What’s this about?

I joined the University as an OCD about five years ago, and have worked since then in the central TEL section to provide first-line support for the University’s VLE. Having recently taken a 4-month secondment to the Faculty of Technology as a Senior Online Course Developer (OCD), I thought I’d take a moment to share the experience.


An OCD’s job here in the TEL section is quite varied and ‘bitty’, with a little less focus on big projects (Educational Technologists fulfill that role here). Skill-wise I’ve been using a variety of languages and tools (PHP, Javascript, MySQL etc) and various Office/content creation apps (Flash/Captivate/Articulate and the like).


Where are my units!?

The first thing that struck me was that I’d lost access to all units University wide. Whilst I had no mandate to work on units outside of the Technology faculty, I instantly missed being able to quickly find a given unit and check something out. I found myself having call TEL each and every time I ‘quickly’ needed to jump to a given unit to get something. This probably affected me in particular because I’ve worked on various non-standard Moodle sites across all faculties – but it does make me wonder whether all OCDs should have read access for all units? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if OCDs could see what their counterparts in other faculties are doing? It might help spread best practice (and perhaps even spur some friendly competition).

Hands tied

As a centrally based OCD I’m used to having various problems come my way, typically discover that a systemic problem is affecting other instances across whichever system, and then investigate and resolve. As a faculty OCD the process is simply to report it to central and then sit and wait. Most ironic was that it would have been myself picking these tasks to investigate in TEL. So I found myself being more cautious than I’d hoped with the suggestions and advice I gave to academics.

Missed opportunity

As the secondment was primarily out of necessity more than opportunity due to an expectedly reduced team, we didn’t really get the chance to work on anything major. We also had main exams on which had to take priority. I could see we were critically just one or two people short of a proper OCD team capable of looking after and running what is actually a surprisingly large department’s worth of units. Ultimately we had no real scope for proper project work and due to the focus on exams, we ended up as little more than curious extension to the CAM Office admin team! But this was more a product of the circumstances than the department itself.

Senior role differences

Whilst the actual increase of responsibility of the Senior role was relatively minor, it did entail a different way of thinking – I had always to try and think of the larger picture. It’s certainly a different style of working than writing code – and, with a small team under me, I found I was too frequently flipping between development and managerial work. As a result, this made me worse at both. Ideally, I’d have liked to delegate jobs and allow myself to better focus my time, but circumstances made this difficult.

Job perks

The Tech Admins apparently make the best cakes! I was fortunate enough to be able to not just witness, but both experience and actively participate in ‘Cake Day’:


Overall I appreciated my brief time as a faculty OCD, offering me a fresh perspective on things I’d seen differently from central. It certainly gave me a much better understanding of where Academics are coming from when they’re trying to build various activities in their units. Just because they’ve managed to put a given tool on a site, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily actually what they want!

It’s also made me question whether faculty OCDs should have read-only access across Moodle, so that everyone is aware of what’s going on around the University. To give just one example: our team was shocked when librarians came over and let us know that Technology was woefully, and exclusively, behind on managing our reading lists. This was news to us – no system had been set up to manage reading lists and so none of us had done it.

I’m grateful to have had this opportunity, as I’ve often pondered moving toward a more managerial role but never really wanted to commit to it. So a 4-month secondment was the perfect option.  In the end I’ve found I prefer the nature of the OCD role in central, as it best lends me the variety and flexibility of work that personally I find most rewarding.