A group of people looking at laptops

How your skills can transition a learning development career into product development

by Matt Jenner, founder of Coursensu, the learning design platform

AuthorMatt Jenner, founder, Coursensu



This post collates insights from industry professionals who previously held positions in teaching and learning development roles and switched into EdTech product development. It encourages consideration of transferable skills for those who want to develop digital platforms and consider future career options in product development.

What is Product Development?

Product development takes a user centred approach to plan, develop, and optimise a digital platform throughout its lifecycle. A key position is Product Manager, a role that connects customers, stakeholders, and development teams. Their empathetic understanding of user needs enables them to define product direction, prioritise features, and ensure alignment with business goals. Typical responsibilities include research, managing the roadmap, and team collaboration to deliver an incrementally improving digital product.

How does someone become a Product Manager (PM)?

There’s no single career track, making the move easier with transferable skills. You’d join other PMs from different backgrounds which is great when dividing up product areas aligned to experience and enthusiasm.

‘Product management itself is a very broad field in terms of what that title means between different organisations. It’s not really a one size fits all kind of job’ says Andrew. He advises that this choice also means you can explore and decide what type of PM role you’re interested in, once your foot is in the door.

My Story

At University College London (UCL) I supported and started different digital platforms. Since then, I have led learning and product development teams with FutureLearn, PebblePad and now Coursensu. Like you, my career focuses on how people learn with suitable technologies, and it has provided numerous opportunities to work with people across the world. I have learned through my career how to adjust into new contexts, adapt ways of working and squiggle into different roles. It was never easy, but the same principle returned: If I’m being paid to learn and grow, then it’s good.

Transferable Skills

Switching into Product Management doesn’t have to mean compromises, you can change roles using transferable skills and experiences. ‘I hadn’t come across a Product Manager role before working in EdTech but when I looked at the skills it required I saw how transferable teaching skills were’ says Cassie.

A traditional learning and teaching background provides strong foundations for identifying needs, considering solutions, and managing stakeholders. Cassie reminds us that ‘technical skills can be learned’. ‘It’s a great move, EdTech requires so much specialist context that you will have coming from teaching, and there are lots of transferable skills between the two. Communication being the most obvious one’ advises Tavi.

Similarities and Differences

Cross Functional Collaboration

You already work with cross functional teams to deliver institutional projects. ‘Collaboration is a massive part of product management, you’re not the expert on most things’ says Matt. The overlap becomes clearer when you exercise this skill with projects or platforms you’re working on. Consider current relationships with technology suppliers for opportunities to collaborate which can be a gateway to advanced relationships, skills development, and career opportunities. ‘Collaboration is really missing, across organisations and beyond into product companies, but really important. There needs to be a willingness to change from all parties’ says Marta.

User Centric Mindset

Being connected to users; learners, educators, support, is vital to success. From research, discovery, testing, production, release, evaluation, iteration, all require a user centred mindset to drive real change. When combined with business goals, it wins over any decision maker and is central to a PM’s role.

Agile Methodologies

Universities are moving towards agile methodologies, an approach that is productive and highly visible in terms of outcomes. Breaking work down into smaller units reduces the risk of long term malalignment. Product teams avoid this, if you do too, you’ll be at home with agile methodologies. Agile is also a great way to work with cross domain knowledge experts. As with universities, you can grasp other’s expert domains, but you can’t be an expert. You gain that T shape: broad understanding and an expert in your own space.

Technical Development

Digital education teams regularly establish new technologies with trials, pilots, and centralising services. Integrating platforms, connecting data streams, or adding features to the Learning Management System (LMS) is all part of ensuring a coherent technology ecosystem. Working as a PM, you may be adding or connecting existing, new, or internal systems, but the aim remains similar. Our goal is to create a more refined user experience, to seamlessly connect data or services to help people get their job done.

Leadership and Management Experience

Stakeholder management and your experiences in working upwards will be critical. Your task now, and in the future is to understand assumptions, make informed decisions and ‘strengthen your voice against the HiPPO‘ says Matt. This leads to empowerment, enabling others and setting them up for success. The ethos of good EdTech lives in our roles too.

Why Switch?

Think about your current platforms, how much sway do you have? It should be high. ‘You’re the buyer, you have an agreement, you should have a lot more voice in how the roadmap is driven’ says Marta. ‘There’s a barrier between vendors and customers’ Matt says this shouldn’t be the case, ‘partnership should be more valued’. We should not live with bad tech because ‘terrible UX for teachers, makes a terrible experience for learners’ reminds Marta. You can use this to empower yourself to make changes.

Technology moves fast, and with so much happening. AI for example. It’s worth the reminder that ‘great things happen spontaneously and fast, teaching gave me an impression of missing out on new things, such as AI, and can see how jobs will be impacted’ says Inna. There are lots of ways to be part of change, this is only one.

Finally, if you’re contemplating stepping in, the first steps can feel hardest. ‘The dynamic nature of companies can be tough, but the right person can thrive in that space’ says Matt. So, you may want to look before you leap!

Curious to know more?

There are many fantastic resources about Product Management. Atlassian makes a solid start:

‘Ten years ago, when I was invited to apply for a product manager position at Atlassian, I didn’t know what product management was. This wasn’t unusual.’ Read more via Atlassian.


Mansour, S. (2022). Product Manager: The role & how to master it. Atlassian.

ProductPlan (2024). How to Defend Your Product Roadmap When HiPPOs Attack.

Image by Canva Studio, Pexels

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *