Back in early February, our International House school in Manchester was watching events unfold in Italy due to Covid-19. In particular, they looked to see how their fellow IHWO colleagues in Palermo were reacting.
It was evident that the Sicilian school was incredibly busy gearing up to offer online lessons, in the light of school closures, as Italy managed the novel coronavirus pandemic. It soon became clear to IH Manchester that early preparation, student training (as well as teacher training), and good communication were going to be key to a successful transition to online teaching in Manchester.
Peter Hayes, Director of Marketing at IH Manchester, remarks, “IH Palermo - Language Centre have always produced really effective and fun news videos which they distribute effectively on Facebook. As this innovative school moved rapidly to online delivery, we watched what they were doing very carefully indeed.”
What was also very clear to the school, right from the start, was that there had never been a better time for close consultation with key agent partners. So, IH Manchester began to contact all their ETOs, who had students still enrolled in school to ensure that they understood exactly what the school was planning.
Meanwhile, the IH Manchester academic management team were busy consulting with the IHWO teacher training department and training their teachers. The team soon concluded that Zoom was the best online platform with which to teach online. Their reasoning for this was that IH Palermo - Language Centre school use it, it is reliable (even at low bandwidth), and it allows teachers to put students into the break-out room for pair and group work.
All this work paid off, because at the point when the UK Government ordered all schools to close, IH Manchester had already completed many pilot schemes and begun teaching all classes online. This was key in allowing the school to transfer and retain all their bookings online, after face-to-face classes stopped. However, the school saw this as just the beginning.
“We had to start thinking like an online school, if we wanted to thrive, not just a school that had switched to online just to survive,” enthuses Peter. “We had to offer the same convenience, ease of access and booking and value if we wanted to do well.”
This was the basis of the new IH Manchester ‘global timetable’, with the main general English classes starting at 15.00hrs UK time. A need to accommodate those wishing to just attend classes for an hour, twice a week was also recognised, which is why the school devised the ‘Flexi’ course starting at 17.30hrs UK time.
But, more than anything, it became apparent that everyone needed to keep positive. To look forward to a time when it will be safe to travel again. This crisis is tough and it is cruel, but in time it will pass. So, this is why IH Manchester devised the FREE online classes offer. The school wants to keep people’s dreams alive. Any fees spent on IH Manchester online learning now may be used as credit for any IHM course taken at their Manchester school in the future.
“This virus has not killed our dreams, it has just put them on hold for a while,” concluded Peter.