: Mapping out a new domain

Littlejohn, Allison and Margaryan, Anoush (2013). Technology-enhanced professional learning: Mapping out a new domain. In: Littlejohn, Allison and Margaryan, Anoush eds. Technology-enhanced professional learning: Processes, practices and tools. Abingdon: Routledge.



We live in an era where societal and technological changes are transforming the ways people work and learn. Deep, specialist knowledge is needed to find solutions to multifaceted problems. Society is facing complex issues on a global scale, including our growing requirements for energy, our need for improved healthcare and the effects of global warming. The knowledge required to solve each problem is increasingly distributed across a number of specialisms, rather than within a single role. Consequently, people with specific expertise collaborate around work problems in new forms of organisation. These three trends – the growth in specialisation, increased collaboration new forms of organisation – are bringing about an agile transformation, changing the ways in which people work.

Job roles are changing persistently and novel work practices are evolving continually to accommodate the development of specialist disciplines within broad fields. Systemic, new work practices are evolving, brought about by developments in technologies. Some of these work practices use technologies to assemble groups and networks of people to work on specific tasks. Some practices capitalise on the automation of tasks that are repetitive or complex and require computation. Other work practices exploit technologies to enable people to collaborate in radically new ways. Practices that were previously impossible are now possible. In many domains, it is now routine for people to collaborate across conventional geographic, disciplinary organisational, and sectoral boundaries

At the same time professional learning is becoming an increasingly critical dimension of work. Contemporary work practices require forms of professional learning that align with increased specialisation, new forms of organisation and agile transformation. Professional learning has to be continual: as people deal with constant changes in employment and work practices, they need to learn new knowledge to solve the new problems they face at work (Hager, 2004). Learning has to be personalised: as work becomes more specialised, each individual’s learning needs are bespoke. These learning needs are influenced by factors associated with work (environment, role, tasks, culture) and the learner’s personal dispositions (previous knowledge, skills, attitudes). Conventional forms of workplace learning, such as formal training, enable large numbers of people to reach a specific level of competency. However, these forms of learning are unlikely to meet the learning needs of professionals in contemporary work contexts. While learning a standard curriculum may be helpful for some (limited) work tasks, perpetual change at work means that set curricula are no longer an effective means of professional learning. Despite this shortcoming, established forms of professional learning have (largely) not taken advantage of the opportunities around how people collaborate to learn, how feedback can be exploited and the multiple ways in which people and resources can be brought together to enhance learning. Professional learning should be guided by a fundamental rethink of how it aligns with current trends and trajectories in work, technology and society in general.

The co-evolution of work, learning and technology is having a profound effect on society and on work, but is yet to have a significant impact on professional learning. One way forward in advancing professional learning is to integrate three critical dimensions - work practices, learning processes and technologies - within the single domain of ‘Technology-enhanced Professional Learning’ (TEPL).

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 51333
  • Item Type
  • Book Section
  • ISBN
  • 0-415-85409-1, 978-0-415-85409-2
  • Keywords
  • technology-enhanced learning; e-learning; professional learning; workplace learning
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Institute of Educational Technology (IET)
  • Depositing User
  • Allison Littlejohn