This is my final contribution to this series of posts where I have tried to share some of what I consider to be the key aspects of leadership in my role as Chair of ALT. You can read the other posts, here, here here and here.
My tenure of Chair comes to an end at the AGM on 24th June. This is slightly earlier that I had anticipated at the beginning of this year. Normally our AGMs occur during our annual conference in September, but of course due to the current global pandemic we have had to cancel all our face to face events for the rest of this year. Moving the AGM online and to an early date is another in a series of rapid changes ALT has had to adopt over the past few months.
However, this move could actually set another precedent for the AGM as it might actually make more sense to keep it decoupled from any conference/event, and run it online. We are hoping that it might actually be easier for more of our members to join online. And of course the AGM is open to all – not just our members.
When Martin Weller ( current President) and I wrote this blog post as part of the recruitment for the new Chair, we could never have anticipated the enormous changes the world has gone through in the last few months. However, as I say in our annual report which will formally be presented at the AGM, ALT has managed to negotiate these unprecedented times in, what I consider, a positive and agile way. I would love to say that this was all down to me and my leadership – but of course it’s not just down to me 😉 Our CEO Maren and our CIO Martin as well as all the core ALT staff have risen to the challenge of almost completely rewriting work plans and adapting core business in response the changing times.
One, if not the, key reasons they were able to do that successfully was due to the changes the organisation has gone through over the past three years. When I took over as Chair, ALT was in the process of changing its charitable status, its governance structure ( I am the first Chair to serve a 3 year, as opposed to 1 year term), and crucially becoming an independent, virtual, distributed organisation. ALT staff didn’t have to pivot to online – they were already there. No zoom revolution needed. The speed of decision making over the past three months has been rapid to say the least.
Our governance structures have allowed us to react in a timely, yet considered manner. Ensuring that the interests of our community are continued to be served and our finances are still in a positive position. That is no mean feat. The commitment of all our Trustees who have attended extra meetings in the midst of their own challenging and changing contexts has allowed us to ensure the stability of the Association and support our core staff. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to lead and work with all the Trustees during my time as Chair.
It has also been a pleasure and a privilege to work with all the ALT core staff – not just over the past three years but over the six years I have been on the Board. Maren and Martin are of course the faces most members know (and love), but they are supported by Jane, Fiona, Debbie, Emma Jane and Jane (currently on maternity leave). They really are a great team. One of the things I was really keen to during my time as Chair was to connect the Board and the staff more, so there wasn’t a such a gulf between “the Board” and “the staff”. As I see it, we are all part of the core team and I have particularly enjoyed joining team meetings. Once again I want to thank all the ALT staff I have worked with over the past three years.
It’s hard, actually almost impossible, to pick highlights from the past three years, there have been so many. But the 2018 Annual conference which marked the 25th anniversary of the Association was special as I was one of the co-chairs and we took the opportunity to focus in on ALT itself a bit more. However, every ALT conference is special each one holds a special place for me. I remember going to my first ALT conference (a long, long time ago now); it never crossed my mind that I would ever be on a stage as a co-chair of an ALT conference or indeed be the Chair of the Association – just shows you kids – dreams can come true! Over the past few years, being able to present new CMALT holders with their certificates at the conference has also been a highlight. It’s great to see so many people taking the time to get professional recognition for their work and of course, become part of the CMALT community as well as the wider ALT community too.
The ALT values are very dear to me, particularly community. ALT is, and always has, been more than the sum of its parts. If I leave any legacy I would like it to be that clear focus community. Without our community we are nothing. If it’s not clear how what we do serves our community we shouldn’t be doing it. Of course sustaining and growing a community is a constant challenge – particularly when you have a such a diverse membership as we do in ALT.
However, our steadily growing membership over the past 3 years is testament to our focus on supporting the needs of our community by the work of our core ALT team, and of course all voluntary work the members who run and contribute to our range of special interest groups ALT supports.
Over the past 3 years I believe our communication about what we do continues to improve. The launch of the 2017 – 2020 Impact Report earlier this year was a particularly highlight for me as I believe it so clearly illustrated the huge range of work ALT has supported over the past 3 years, and the robustness of our last strategy. I hope this is the first of many such reports.
Although we have a diverse community in the sense of the range of job descriptions our members hold, we of course can do much more to support wider diversity and equality. We are making inroads, but there is a still a way to go. I am acutely aware of how our membership reflects the imbalance of ethnicity and gender that is prevalent across the UK eduction sector – particularly HE. I believe that ALT community is an inclusive one, and has a place for everyone involved in promoting the use and impact of learning technology. I also know that it is easy for me to say that from my position of white privilege. That said, I do believe that the work ALT does to support open education, research and reflective professional development does provide multiple platforms for our community to critically reflect on its context and, help to promote and support increasing diversity and inclusion. If there is more we can do or a different way we can do things, then there is an open door to anyone with ideas.
So as I end my time as Chair, I am very optimistic about the future of ALT. The sense of community has shone through over the past few months, with so many resources and so much advice being shared openly. We were able to rapidly provide spaces for much needed community support in a time of confusion and crisis for all.
So whilst I’m obviously a bit sad about leaving the role which has been such a large part of my life for the past 3 years I do feel it is a good time for me to hand over to someone else. I have no doubt that the incoming Chair, Helen O’Sullivan will be able to lead the Association and bring so much of her experience and knowledge to the role as ALT implements its new new strategy. I know Helen is committed to our community and all of our core values, and will be supported by a very able Board.
A key part of leadership is knowing when to move on, and feeling confident about doing that – which I do. Of course I won’t be disappearing completely, I will still be an active member of the ALT community – particularly, as part of the ALT Scotland team, and as a CMALT assessor.
I have always felt a huge sense of privilege and gratitude to the ALT community, firstly for voting me onto the Board and then for supporting my nomination as Chair. I hope over the last three years, that trust in me and my leadership has been fulfilled. It’s been an amazing experience. To paraphrase the words of Benny and Bjorn; I’m nothing special, but leading ALT has been one of the most special and rewarding experiences of my professional life. So thank you for the music ALT, and so, so much more.