Adios UTS Science and Thank You
I started at UTS in 2015 as Learning Technologist for IML allocated to Science. Three months later, I applied for the position as Lecturer in Higher Education, Learning Design and I was successful. It was a three-year contract that I converted into a tenure position. In 2017, I was offered a permanent role at Sydney University at the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Peter Meier put a case to turn the learning designer positions as permanent.
It was a full-on five years at UTS Science, and I managed to complete my PhD part-time in record time, two years and three months with 11 publications. I merged my role as a Learning Designer with my PhD that was about digital media assignments to learn science content. It was relatively easy to convince subject coordinators to embed digital media assignments in their subjects. These type of assignments are aligned with the UTS Model of Learning: Integrated exposure to professional practice; Professional practice in a global workplace; and Research-inspired and integrated learning and the learning.futures initiative.
Everything started with a meeting with Ken Rodgers, one of the first academics at the Faculty of Science implemented digital media assignments in Pharmacology 2. Later on, I realised Peter Wang was also involved in the design of the digital media assignment. I merged my decade of experience creating digital media for a wide range of business and clients, with teaching and research interest. Working with Ken, we improved the digital media assignments developing a theoretical model, and we published the first paper at the American Journal of Educational Research in 2016, highlighting the success of the intervention. This evidence-based intervention was an inspiration to seek further and propose my PhD research project. I was lucky I got a scholarship offer at Sydney Uni, but Peter Meier convinced me to stay at UTS Science and became my supervisor. I also got a scholarship offer at UTS Science, but I declined as I was working full time and wanted to do the PhD part-time.
When I started my PhD in 2016, I already knew many Science academics, and it was easy to recruit the subjects for my research. Everything went so quick, and I worked extra hard non-stop 20 hours from Monday to Friday on top of my 35 hours and 20 hours over the weekend. I look back, and I don’t know how I make it happen. I guess not having a family to look after and the self-regulation and motivation I have helped. Also, the support from Peter, and two external co-supervisors, one from Western Sydney University (Dr Jose Hanham) and the second one from Macquarie (A/Prof. Panos Vlachopolous). Both of them are long-term friends, who told you could not have friends as co-supervisors? If you have the discipline and you are focused, the formula will work.
The digital media assignments was a successful intervention at the Faculty of Science but not for the publications or the research, because of my colleagues who believe in me and my ideas, and the support from Peter Meier to the innovation. Up to now, we have 16 subjects implemented digital media assignments at UTS Science and thousands of students completed digital media assignments. Digital media assignments are now ‘business as usual’ in our Faculty. It gave me a tremendous opportunity to teach and interact with students since 2015. The intervention went beyond UTS and reached other Australian universities (Notre Dame, Macquarie, Melbourne) and in Europe (the Complutense University of Madrid, University of Almeria and the University of Stavanger in Norway). I am planning to put the book together in 2022.
During my stay at UTS Science, I have been actively engaged with the educational technology community, presenting papers, workshops, and roundtables at national and international conferences. I heard comments of some of my colleagues telling me how lucky I was going overseas without understanding that having a paper peer-reviewed by international experts and accepted takes weeks of work and preparation for the presentation. As I was sitting within professional staff in an open plan, many of them did not realise I was an academic. Not until I start to hang my publications on my desk labelling ‘research outputs.’
Since I started my position at UTS, I published twelve journal papers, four industry magazine articles, twenty peer-review conference papers. For 2020, I submitted four journal papers and one peer-review conference paper. I am currently working on a list of five manuscripts for 2021.
I was successful in five small VC grants, and we won a couple of awards, one at EdMedia Conference in (2016) and ASCILITE Conference 2017 with Yvonne and Peter. Last year I won the best paper in STEM education at the Clute Conference in Dublin. Also, in 2017 the digital media team I lead won the UTS Citation Award. In 2018, I was invited to be a keynote speaker for the Nordic Edge Conference in Stavanger and presented to an audience of 800 Norwegian Educators. Then I have multiple invitations to present my research at Australian and Spanish universities. I am currently teaching online first year, first-semester Early Childhood students at the Complutense University of Madrid. I met them during my last holidays in Spain in September by a kind invitation of Professor Jose Maria Ruiz Ruiz, an expert in curriculum development and pre-service teaching competencies from Complutense University.
I put my application for Senior Lecturer in May 2018, and I got it. It was exciting to hear from Shirley Alexander over the phone saying congratulations. I finished my PhD in December 2018, and it took a year to get it, Dec 2019. Now I feel I am a ‘bulletproof academic’ with a PhD, publications and experience in teaching. The most valuable lesson that I learnt with the PhD was to be more patient. I was not new to research and, even with English as an Additional Language, I can write 8,000 words over a weekend. I must say, thanks Grammarly and my proofreader.
Due to unresolved team issues, I decided to resign from my position without having a job last November. I was lucky to secure three jobs at once, and I decided to take the opportunity and join the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologist as a learning designer. I will be producing online modules (CPD points), researching self-regulation and motivation, and embedding Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to train future ophthalmologist. I am planning to come back to academia within the next four years hopefully with more publications, grants and experience supervising students. I guess it is desirable to have industry experience. My new organisation values research and innovation, and I will have so much freedom to implement my initiatives.
Before I start my new role, I will go last minute ‘tour’ to Spain in a kind of holiday/business trip to networking and promoting my digital media research. I will be visiting universities in Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Granada, Sevilla and Madrid. I know it is winter but can’t wait to see some friends and research partners there. I feel a strong connection with the Spanish culture; I guess I have the genes.
I must say UTS Science academics, professional and technical staff are the best. I truly enjoyed every single meeting, every corridor conversation, many times sharing lunches, drinks, Xmas parties, and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work together. I believe I developed a strong relationship with my colleagues, and I know I will be working with some of you with the research we are conducting and possible coming back to teach digital media as guest lecturer.
I want to thank Peter Meier for his support during my stay at UTS Science, and the career advice he provided. I will always remember my expression: ‘Peter, do you have 5 minutes’ and ended up into an hour or more conversation. I want to thank Yvonne and Lucy for the great connection we had working together. I also want to thank everyone: academics, tutors, professional and technical staff and IML colleagues for making my stay at UTS an unforgettable experience.
I am closing a chapter in my life, and now it is time to have a work-life balance and keep building my dreams, always with a positive attitude in life. One last thing as a reflection: ‘Believe passionately in what you do, and never knowingly compromise your standards and values.’
Ladies and Gentlemen, it was a pleasure!
Dr Jorge Reyna
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