Using Real-World Experiences Gives Context to Applying Technology to a Business Environment
The place I find myself today in my professional life actually began way back when I was an undergraduate student. I decided to work at a bank to gain some experience. And even though I was a business major, I thought it would be a good idea to take computer classes.
Somehow, the timing of it all was just right. Banks were just starting to automate their processes-so I had the opportunity to apply technology processes I was learning in my computer classes to banking operations.
Twenty-one years and several bank mergers later, I still work for that same Fortune 500 banking institution-having risen through the ranks as a systems analyst, a manager, a director, and now as Vice President of Technology. My role involves everything from operations to technology to customer relationship management. My team is responsible for the private-label merchant card programs for hundreds of client companies-many of which are among the Fortune 1000.
Making the leap from technology professional to faculty member
I’ve been involved with technology for so many years-but I wanted something else to add value to what I’ve learned and done over that time. And teaching seemed to be the way for me to do that.
With an MBA in Marketing, and my pending Doctorate in Business Information Systems, I knew I had the academic background. And my Fortune 500 industry experience especially would be valuable because of the intricacy of the technologies involved, the varied roles I played, the immense scale of our systems, and the high-profile client companies my employer works with. I knew I had a lot to share.
The idea for teaching came early in my doctoral studies: I had a classmate who served on the faculty at a nearby University of Phoenix location. That idea became more vivid when I took an online class-it was a new way for me to experience technology. I figured since I’m on my laptop all the time, I could probably teach online as well. And teaching in a virtual classroom would be perfect for me with the unpredictable nature of my job.
So I reached out to University of Phoenix. I joined the School of Business online faculty almost a year ago, teaching Business Information Systems.
Adding richness to learning with real-world experience
I draw on my academic and professional experience when I post my weekly discussion question for my students. Because they’re inundated by data every day, they often have too much information to sort through to know what’s critical, how to interpret it and what to do with it. I engage them by asking crucial questions about the things they need to consider for their businesses—data backup, customer data protection, encryption, wireless security and privacy concerns, information storage and security, the list goes on.
I don’t ask for anything hypothetical because using real-world experiences gives context to the different environments we all work in every day. And that’s a key component of University of Phoenix instruction methods-basing learning on what’s going on in the real world. So I create an environment that enables them to draw upon each other’s actual experiences-whether it’s five years of experience or 25-because it adds richness to the learning environment. They get to share and listen to all the war stories and lessons learned; everyone gains something from each other. What’s interesting to me is that as I’m teaching each class, I can see the light bulbs flickering on in my students’ heads-even online-because they’re beginning to see the connection between how we use technology and how important it is to business.
Practicing what I teach
That’s what I like about being part of a practitioner faculty-I understand what I’m teaching firsthand, and I know how it’s applied in the real world. Sure, it’s important to have the necessary design and requirements documentation for an effective system, but it’s also important to get the customer’s input on how and why they’re going to use it. What the customer wants today in a system that’ll be delivered six months from now, may change. It’s critical to understand the participatory role the customer plays; system development can’t take place in a vacuum. And that doesn’t always come through in a purely academic context.
From a strictly academic approach, teaching is mostly theory-and it’s often explained in a way in which all the variables work together perfectly. In the real world, though, there is constant change, new rules and regulations that force practioners to alter course. Being a practitioner in the field in which I teach helps me understand those pressures and challenges as well as ways to improve quality-and I can convey that to my students.
Teaching becomes a learning experience
I think I learn as much from my students as they’re learning from me. For example, because many of my students don’t have a technology background, I make sure I don’t get too technical with my explanations-I analyze other ways to illustrate my point. I find myself communicating concepts in a more relevant way through examples and in lay terms that more students will relate to and better understand.
And that has found its way into my regular job. My faculty experience has made me more of a teacher at the office. I’ve learned to be more flexible in how I express things-even my correspondence has improved because my explanations are more concise and less technical.
I’m gaining a lot from my experience at University of Phoenix. I’m teaching people who are a lot like me-they have jobs or careers, families, other obligations-and for us, the online classroom is the perfect place to meet. They bring their own academic, professional and life experiences to our weekly topics that lend so much texture to the discussions. We learn from each other, adding context and meaning to what we do every day.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.