Look at me – I’m a student again!

This week, I am adding a new permutation to the patch-work of identities that make up my post-modern personality (yeah, that’s a long story for a different time). So, a bit less vague: I’m a student again. I’ve often missed a true intellectual challenge at work since breaking off my PhD 12 years ago. Not that work isn’t challenging, but having spent all my twenties being trained for an academic role that never materialised, I’ve missed the rigour and cognitive challenge of academia. Not that I envy my academic colleagues – the way higher education is now structured, I get away with doing a lot less administrative work than they do. It sounds crazy, but that’s where we are.

So why become a student now? Over the last few years, it has become clear to me that
a) I’m stuck in middle-management in my institution until I widen my portfolio and move away from just being cornered as the careers/employability guy;
b) practical experience gained in a range of HE management functions counts for little in HE when trying to make a case for a wider managerial remit than just the one you’ve been cornered into (see above);
c) I lack formal knowledge in some of these areas, even though I may have gained a lot of practical experience;
d) Like many of our institutional leaders in the sector, I’ve never studied in the post 92 UK system, and my pre-Bologna (and partically pre-WWW) German academic training won’t help me in the modern HE environment. It also gives me a chance to experience what our students experience.

As part of my last performance review I discussed with my manager what I would need to do to unblock my career – and brought forward the option of formal qualification. Having studied on PhD level years ago and in a completely different system didn’t equip me for the brave new word of defined learning outcomes, assessment strategies and master’s level indicators. So the key lesson was that I have to re-learn how to study. So it’s not only that the rules of academic study have changed a bit, it’s really a completely different environment.

So I’ve now signed up for an AUA Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice validated by the Open University, and delivered by the Association of Academic Administrators. I secured 75% funding from my employer, so it’s also payable. This arrangement leaves me to complete this mostly as work based learning, alongside my day job. It enables me to learn in my own time (and I’ve marked those two daily hours on the train), and gives me a chance to slowly engage with this new world of learning.

And here is where my curiousity really sparked: I constantly write about how technology changes the world of work, and I enjoy how it affects my personal life. I was aware of the way it affects and enables the modern learner, but I never engaged with it in that way. I know a bit of learning technology but not really very much about it. And this is what I’m almost most curious about, and the question I’m asking myself now the most is: how will my learning experience (as opposed to my student experience – that’s going to be something else) be different from the first time I gained my degree? There’s only one way to find out – and I’ll keep you updated.

April 28th, 2014 by