This month Carol Miles, Senior Curriculum Management Architect with Blackboard, shares her theory that curriculum management is the last frontier of the higher education sector, being one of the final areas to be digitised. She also reflects on her many years of working across the globe with other educators and how this has influenced her view on approaching problems in a creative way.
Q: How did you find yourself working in the EdTech sector, was it always an area of interest?
I came up the technology route initially as a programmer and then analyst, however, I have been in the teaching and learning area within colleges and universities ever since. Most recently, I was the business owner of the virtual learning environment at the University of Newcastle and a client of Blackboard and there are certainly benefits to understanding what it’s like on both sides of the fence! I can’t say that teaching and learning was always on my radar but as with many careers, they sometimes develop organically. I’m a firm believer that university teaching is one of the best jobs in the world and whilst we need to support our students in their success, we also need to support our university teachers through good curriculum design and management so they can improve their teaching skills. In my mind, teaching and learning centres within a university are responsible for the health and happiness of academics as teachers, not just as researchers and if we can do with the aid of technology then we are the right path to success.
Q: What are you most looking forward to in your role at Blackboard?
Working with our clients and their different systems, looking at how they operate and if there are more efficient or effective ways they could be working, particularly around authentic assessment. I’ve been known over the years to stand on my authentic assessment soapbox; I truly believe assessment needs to be real-world based and not the academic essay that gets you through your university degree. Those in the teaching world have always known about learning outcomes and now the rest of the world is starting to hear more about this term and what it means for students. I’m looking forward to further connecting with our clients and helping them build the best curriculum management system for their institution.
Q: What motivates you and how do you define success?
Having worked in the field of teaching and learning for many years, I truly enjoy seeing the success of teachers and others in higher education. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have worked across the globe and it’s fulfilling to see the adaptability of teachers operating in different cultures, particularly when they may be lacking resources or having to engage different teaching styles. It’s creative problem solving at its best.
Q: What do you most enjoy about working with technology in the field of education?
In my mind curriculum management is the last frontier. The driving force to secure that single source of truth across the curriculum is seeing institutions having to reimagine the systems they have in place. We have digitised every other part of our university environment and to be involved in one of the last areas to benefit from technology is an interesting and challenging experience.
Q: How can universities, professional organisations and companies work together to empower women pursuing a career in STEM?
Females across the globe are being encouraged to pursue a career in STEM, yet we are still seeing the number of girls going into these fields lagging behind males. While we are getting better at promoting the idea of STEM for females, perhaps attention needs to be given to the content within STEM courses and how it’s delivered at the tertiary education level. Women are generally quite social beings; they tend to be drawn to careers where there is a social or creative element. STEM in the traditional sense does not necessarily meet these criteria, however this is changing, and we need to adapt to ensure we are attracting females to these fields. If we look at gender in gaming, it’s widely reported that boys engage in this pastime more than females, yet Pokemon Go experienced huge success with girls, likely due to the social interactions encouraged by the game. Programs offered in the area of Biomedical Engineering are being reported to be attracting more female than male students at some institutions. We need to think outside the traditional STEM box and reimagine what STEM encompasses once we do this, we will hopefully see more females studying and working in these areas.
Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received?
When things go pear shaped or get complicated, I’ve always said to my management team that if everything worked out the way it was planned, we wouldn’t need management. I truly believe in this and have offered this advice to many others over the years.
Q: What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career to date and what would you like to see in the next ten years?
The internet has obviously changed everything we do on that day-to-day level and the nano-sizing of storage for mobile technology has also been a game changer. For the higher education sector, I believe a significant technological change has been social media. In the broader sense, it has created an open world of communication and with this, the establishment of networks of people has made that world so much smaller. Today’s students are incredibly savvy, they know how to navigate business social platforms such as LinkedIn well before they’ve graduated and are developing connections they can benefit from during their studies and as they move into their careers.
Q: The last twelve months have been difficult for everyone across the globe, what do you see for the EdTech sector in 2021?
For the previous few years, universities have been carefully trying to determine the correct mix of face-to-face, blended and fully-online programming to offer students. The past 12 months has given us a trial by fire in the area of online learning, and I hold a strong conviction that the lessons learned from this will allow the sector to thrive as we move further into 2021, having had the opportunity to experiment with online delivery in ways we would never had dared before the events of 2020.
Q: Is there a book, movie or podcast that you’ve found inspiring and would recommend?
This will definitely date me but my earliest and most powerful influence was Tom Peters’ book and video “In Search of Excellence” followed by “A Passion for Excellence”. I was so inspired by these that I incorporated sections of both into the Introduction to Business courses that I was teaching at the beginning of my career. The no-nonsense but powerful anecdotes relating to the value of exceptional customer service has guided my work over the years, and I have often recounted Peters’ s example that “if a customer sees a stain on an airplane’s flip-down tray, they will make an assumption that the engine maintenance has not been completed correctly.” That pretty much sums up my philosophy on customer service.