IH Moscow BKC Hybrid Teacher Training Conference 2021

IH Moscow-BKC recently hosted a hybrid online/offline teacher training conference on Saturday 24th April with sessions across several strands, including Young Learner, academic/business, and exams.

In this article, Edward Evans, Director of Studies and CELTA trainer at IH Moscow-BKC, tells us more about the logistics and speakers of this exciting hybrid event. 

Our conference title, “Emerging Trends, Challenges and Opportunities”, reflects the time of flux we are living through. New trends in our industry, such as changes in technology, in people’s busy lifestyles, have been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic. Teachers are meeting the new challenges of online teaching with bravery and determination, while the current state of turmoil in English teaching is an opportunity to forge new skills. Our conference therefore aimed to deal with these key notions of emerging trends, challenges and opportunities, helping us all to face the future of our profession with more confidence.

We contemplated the ideal format of the conference. Whilst the trend is to move online, many are impatient to return to a face-to-face mode. Of course catering for these conflicting desires presents a huge challenge for the organisers, but also presents the opportunity to do something new, to attract speakers and participants from outside Moscow whilst simultaneously offering a much missed in-person experience. This led us to conceive of a hybrid online/offline conference. We were able to invite 8 in-person speakers with 12 online, and 120 offline participants, and a further 100 online.

All workshops were available to view live online, or afterwards as recordings, while a production crew provided a dynamic and professionally presented video stream of the in-person sessions, with online participants taking active part in any session through the text chat.

Our plenary speaker was teacher, trainer and author Steve Taylore-Knowles, who is especially well known in Russia as co-author of Macmillan’s Exam Skills for Russia series. He joined us online to address the keynote topic from our conference title, sharing his experience related to the trends, challenges and opportunities appearing over recent years.

Our resident VYL and primary expert, Anka Zapart, took charge of the YL/VYL workshop strand, including herself and other high-profile figures from the Russian EFL community. It was also a real coup for us to have a workshop run by renowned VYL researcher and author, Sandie Mourão.

The Academic/Business strand featured three local trainers who are well known in BKC and beyond, Heather Belgorodtseva, Anna Kashcheeva and Tatiana Polovinkina.

BKC is a Cambridge exam centre with a great reputation for training outside teachers, and our exam preparation strand featured our expert trainers Joseph Wilsdon and Natalia Borisova.

In the final, general strand, it was a great pleasure to welcome the well-known CELTA expert Jo Gakonga, wellbeing guru Rachael Roberts, Task-Based Learning author and advocate Neil Anderson, and Allen Davenport from CUP. We were also joined by familiar trainers Olga Connolly and Maria Molashenko, and our Online Director of Studies, Sabina Lopez.

The atmosphere at the conference venue was very positive, with attendees excited to be able to recommence real-life interaction with like-minded professionals, after a year of enforced isolation. Online participants were able to take part in their own networking, using special themed rooms on Zoom. Feedback on the programme has also been very positive, and it was a great privilege to have such a great variety of experienced and talented speakers.

The opportunity to run a hybrid conference was indeed a huge challenge, given its unprecedented format, but perhaps our example can start a trend for the future!