Last autumn, I embarked on my third course with International House OTTI. I’ve written previously about my experiences with their Observation and Giving Feedback and Performance Management courses. Here I’m going to reflect on my learning while taking their Business Management course.
With this module, I was really stepping out of my comfort zone. Although I was familiar with terminology like ‘Profit and Loss’ (my father ran a business while I was growing up), I had never studied any business or management related courses or topics. The tutor was new to me, but not to the course, and her reassurance was greatly received as I stepped into the unknown.
The first half of the course dealt with concepts related to the topic of marketing and different approaches to this crucial activity. One of the weekly tasks for submission was a marketing audit, which I found particularly useful because it opened my eyes to the less obvious channels of marketing. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the maintenance of the facilities are a form of marketing. One has to think about how a potential new customer walks into the building and what they see for the first time. I also asked myself how slick and efficient are our processes? If an initial enquiry isn’t dealt with swiftly, a potential sale could be lost easily.
After three weeks with marketing, we dived into material that guided us through different approaches to financial planning and forecasting, budgeting and how to cost a course. An additional, optional unit helped me to understand how to read and analyse a Profit and Loss sheet. My submitted analysis of an example P&L is probably my highlight of the course, because it’s the aspect I was least confident about at the start, and thus represents my successful learning.
The final submission was a 2,500-word assignment to present the Business Case for a new course. While I’ve already mentioned my highlight of the course, I was also proud of this task because it really was a first for me. I’m far more comfortable analysing literary texts or gathering and working with qualitative data about teacher experiences. Nonetheless, I compiled a Business Case including a SWOT analysis, a financial analysis, and a marketing analysis.
There is one negative point that I must highlight, but which has also led to learning on my part. While I was doing the course, IH were having some technical issues with the CMS that they use to deliver the material and that we students use to interact with each other and the tutor. As a result, I didn’t receive daily digests of activity on the boards, alerts when I’d been sent a message or automated receipts of assignment submission. I hadn’t realised how much I had relied on that aspect in the previous courses to maintain the routine of studying alongside a full-time job. It’s perhaps important for us to be aware of the impact such little things can have on the experiences of our students. Something as minor as knowing that someone has responded to your post on a message board can trigger you to log in and continue the conversation. I’m hopeful, therefore, the IH can resolve the technical issues as soon as possible so that the experience of studying these courses is maintained.
Despite this technical issue, I would thoroughly recommend the course to other Directors of Studies who are interested in being involved in the business and marketing side of the organisation they work in, or who simply want to understand what’s going on when they are told that institution can’t afford to run a certain course.