The First Graduate of the Learning Futures Academy

The time has come… and I am on my way.

It is with a bank of enjoyable experiences and great memories that I exit my role as a Learning Technologist at the Beyond Distance Research Alliance. I very much intend stay involved in Beyond Distance’s activities and continue to contribute to the Blog (Lucky you!). Also, I depart Beyond Distance with the self-proclaimed title of the ‘First Graduate Learning Futures Academy’.

The Learning Futures Academy (LFA) is something you will certainly hear a lot about over the next few years, through the CALF and other Beyond Distance projects. The LFA is not a physical entity (yet!), but more an approach or state of mind. Therefore, as I move on to pastures new, although not that ‘new’ as I am still going to be with the University! I thought I’d take this opportunity to reflect on my experiences and LFA state of mind.

Going back three years when I joined Beyond Distance as a former Secondary level Physics teacher, with miniscule pedagogical knowledge and some experience of face-to-face teaching, but equipped with variety of ICT skills. However I since discovered, from my Beyond Distance experiences and LFA state of mind; it’s not skills you have. It is what you do with them that counts.


The most important thing that underpins the use of learning technologies is the process of putting ‘research into practice’. This – however – is an overused, and even abused, phrase. However it is fundamentally important to be successful in education and especially learning technology. The practice of converting Word Documents to PDFs, put them into a VLE and hey presto you’re doing e-learning … just doesn’t work.


To do e-learning effectively you need to engage learners in activities and this can only truly be achieved by using appropriate and innovative technologies. You could always start with a learning design that follows a tried and tested pedagogical model, which is informed by high quality research carried out at Beyond Distance. It is for this key reason that I will forever endeavour to keep my ties with Beyond Distance as they will continue to inform most things that I will be working on in my new role.


What about the technology, then … I hear you ask.


Even in the three years that I have been with Beyond Distance there has been a dramatic shift in technologies, not to mention the accompanying terminologies! When I arrived, the term Web 2.0 was the buzzword with new, whizz-bang technologies like Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts, and the challenge was to deploy them effectively. Within three years the term ‘Web 2.0’ has morphed into ‘Cloud Computing’ and the key skill that most crave has become managing personal data, learning and even friends/colleagues which are spread all over the web on a range of social networking sites and learning environments. The challenge is staying on top of all manner of accounts and services you are already using and keeping up with new and emerging technologies. The insider tip I can suggest is that you design, create and manage a Personalised Learning Environment for yourself. As Darth Vader said… ‘The Force is strong with this one’.


So there we go… three years in eight paragraphs. I promise that will be my last ‘looking-back’ blog post and from here on, I will only look to the future.


It was the philosopher Maximus Decimus Meridius (i.e. Russell Crowe in Gladiator, for the uninitiated) who said ‘what we do in life echoes in eternity’. And what I read from this is that we need to make our choices carefully and these can only be informed by experience. Also … shouting very loudly, helps!


And finally, here’s another gem from the legend that is Maximus, to help you on your way… ‘At my signal, unleash hell’!


Matthew Mobbs







Leave a comment


  1. bdra

     /  February 18, 2009

    Many thanks, Matthew. Some nice reflective observations from the First Graduate of the LFA ….. and some challenges to us all as e-learning practitioners about our individual and collective use of learning technology (or hopefully technologies in the plural!). In research mode, many of us are curious about what can be done differently or better through the use of newer (or even older) technologies. But when we enter the realms of teaching, the system constraints inevitably appear. Maybe the real lesson is the need to spot opportunities for small incremental changes in existing areas, as well as more (r)evolutionary ones in emerging areas.

    Roger Dence

  1. Do. Or do not… there is no try. Or is there? « Beyond Distance Research Alliance Blog

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