Start of the year reflections – including “Full stack instructional designers” (and ending my CMALT status)

New year, new reflections on professional status.

I travelled for work earlier this month, I think this was only the second international work trip in something like 8 years (when I was previously travelling internationally quite a lot). This absence of international work travel has been due to different factors, including different scope of roles, the covid pandemic closures, etc. However, being back in environments I have not seen for a while (airport lounges!) got me thinking about my personal profile again.

“Full stack”?

I have tended, for a decade or so, to think I am a fairly “generalist” L&D person – whilst I came into learning through libraries and eLearning I have moved away from those specialisms into more of a general L&D role. I have noticed of late a few references to “full stack” instructional designers – this seems to be an attempt at saying someone who does a bit of everything, not just a designer but working across ADDIE (the top Google result is to this Medium page from a few years back). Is this IDs looking to be seen as full L&D pros or something else?

The idea of “full stack”, as far as I know, is coming across from IT industry language:

A full stack web developer is a person who can develop both client and server software.

In addition to mastering HTML and CSS, he/she also knows how to:

  • Program a browser (like using JavaScript, jQuery, Angular, or Vue)
  • Program a server (like using PHP, ASP, Python, or Node)
  • Program a database (like using SQL, SQLite, or MongoDB)

I would personally say this does not really work in an ID context unless we mean “full stack” in terms of being a programmer of the systems and not just a user of GUIs to develop learning solutions.

Nonetheless an interesting development given that IT has taken the use of “information” from other domains/professions and we might now reach the point of maturity where IT terminology starts getting adopted in other areas (“Agile”, or at least “agile”, being an other term where this has been usurped outside pure-IT communities I guess).


Thinking about the “generalist” vs “full stack” vs “something else” language impacted on my decision not to renew my CMALT status as of the Jan 1st renewal date.

I was an early CMALT holder, number 53 I believe, having completed my portfolio and application when the CMALT list was just a doc on the ALT website Now it is a nice searchable interface and has effectively become the standard to achieve for UK learning technologists.

CMALT (and the other activities of the Association of Learning Technology) were important to me when working in Higher Ed. This all remained useful when I moved to working in more general L&D areas. However, I have not really engaged with ALT very much in the last few years (beyond completing some reviews of CMALT applications). Therefore, I opted against renewing as it seemed somewhat false to maintain my status when not really engaged in this community (albeit that this is in part a problem with ALT as the focus seems to have been too much on UK HEIs).

This is interesting as, like when chose to drop my Chartered status of CILIP (MCILIP) at the end of 2016, in can be seen as something of a epoch in my professional focus. However, I ended up working in a library service again after dropping MCILIP so who knows what the future will hold.

Author: iangardnergb

My name is Ian Gardner and I am interested in various topics that can be seen as related to learning, technology and information. To see what I am reading elsewhere, follow me on The Old Reader ( and/or Twitter (@iangardnergb).

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