students back on campus after COVID-19

Autumn Term has begun for the students of Imperial College Business School, with health and safety measures and ‘multi-mode’ delivery in place.

Students are already adapting to the ‘new normal’ after health and safety guidelines were introduced across the Business School in preparation for the new term.

Face coverings are now essential, hand sanitisers and multi-surface cleaning wipes are available around the campus and social distancing measures are in place. Strict guidelines have been introduced, with students required to sign a Protect & Respect pledge, adhering to a code of conduct. They can also use a new health and safety app and receive regular updates about the measures in place on campus.

‘This is what we’ve been waiting for’

Business School students returning to Imperial have been impressed by the work that has gone into making the campus safe and say the overall atmosphere has been positive.

"At first it was a surreal experience, but I felt very secure as we were given masks, antibacterial wipes and hand gels."Bala KadirvelExecutive MBA student

Bala Kadirvel, an innovative digital technology leader and current Executive MBA student who returned to campus in August, said: “We received very detailed instructions from the Business School and seating plans had been arranged ahead of our arrival. At first it was a surreal experience, but I felt very secure as we were given masks, antibacterial wipes and hand gels.

“Going into the campus makes us feel much more like we're part of student life and we were all super happy and excited. This is what we’ve been waiting for and the atmosphere was buzzing. I don’t believe people have been anxious, everyone’s been smiling and it’s really a privilege to be among the first students back on campus.”

He added that there were some initial, small teething problems on the technical side, but said there was a team on hand “to sort it out straightaway”.

“In most cases, the situation has been seamless and so much better than using Zoom,” he said.

Aoife Considine, an incoming Full-Time MBA student, also spoke positively about the health and safety effort that had been made by the College.

“Making it possible for us to come to campus safely has honestly made the experience of deciding to pursue the MBA worth it. The Business School has done an amazing job at enabling this, so massive appreciation and thank you goes to them — I know it cannot have been an easy job.

“I'm so excited to be joining Imperial, especially because of the links the Business school has with the other faculties — that was the winning factor for me. It's also amazing to work at the Institution that's at the forefront of COVID-19 research.”

Flexible study

Another of the COVID-related measures now in place is the introduction of the new ‘multi-mode’ teaching method, which allows students and academics the flexibility to move between being on-campus and remote learning.

Professor Markus Perkmann, the Academic Director of the Imperial MBA, taught one of the first fully integrated classes for the incoming Full-Time MBA cohort. He said: “The students are excited about the academic year ahead, and we had a great mood in the class. I am very pleased that we are able to offer this flexible teaching mode, as the alternative would be holding virtual-only lectures, which would deprive students of the option to have a class-room experience.”

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Business School students attending a 'multi-mode' lecture

Although teaching can take slightly longer than under normal conditions, he noted that an additional session has been added to compensate for any lost time.

To ensure the transition to the new teaching method is smooth, the Business School has hired co-pilots for each classroom, staff who support the academics who are teaching using the multi-mode to help ensure an interactive experience is being delivered to all students, wherever they are in the world.

Somaya Ebrahim, Programme Director of the MBA Suite, said: “The work of the co-pilot has been instrumental, and they’ve made the students joining virtually feel like they’re part of the classroom.

“Some of the students were understandably a bit hesitant to speak up at first but they were also eager to get going and have been very positive about the system, so far. This is a new dynamic they’re getting used to and we’ve started seeing a good amount of interaction both virtually and in class.”

Taste of the future

During a visit to Imperial’s South Kensington campus last week, Universities Minister Michelle Donelan MP experienced a ‘multi-mode’ lecture at the Business School and learnt about the education technology that enables this new way of teaching.

David Lefevre, Director of the Business School’s EdTech Lab, said: “Multimodal teaching was developed as a pragmatic solution to an unfortunate situation. Recognising that the present disruption is likely to be sustained, we wanted to give students the choice to attend their classes either on-campus or online throughout the academic year.

“However, it seems clear now that such flexibility is likely to be appreciated by students (and staff) in the longer term too, particularly for the post-graduate post-experience programmes.”

As part of this flexible approach to study, Business School students have the option to transition between the two programme delivery options at set times called Transition Points, which allows them to switch from online to face-to-face learning.

Leila Guerra, Vice Dean (Education) of Imperial College Business School, said: “The School’s extensive experience in innovative teaching and long-term investments in Edtech means we are well-positioned to offer an integrated approach to learning, a transformative educational experience, both on campus and remotely, and the flexibility to accommodate students on campus, as well as remotely due to the unusual circumstances.

“I would like to personally thank our academic and professional staff for their hard work and dedication. Thanks to them and the enthusiasm and flexibility of our students, we have had a very positive start to the Autumn Term, and as everyone becomes more accustomed to the new teaching environment, we believe this can continue throughout the year.”

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