Due to unforeseen circumstances, my company has and is recently going through several temporary or emergency changes (and thus many projects are underway). Before I discuss the changes that my company is going through, I’ll bring you up to speed on the situation. My company was on holiday for Chinese New Year January 20th to February 7th. As I’m sure you know, the Coronavirus outbreak occurred at the beginning of our holiday. Originally, my city wasn’t hit too hard but since the incubation period is up to two weeks, it greatly affected my city towards the end of our vacation (Harbin is a tourist hotspot in winter because of the ice and snow festival and thousands of tourists from Wuhan visited the area). At first, my school decided to remain closed for just a few extra days, but as conditions worsened, the company realized that we may not be able to return to school physically until April. Meanwhile many of the company’s foreign teachers were returning from abroad as things progressed. The local government recognized that they should implement more measures to contain the spread. Since then, anyone returning to the city is subject to two weeks quarantine in their homes. Also, anyone living in an apartment complex which has had an outbreak also gets quarantined for two weeks. Locals who are not under quarantine are only able to send one person per household out for necessities once every second day. People who live in an apartment complex must sign in and out with the guards at their gate. I don’t live in a complex; I live in a walk-up, so my street in barricaded on both ends and guarded 24/7. Most businesses are closed. Supermarkets are open and have very strict safety rules for shoppers.

 

My company decided to pay its employees their full salary through this difficult period (from what I’ve heard my school is the only one that is doing this) and use this time to keep in touch with our students in different ways. Of course, there was no plan in place as who plans for a virus outbreak and an entire city being shut down? Each class has two teachers; a Chinese teacher and a foreign teacher. The first phase involved the Chinese teachers instructing the students in WeChat groups and the foreign teachers recording and sending videos to be incorporated into the classes. Our highest-level students (their classes are called Elite classes) only have a foreign teacher and therefore me and two others who teach Elite classes also taught through WeChat for the past three weeks. While phase one was underway, plans were being conducted for the next phase.

 

My boss had a goal of getting all of our school’s classes online by March 7th and it looks as though this will be achieved. He started by handing out projects to senior teachers and I was a part of all of these projects. The first major project was to test online teaching platforms, learn their functionalities, provide feedback, and to identify potential problems before conducting simulations in small groups to train the rest of the teachers. The second extensive project was creating teaching content, presentations, lesson plans and games for all ages and levels then sharing said content with all the teachers. A lot of training, demonstrations, and technical support has ensued in order to groom everyone for this weekend. Practice is still taking place now to ensure everyone is comfortable with both the teaching content and software. Just to give you an idea of all the work this entails, we have about 50 foreign teachers and our busiest time is on the weekend. Most foreign teachers have 14 classes over the weekend and each class can have up to 32 students.

 

When looking at Watt’s project life cycle’s phases which include initiation, planning, implementation, and closing (Watt, 2014), I can see that even though my boss (the change agent) was thrown into an unforeseen situation with a lack of time to plan thoroughly the way he normally would, he did still follow these phases (with closing still to come this weekend). Al-Haddad and Kotnour state that, “Organizations that predict small changes in conditions, and respond promptly to these changes, gain a competitive edge (Al-Haddad and Kotnour, 2015, Taxonomy of Change Literature, para. 8). My company definitely reacted quickly to the issues at hand and made changes in order to keep our stakeholders happy. The parents are impressed that we got online classes up and running in order to keep up their children’s English level and fill some of their time confined to their homes. Most of the teachers were glad about these changes as they too were suffering from boredom at home, plus the benefit of not suffering from a loss in salary. That’s not to say that there haven’t been any challenges. A few teachers were not happy with the sudden changes (some due to their lack of digital literacy and others simply felt it wasn’t in their job description). My boss addressed these concerns head on. He spoke one-on-one with the individuals who were reluctant to the changes and got them onboard and made sure that a lot of coaching was provided to the people who aren’t so tech-savvy. It also came in useful the past few weeks that he has a vast knowledge of all his employees’ strengths, as he knew exactly who to assign each task to. He was aware of who he should assign to curriculum development, training, demonstrations, and technical support.

 

 

I have two more days to finish training and demonstrations before we go live, so wish me luck. I feel that Scott’s words could motivate our teachers through their first weekend of online teaching. “We need to move beyond just thinking about learning technologies as tools (or efficiency mechanisms) and consider the generative ways in which technologies might act as co-agents alongside teachers” (Scott, 2019, para. 3). Even though the final change phase has not yet occurred, I am confident in my company’s project management and that our project will be a success.

 

 

 

References

 

Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234-262. https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215

 

Scott, A. (2019, June 30). Why we need learning technologists. [Blog post]

Retrieved from https://ammienoot.com/brain-fluff/why-we-need-learning-technology-developers/

 

Watt, A. (2014). The Project Life Cycle. In Project Management. BCcampus. Retrieved from

3. The Project Life Cycle (Phases)