In the New Year, the University of Birmingham hosted module one of the next Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching programme. It provided the live case study on a real-life project for collaboration with higher education colleagues from other institutions. Professor Nicola Wilkin, Director of Education at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham, tells Advance HE more about her work and the project itself.
Q1. Briefly, what was your career path which has brought you to your current position?
I am a theoretical physicist and have always found ‘How can I make the learning experience better?’ an interesting and challenging question. I gained my PhD from the University of Manchester, working on vortex crossing in superconductors. After postdoctoral positions at the University of Sheffield and Imperial College I became a member of staff at the University of Birmingham.
Q2. What do you do in your current role?
I’m Director of Education for Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham. I have strategic oversight for 5,000 students across the disciplines. I work with the student cohorts to improve their experience at university, for instance in curriculum reform; and more widely in enhancing the extra curricula offering in partnership with employers. Alongside this, the university education team co-ordinates university-wide reforms. Currently we are mapping out the required changes and novel opportunities of our new academic teaching year.
Q3. What would you say is special about the education your faculty offers?
We work to ensure that our students are valued as individuals and feel a part of a community where their contribution counts. Through both optional modules and extra-curricular opportunities (e.g. internships in Quantum Technology and EdTech) students create an academic pathway that fits them - whilst also achieving an accredited qualification.
Q4. Which teaching and learning transformation project are you most proud of delivering and why?
The early stages of the one we will present at the programme. What started as extra materials for a single module is now delivered to across the college and beyond and relied upon in our courses in China and Dubai.
Q5. Birmingham is providing the live case study for the next Leading Transformation in Teaching and Learning programme. Why did you volunteer to take on this role?
I was fortunate to have participated in an earlier LTLT and the experience of working with such a diverse group of enthusiastic educators was incredibly useful ahead of my becoming Director of Education. I found the case study, and how to ‘deliver at scale’, for my cohort very helpful.
Q6. Can you share more details about the project that the participants will be hearing about and advising you on?
We’ll be looking at how to go to the next stage with our ‘Summer Spin Out’ - how do we engage more students with more projects, whilst retaining the leadership and team experience? How do we ensure that the materials we generate are inclusive? (This might at first seem an odd question for a technical discipline.) What other areas might this approach work in?
Q7. What will be the next steps afterwards?
We’ll be using the feedback to create the set up for next summer - maybe we’ll find some interested collaborators?
Application deadline for the next LTLT cohort is Friday 10 May. Apply now for our Leading Transformation in Learning and Teaching programme.