My name is Sahera Fakher, I am an MSc Management student at Imperial College Business School.
After finishing my undergraduate degree in June 2020 in my home country of Lebanon, I received my acceptance letter from Imperial. I was excited to start a new journey and began planning my move to the UK to study in one of my favorite cities in the world.
However, with the pandemic in full flow these feelings of excitement were accompanied by a certain level of anxiety over how things would unfold over the coming weeks and months. The COVID-19 cases in my country were rising exponentially and I did not know when I would next be allowed to travel. Thankfully, Imperial organised several Q&A sessions throughout the summer to update incoming students about the plans for the academic year. They also held support sessions for incoming international students that answered several of my questions regarding my visa application and made sure I knew what was happening at every stage along the way.
The semester began in September. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I only managed to arrive to London a month and a half after the semester started. Thankfully, I was able to follow the first part of the programme online through Imperial’s multi-modal teaching. I also got the chance to meet several of my classmates virtually which only made me more excited to meet them in-person!
So what is multi-modal teaching? How is it implemented in the Business School?
I would like to highlight that Imperial College is one of very few universities in London (and the world) that is currently offering this unique and innovative system of teaching, which is allowing its students to have some level of normalcy when it comes to attending classes in-person and meeting peers on campus.
As you might have already guessed, in the multi-mode teaching system, students get the opportunity to attend both online classes that take place on Zoom, as well as in-person classes that take place on campus with the option of joining remotely. As a result of the restrictions caused by COVID-19, classes on campus are limited to being held on certain days of the week, depending on each student’s schedule, to help control the spread of the virus. Classes that do not take place on campus are then held online.
The MSc Management cohort is composed of around 150 students. In order to respect social distancing regulations in the lecture theatres, the Business School have divided the cohort into two groups, called streams. To use an example, if a student is enrolled in stream one, they would have their Accounting class on Monday at 1pm with the other students of their stream on campus. The students of the second stream would attend the same Accounting class on the same day but at 4pm.
This limits the interaction between the two streams. However, in the following semester, the streams will be shuffled and organised in a new way to facilitate students meeting as many of their peers as possible.
It is important to note that even classes taking place on Zoom are highly interactive. In our Strategic Management class, the professor will always give us five minutes at the start of the lecture, during which we are randomly assigned into breakout rooms where we can socialise and get to know our peers.
To make the experience of attending classes online as immersive and seamless as possible, Imperial has equipped its classrooms with cutting edge technology to help facilitate virtual attendance. Each lecture theatre is equipped with:
- Cameras that film the entire theatre - including the professor and the lecture content being presented on the board.
- Several screens that allow both the professor and the students in class to see their peers connecting from their homes.
- Built-in microphones that allow the students attending virtually to listen to their peers’ questions and comments and interact with them.
- A co-pilot who assists the students attending virtually in order to help them with any questions and ensure the session runs smoothly.
Since I started attending classes virtually, I have been very impressed with the effectiveness of the technology being implemented by the Business School. Its ability to connect people attending from all over the world is both fascinating and encouraging. To make myself feel more engaged during lectures, I try to turn my camera on frequently so that my professor and my peers can see me!
During one of my classes, I appeared on one of the big screens on my own, and my peers in class sent me pictures on WhatsApp showing me the screen to say that they really felt as if I was with them in class. Spot me with the blue Imperial background!
Another consideration that the School has made is with regard to the seating plan of on-campus sessions, with every lecture theatre at the Business School being modified to allow for a distance of at least 2m between any two students. It is also strictly forbidden to be present in the lecture theatre without a mask/visor, in order to ensure the safety of everyone present. Here’s how the newly organised lecture theatres look:
Every lecture, whether taking place on campus or online, is recorded and made available for all the students to re-watch. This is one of the best features of the multi-modal experience as I believe it is allowing me to learn and understand the material even better than I would in a pre-COVID-19 world.
Taking all of this into account, I am overall very happy with my experience studying via multi-mode so far, and remain excited for the spring semester and the possibilities it brings with it. While this method of learning might be a change from how things used to be done; let’s face it – in 2020 there’s no hotter ticket in town than a Zoom breakout room!