Becoming CMALT Certified

I’m happy to announce that I am CMALT certified. CMALT is a recognised accreditation delivered and assessed by the Association for Learning Technology. CMALT stands for Certified Membership of ALT and is aimed at Learning Technology professionals. In this blog post, I share my experience of becoming CMALT certified.

Why ALT? Why CMALT?

Over the past few years, I’ve made several attempts to grow my own professional network and find like-minded individuals to connect with. It hasn’t been an easy journey, I’ve ended up spending money on various memberships across different associations with very little payback. I think some of this perhaps comes down to several factors; not having much time to dedicate to networking, money, being a bit introverted when it comes to making professional connections and COVID. When I became an ALT associate the initial idea behind it was that it would perhaps open up networking opportunities. As I am often self-funded, money is also a factor when booking conferences. While ALT often runs a cheaper conference than many leading industry conferences, this year’s conference was in Manchester and I couldn’t justify the travel and hotel costs as I’ve got a couple of holidays coming up (which I need much more than a conference right now). I’ve attended several virtual conferences and I am hoping to attend some more in-person events in the near future.

I was drawn to the ALT for several other reasons; many of the individuals I follow on social media seemed to be CMALT certified, which is how I first became aware of the ALT (a quick google of what CMALT meant…). I’d also heard about ALT membership from my fellow university colleagues. I was interested in attending some of the webinars and conferences the ALT ran as they were aligned with my own interests. Being part of a professional body was an attractive prospect, especially as they are the leading professional body for learning technologists and those interested in the use and application of learning technology.

I was an associate member for a few years before deciding to become CMALT certified; I wanted to gain recognition for my continual professional development and to demonstrate my commitment to furthering my own knowledge in the area of learning technology. Part of the CMALT framework requires you to critically reflect on your experience and practice and I’d gained a lot of experience in the industry and thought it would be a good opportunity to think about the achievements I’d worked towards over the last few years. I also thought it might be a good opportunity to be able to share working best practices with others, although this hasn’t quite happened just yet. It’s also nice to be able to add some more letters after your name!

CMALT Framework and Process

The CMALT accreditation is portfolio-based; you can choose which format to best present your portfolio, but it must include evidence of your working practice, such as testimonials, reflective statements, screenshots etc. When you submit your portfolio it’s assessed by two assessors and feedback is provided. When you first submit, you’re either given a Pass, or a Referral, meaning further evidence is required.

The steps for becoming CMALT certified are based on a framework that aligns with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for teaching and supporting learning in Higher Education (HE). The portfolio criteria is split into 4 core areas:

  • Core area 1: Operational issues
  • Core area 2: Learning, teaching and assessments
  • Core area 3: The wider context
  • Core area 4: Communication and working with others

When putting together your portfolio, you are required to adhere and demonstrate CMALT values and principles:

  • A commitment to exploring and understanding the interplay between technology and
    learning.
  • A commitment to keep up to date with new technologies.
  • An empathy with and willingness to learn from colleagues from different backgrounds and
    specialist options.
  • A commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice.

It’s good to keep these principles and values in mind when writing up your reflections.

You do need to pay a fee to become CMALT certified and once you are certified it’s valid for 2 years (after this period, you are required to renew and update your portfolio). Please visit the ALT website for more information on the most up to date costs (you can find details at the end of this post).

My CMALT Experience

It took me nearly an entire year to become CMALT certified. I originally submitted my portfolio in September 2021 and was referred. I hadn’t quite hit all the criteria to pass and needed to make some adjustments. I worked on this for a few months and resubmitted it in February 2022. I was finally awarded a Pass in August 2022.

The hardest part of creating my portfolio was knowing what evidence to use and what experiences to reflect on. I’ve got experience in various industries that use learning technology but the HE college I am part of is very small compared to say, large universities. Whilst I had support from my managers in obtaining CMALT, I didn’t have any colleagues who had successfully completed their own portfolios. I was also self-funded and at the time couldn’t afford to attend a workshop, so I made sure to watch lots of webinar video recordings and read through the public CMALT portfolios of other individuals to see how they had achieved their accreditation. Luckily the guidelines were very informative and easy to follow.

I decided to publish my portfolio to WordPress and created an interactive workbook using the H5P plugin. I decided not to make my portfolio public, as some of my experiences were quite personal and the projects I had worked on were of a sensitive nature.

The feedback I received from my first submission was a bit mixed – I did feel that the assessors took a conflicting view of my portfolio, which made it hard to know how to adapt it to pass. The key area to why I hadn’t passed the first time was that I hadn’t been critical enough – which is actually a general weak area for me. I was advised to add information such as “What would you do differently if you had to do this again” to some of my reflections about project work, and how my practice relates to my current practice and the future. Overall, I needed to add deeper reflections and more critical detail and link more of my experiences to wider society e.g. how did the experience change teaching, learning and students.

I do wish the turnaround time for feedback had been a bit quicker, I did start to wonder whether my portfolio had got lost, but apparently, there are only a couple of submission windows a year and COVID has caused quite a backlog.

Industry relevancy

So if I am to be critical, I’m not sure how relevant this certification is outside of academia and higher education. The “Learning Technologist” role doesn’t really exist in industry – you’re either an instructional designer, learning designer, learning experience designer, learning developer etc etc etc…..I don’t believe the certification is very well known outside of academia – many of my contacts would raise an eyebrow and an “eh?” if I mentioned CMALT. I would say that CIPD or TAP certifications are more well known in L&D and equivalent learning technologist roles. While a CIPD and TAP are more expensive to achieve, there isn’t an expiry on the qualifications, so it may be more desirable to those wanting to achieve something that requires little in the terms of continual professional development. I should note here that the CMALT, TAP and CIPD are not really comparable (I don’t believe TAP is associated with a professional body), but when I worked in industry those were the “letters” that were often expressed as desirable when applying for jobs.

Summary

I did enjoy putting together my CMALT portfolio – I enjoyed using the H5P plugin as I’d not used it on WordPress before. I customised the colours to match the ALT website by tinkering with some of the CSS in the stylesheet. I enjoyed taking time out to think about my achievements and generally how my professional practice affects me, my colleagues and the students I support. Developing the CMALT portfolio was a very reflective experience. It’s only when I write these blog posts that I sit and reflect on the things I’ve learned and achieved, so the CMALT was a bit of a cathartic experience to reflect on the last few years of practice in higher education.

References

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