Well, it’s back to school for me.
I’ve just commenced study on a uni course I applied for (and was accepted to) last year – a Masters of Education (MEd) in Adult Education at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). It’s a two year Masters course that I will be doing part time over the next four years, externally (via distance education). This format suits me well – all the material and discussions take place online, and I get sent reading material and such; there’s no requirement to attend classes and such. Given how much I’m away, this is the only realistic way I could attempt such a course.
This is not a teaching course (despite what the course name and faculty might imply), rather it’s more designed to look at the issues and practicalities facing professional educators, education managers, and people whose responsibilities include managing skills in the workplace.
It fits very well with my current role, some would say I’m just a glorified teacher, but I’m not that at all. Sure, some aspects of what I do are essentially teaching – standing up in front of a room full of people and presenting new concepts and explaining how things work, then guiding them through tutorials and lab work. But that’s actually a relatively small part of my job – and will be even less so in coming years as we deliberately minimise the amount of this type of work we do.
Rather, I see my role at IBM as more of a “skills manager”. Fundamentally, my role is about helping to drive sales of IBM software through our channels organisation. I’m considered a technical-sales resource, but with a focus on selling through our business partners. Other than the direct assistance I give occasionally in helping to sell our products to the customers of our business partners, mostly I aim to not do the work myself, but rather, to ensure that the business partners themselves have the skills to be as self-sufficient as possible.
To that end, I work around a concept of skills management – whether that be identifying the skills that would be required to build a new practise around a technology or product set; directing technical staff towards particular resources to help them achieve their mission; building up knowledge of new product features, functionality and how to take it to market; or even just directly teaching someone how to perform a particular task.
It’s much more than just teaching, it’s also managing, consulting, partnering, mentoring, and quite importantly, listening to the needs of our business partners and what they actually require from us to help them succeed in their own marketplace.
This is the first formal education I’ve attempted since I finished uni nearly 10 years ago – and is a far different course to what I did back then. I started with a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Systems Engineering but then swapped to a Bachelor of Science in Mathematical and Computer Sciences (basically, I chose the wrong uni for the Engineering degree – but that’s another story). Throughout all the subjects I did at uni (and there were a LOT of them !), I seem to remember writing an essay only once. It was almost exclusively exam driven, with some technical reports and computer assignments as well.
This MEd course will be almost completely based on a series of essays. The first subject, the compulsory “Understanding Adult Education and Training” requires three essays answering a series of questions posed by the facilitator – the first around 1000-1500 words; the second, 2000-2500; and the third, 2500-3000 words. It’s quite fortunate for me that I’ve never been short of words, and have been quite competent at writing (unlike many of my technical colleagues). I even feel that writing this blog over the last 18 months has helped enormously in developing my writing skills – even if many of the entries are short and just linking to other information on the web. Even so, given my lack of experience in this area, it will be interesting to see whether I can convey my understanding of the subject to the lecturers in a way that keeps them happy.
Just to make things even more interesting, Leanne is actually undertaking the same course as I am ! It fits really well with her role as Clinical Nurse Educator too – so I’m sure she will get a lot out of it. (It was actually her idea – and she chose the course, I just decided after reading the synopsis that it sounded like something that could be interesting and useful to me, too). We will be doing the first couple of subjects together, but once we’ve got the basics out of the way, I suspect we will end up choosing differing subjects based on our own needs and interests. I’m kind of interested to see how Leanne approaches the topics, given our differing professional backgrounds and viewpoints on some of the topics.
Until then, we have our very own mini-study-group :D
I’m going to create a new category here for my blog, Master of Ed – and I’ll keep you posted about my experiences with the course.
I’d better start reading I guess – uni officially started this last Monday, and my first assignment is due on the 21st of March – so I’ve got a lot to do!