Remote delivery article

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown that came into effect in March in the UK, Imperial College Business School had to unexpectedly shift all teaching and exams to remote delivery in just one week.

This meant a complete shift to remote delivery for our 13 Master’s programmes, Full-Time MBA, part-time Executive MBA and Weekend MBA. It doesn’t sound like an easy task, however, thanks to our award-winning Edtech Lab, we were already well positioned to succeed.

At the Business School, we have one of the biggest departmental EdTech teams in Europe. So we were able to not only pull this this transition off, but we were also uniquely positioned to deliver a robust learning experience to our students straight away.

So who are the Edtech Lab and why did we have an advantage in moving all classes online? How do students learn in this new environment? All these questions and more answered for you here.

Moving to remote delivery with the Edtech Lab

When we were no longer able to teach on campus, our Edtech Lab worked to quickly shift all of our teaching to remote delivery.

The Edtech Lab is a dedicated team of educational designers, developers, media producers and researchers, experienced in supporting our faculty to deliver high-quality online and blended postgraduate management education for the Business School.

They are currently responsible for delivering approximately 180 online modules every year, including modules for our award-winning Global Online MBA, MSc Business Analytics (online, part-time), our blended Executive MBA programme and our brand new MSc Strategic Marketing (online, part-time), due to launch this September.

With this wealth of experience and specialism of designing online and blended programmes, Sarah Grant, Associate Director at the Edtech Lab said:

As a team, we are well-positioned to respond to the emergency, embrace new pedagogies and support our faculty to deliver high-touch, social and experiential learning to our students from a distance.

When the government announced the lockdown, we took a staged approach to shifting all learning deliverables to remote teaching. The first priority for the spring term was to support faculty to transition to remote learning in the most expedient manner possible to enable students to continue studying when the campus closed.

This involved delivering all face-to-face classes on Zoom with out-of-class activities remaining largely unchanged from the face-to-face modules. Speaking on the remote teaching transition, Seyon Indran, MSc Economics & Strategy for Business student said:

The Business School have handled the transition to remote teaching great in my perspective. With lectures, I’ve quite enjoyed having them online mainly because of the convenience; the quality of teaching is just as good and I get to save myself from a long commute to campus! Overall, it’s clear Imperial is committed to making sure the rest of our term is as smooth as possible, so I am confident that the remainder of our programme will be an equally great experience.

Shortly after this transition was made, a concern for many students was sitting their exams online. The Business School had already trialled an online exam platform with students previously and were able to roll this out to all programmes.

MSc International Health Management student Jessie Bosshard said:

The pandemic hit right as our spring term came to an end, so we first experienced the transition to remote learning when we took our exams a month later. It was a bit challenging, because I took exams in the middle of the night (e.g. 3am), but there was plenty of time to adjust my sleep schedule, and other students were in a similar situation. The Exams team walked us through the Mitigating Circumstances process, just in case the outcomes were suboptimal, so all was well.

Stage two of remote delivery: enhance

The immediate transition for students was effective as a short-term measure, but the team quickly recognised that the stabilise approach was not sustainable beyond the spring term and so immediately began to implement measures to assist faculty in enhancing the learning experience for the summer term. Grant says:

The aim was to broadly adopt a flipped approach to learning, incorporating online pedagogy into the provision of learning activities through the addition of structured, supported, social and interactive elements. We created a series of templates in the platform for scaffolding the Zoom classes within a larger learning narrative, including asynchronous preparation activities, which students are expected to participate in prior to attending class; synchronous in-class exercises, which students engage in during the live class; and post-class exercises, aimed at consolidating and expanding understanding of the key concepts covered that week.

To facilitate the enhance approach to remote teaching, the Edtech Lab migrated all of the on-campus programmes to the new Hub, which is an updated version of our existing learning platform. The team have been using the Insendi platform (a spin-out from the Edtech Lab) to deliver our online programmes for the past year. Grant says:

The platform, which is based on the Business School’s unique pedagogical approach to online management education, is incredibly intuitive, allowing us to collaborate with faculty to rapidly develop new content and, where appropriate, repurpose pre-existing content from our successful online programmes. The new platform offers a built-in library of over 50 unique learning activities to choose from, suited to a range of different learning outcomes, from coding in Machine Learning to case-based learning in Organisational Behaviour and Strategy.

The updated version of our online learning platform has elevated the way we teach students remotely. It’s easy for students to navigate and offers a seamless learning experience, encouraging the idea that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom.

In addition, the platform also offers advanced learning analytics, that will allow the Edtech Team to review student engagement with the online materials and evaluate our approach to help inform future decision making as we evolve to embrace new pedagogies in the future.

How have our students been finding remote learning?

“I have been impressed by how seamlessly Imperial was able to quickly transition to remote delivery amidst the COVID-19 crisis. As an established leader in online education for many years, the Business School was able to quickly extend this capability across all programmes and modules. I was pleased to play a small part in advising on this transition through my leadership roles, and I was encouraged by how proactive the Business School’s leadership team was in ensuring the transition was student-centred.”
Austin Allaire
MSc International Management
Austin Allaire, MSc International Management
“I miss our Imperial campus and being around my classmates and friends. However, I think that Imperial has done an incredible job at switching to remote delivery. We can attend lectures online via Zoom and have the ability to watch recordings of the lectures if we are unable to watch the livestream, for instance due to time zone issues. Moreover, we have access to all the support Imperial offers. I have the opportunity to attend my professors’ office hours, meet with my career consultants, and can attend workshops.”
Eva Abend
MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering
Eva Abend, MSc Risk Management & Financial Engineering
“It has been impressive how the Business School successfully switched online! Although the experience is radically different, given the circumstances, learning has not ceased or been hindered. The platforms available guarantee continued uninterrupted education without a meaningful loss of access to resources. Furthermore, faculty have been constantly supportive.”
Rodrigo Hernandez Canteli
MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management
Rodrigo Hernandez Canteli, MSc Innovation, Entrepreneruship & Management
“I can say that Imperial and the Finance Programmes team did an amazing job at switching everything online in a timely manner and responding to student feedback about the online delivery of lectures. Everything is running smoothly and interaction with both the cohort and the professors has been preserved – the only thing I miss is going to the library.”
Ana-Maria Simionescu
MSc Finance
Ana-Maria Simionescu, MSc Finance

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