Cinzia Pusceddu is an Academic Liaison Officer (Technology Manager) at the University of Edinburgh's School of Engineering. As part of our blog series exploring alternative careers, Cinzia discusses why law students might want to consider a career in Educational Technology.
I would like to share my experience with law students on building a career in digital education and then incorporating some social justice elements in my role at the University of Edinburgh. Law students develop a wide skills-base and many alternative careers are accessible to them, and I hope that I can help students and graduates to see that their competences can be extremely valuable in the digital education field.
While my background, career and expertise have nothing to do with law, over the past three years I have gradually developed such a keen interest in social justice that I am now taking a proactive approach to integrate this theme in my role and broaden my knowledge in this field.
What is EdTech?
EdTech is about collaborating with academic staff to help them integrate technology to improve the quality, value and extent of their teaching. EdTech roles can vary considerably depending on the university requirements, but they generally require good technical skills combined with an understanding of teaching practice. People working in EdTech and Digital Education are also very keen to learn and adapt continuously, and need to keep up-to-date on technical and teaching developments. With universities and schools switching to online teaching as a consequence of the pandemic, EdTech roles have become extremely important and in demand so it is a career field that is certainly growing.
How I developed a career in EdTech
After 15 years in university language teaching and research on applications of technology in the humanities, in 2015 I became more interested in university roles in EdTech.
Before changing career, I volunteered to some EdTech projects to ‘test the water”. It was not a huge departure from my teaching and research work, so I was able to soon find a role at the University of Manchester and build on previous experience, knowledge and skills, but I also attended all the relevant university and online workshop as part of my professional development to further my skills. In addition, I enrolled in the Master of Science (MSci) in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh to both learn about the theories and practice of digital education and interact, and communicate with peers with the same interest. The fact that the MSci was online added a hands-on experience of successful use of technology for teaching which I applied to my work. Within two years, I was able to find a permanent (and better paid!) position at the University of Edinburgh.
Required skills for applying for a role in EdTech
For entry-level roles, a Masters qualification is generally not required. Employers would hope to see evidence of some technical skills like video creation, animation and editing, alongside good communication skills. You could develop entry-level technical capabilities by doing a course or just learning independently. Training for more advanced technical skills would often be offered on-the-job. A lot of law students will find they have great transferable communication skills from a range of settings, like work experience.
To progress from entry-level EdTech positions, or start in a higher-paid job straightaway, then there are several masters or postgraduate qualifications available in the areas that are relevant dependent on your specific area of interest. For example, virtual reality or media creation, assessment or coding or even digital education in general for more research-oriented and pedagogy-focused skills.
Social justice in education
Over the last two years a combination of personal and professional reasons combined with epochal phenomenon like the pandemic and major political events in UK and USA made me more sensitive to themes of equality and justice. As a result, I started to proactively promote social justice in education through my role: I have joined a group that helps women to overcome hidden barriers by sharing resources and information via blogs; I have designed interactive activities to support the integration of foreign students; I am supporting academic staff to create extra-curricular activities to help students engage with the community. In addition, I hope I’ll be able to enrol in a MSc in Social Justice in September.
In conclusion, I think that law students’ competences in justice, fairness and equality would be extremely valuable in the field of educational technology. They could bring unique contribution in a variety of ways including supporting digital learning environments where the rights of everyone are respected, creating technical resources to improve conditions for disadvantaged students, promoting accessibility to technology, advocating protection of student data, contributing to educational policies on the issues of race, class, gender and sexuality and advancing ethical issues (student privacy).
My final 5 tips, based on my experience (they may not work for all!):
1. Build on your previous experience and knowledge
Everything you have done has taught you some useful skills! For instance working in a call centre makes you good at dealing with difficult people, which a desirable skill in many jobs.
2. Start gradually
You may not know if you really like the job you would like to do until you actually do it. So see what is like by volunteering or working part-time.
3. Learn about your career field
Online workshops and communities are a great way to learn and meet people in the field with whom you can share your thoughts and experience, and ask questions.
4. Invest time in professional development
Once you feel you would like to do the job, it’s great to deepen your knowledge with more formal learning and accreditations to help you progress in your career.
5. Be open and flexible
Throughout your career you may have to face some changes, because of personal growth or external circumstances. If so, try to embrace changes with curiosity and creativity: your job (and life) may become richer.
Some useful links
More information about Education Technology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educational_technology
To have an idea of what EdTech roles in UK universities entail, check jobs.ac.uk and search for “elearning”, “learning technologist”, “digital education”, “educational technology"
Social Justice in education: https://www.humanrightscareers.com/issues/what-is-social-justice-in-education/