A Baptism of fire

Prior to her university career this Unit Coordinator worked in the mining industry and was self employed. She describes her first weeks preparing a new unit as an academic. Her survival was assisted with support from her colleagues and her own resilience. More...

Prior to my university career I obtained qualifications in chemistry, worked in the mining industry and ran my own business interstate. My appointment here was to a temporary general staff position in what is now called the School of Business Management, and after several months I was employed on a permanent basis. Fortunately academic colleagues recognised my skills and I was identified as knowledgeable about accounting and information systems. I was then appointed as a tutor and two years later to an academic position.

On my appointment as an academic in late February, my new boss said, ‘We don’t have a course coordinator for the first year business information systems unit, can you look after it?’ I had three weeks to sort out the curriculum, find tutors and text books for 900 internal students and 350 external students. Because the previous coordinator left nothing behind, stepping into the role became a baptism of fire, a case of sink or swim, and felt scary. Fortunately, my previous experience as a general staff member ensured I was familiar with writing newspaper advertisements for tutoring staff, I understood how the School ran, while also retaining a strong rapport with staff, and I was familiar with the unit content.

Selecting tutors from among the 25 applications I received and my own contacts meant classes were quickly organised as I was happy to deliver the unit lectures. After choosing an appropriate text I scoured the internet for materials and relied on experienced colleagues to also contribute. My survival depended on accepting help from peers I respected, trusted, and who were willing to offer advice or correction as necessary. By working with others in a cohesive, supporting team I managed to coordinate the unit and survive.

The next year a similar situation arose when I coordinated our Masters course. I saw that the materials being used did not match the student syllabus and knew it required courage to tell others that the course needed redesigning or changes made to the course statements to align the documents. With support and assistance from my peers the changes were made for the benefit of our students. As a more experienced unit coordinator now, I still discuss ideas with colleagues regularly, especially around assessment issues. I encourage several valued external tutors to remain involved in our units for their own and the Schools’ benefit.

I also enjoy keeping up with changes in technology by trialling new software and working at the cutting edge. In recent times I also trialled our Learning Management System, teaching summer school units and our new course outline testing panel. I still enjoy teaching and finding out what works best for each student. I remain passionate about new courses, liaising with industry representatives to develop joint projects and teaching off shore

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