Teaching in two time zones

Ranjith Sankaranarayanan is project manager for international programmes at City of Glasgow College. He is also a lecturer in supply chain management and logistics.

The combination of these two roles has recently seen him getting up in the middle of the night, in order to deliver classes to Chinese students at 3.30am - 11.30am their time.

“The students are with Zhejiang Technical Institute of Economics (ZJTIE). Our college has been delivering courses to ZJTIE since 2016. In that time we have certified 170 students.

“Normally I would spend around nine weeks in China teaching face to face but, due to the pandemic, we currently run the classes online,” explains Ranjith.

Ranjith is one of a team of four lecturers delivering these classes in blocks of four, three times a year. However, as project manager for the college’s international portfolio, he also has responsibility for ensuring the roll out of 28 projects in almost 40 countries across Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East.

“There’s a lot to consider when delivering courses in different countries,” said Ranjith. The time difference of course, but there’s also cultural differences to be aware of and to respect. And with working online, there are technical issues to deal with. There’s also a level of commitment and adjustment, not just from us as lecturers, but from our families given we are getting up in the middle of the night for several weeks at a time.”

As well as being taught supply chain and logistics, the students must also learn English. “Classes and exams are all in English so the students have American tutors to teach them the language,” adds Ranjith. “These are students from state schools attending a public college so they have not have grown up speaking English. They must work hard to get through the course, but we have high pass rates and the few who fail get the chance to re-sit the exams.”

He describes himself as a modern lecturer who teaches from different angles.

“I try to bring the students out of their comfort zone. I create a virtual supply chain in the classroom, with role playing, debates and presentations, to make them think like professionals. It all helps increase engagement. ZJTIE is based in Hangzhou which is home to the headquarters for Alibaba, China’s Amazon, so it’s a good area to be teaching supply chain and logistics. Up to 98% of our students go on to secure employment,” he said.

Ranjith and his team have now completed the latest block of four weeks. The next session is due to take place in June 2021, with a new cohort of students and a new round of early starts. 

The college’s global reach extends to 120 overseas partners across 39 countries. International activities include educational collaborations and delivery of vocational and professional education training, such as ZJTIE, curriculum development projects, and bespoke training programmes.