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Knowledge Update

Introduction & Purpose
Knowledge update and Industry update at Skyline University College (SUC) is an online platform for communicating knowledge with SUC stakeholders, industry, and the outside world about the current trends of business development, technology, and social changes. The platform helps in branding SUC as a leading institution of updated knowledge base and in encouraging faculties, students, and others to create and contribute under different streams of domain and application. The platform also acts as a catalyst for learning and sharing knowledge in various areas.

Strategic Decision Making Techniques to achieve sustainable Marketing and Business Growth

Managers today play a role of fire fighting in daily business operations which need numerous tactical and strategic issues to encounter and solve. The decision-making process is primarily influenced by individual-based approach and varies between individuals.

Does Outcomes-Based Education do More Harm than Good?

I am writing to you today as an educator and as a life-long learner.  My topic is:  does outcomes-based education or OBE do more harm than good? I will begin by defining outcomes-based education, then outlining major international examples of its failure - after which I will discuss key reasons for that failure and leave you with a possible solution.

First of all, what is OBE?  In practice, it means teaching and assessing students based on specific outcome statements instead of a set syllabus.  What is deemed to be important for a course is set out in a series of statements which begin something like this: The student will: demonstrate, apply, use, perform, etc.  The students are then taught according to those statements and evaluated as to their progress against those statements and nothing else.

An interesting question with OBE is, does OBE assessment reflect and support learning or hamper student success?  In OBE assessment, marks are weighted per stated outcome, firmly limiting the range of marks attainable per response by a student.  This can have negative consequences in the real world.  For example, if Albert Einstein had taken an OBE math test whose outcomes included adherence to set norms, he might well have scored badly or even failed the test.  OBE limits an educator’s ability to award marks according to their expert knowledge of student and subject, instead of forcing mark allocation according to pre-determined norms with no allowance for divergent thinking or alternative responses.

The next question is, where has OBE failed?  The answer is, everywhere,  as educators, we have known for years that outcomes-based education isn’t producing good results; major experiments in OBE in the US with the so-called common core programs, saw the USA go from 7th in maths to 31st in international tests according to the USA today; in South Africa OBE was introduced as the National Qualifications Framework and rapidly saw South Africa tumble in world educational ranking to the bottom, number 148 out of 148 in maths and science according to the world economic forum rankings.

Why has it failed?  To understand why OBE is failing so badly, my thoughts go back to the purpose of education as put by renowned educator John Dewey at the start of the 20th century.  He asked a simple question:  When we talk about teaching, are we talking about teaching rote facts and pre-ordained responses or are we talking about the ability to be creative thinkers and innovators.  Dewey’s question sets up a dichotomy between rote learning and creativity. Each of these two things has its own place in the learning environment, but only one is served well by OBE.

OBE calls for the educator to teach every student the same thing in exactly the same way every time, this is rote learning, it is not student-centred; it is instead focused on the need for standardization of output.  A prime example of this practice can be seen in the system of standardized testing now used for graduation in most school systems.  Fact-based material such as grammar, business models, procedures, and simple mathematical equations are examples of how OBE serves the first of Dewey’s purposes of education well, but not the second, and in my opinion the more important, particularly for higher education.

Perhaps you see my bias creeping in here, I have witnessed how outcome-based education locks educators into only teaching to prescribed, specific goals. The problem with this is that there are only so many hours in a course and those outcomes must be mastered within that time.  With time used up achieving  “measurable” outcomes, less measurable, but higher- order learning - like creativity, thinking skills, divergent thinking, even social, practical, and artistic learning take second place, or are not learned at all. 

Worse, and perhaps the key problem, is that outcomes are often treated as a one-shoe-fits-all solution by administrators who are trying to satisfy institutional licensure and program review requirements which have little to do with actual learning.  Being driven by such requirements is a huge disadvantage if you want a well-rounded and complete education.  The purpose of education should be to make students into well-informed thinkers who are aware of past knowledge, but able to creatively innovate and contribute in their future.

Teachers are experts in their field and experts in their knowledge of their own student’s learning capabilities.  OBE systems, set up by and suited to administrative top-down “quality” requirements, do not serve the learning needs of individual students or complement the expert knowledge of classroom educators.  Instead, they are intended to create academic rigor through some weird sort of pseudo-scientific knowledge outcome bean-counting exercise. In reality, outcomes induce a sort of intellectual stagnation - exactly because they are not learner-centred, or even educator-centred, and this must change.

The solution may be self-evident, it is to use outcomes where they have value, but not apply them where they inhibit or restrict learning.  In other words, to move away from the all or nothing thinking behind the implementation of outcomes so that they become a tool used to teach and assess where appropriate.  However, this solution will require a monumental shift away from the top-down managerial approach to learning which is pervasive today; a democratization of education if you will, where educators take back responsibility to educate from the managers who have usurped it.  This will make outcomes a tool of learning - not just a means of regimenting institutional activity.

Let’s stop blindly insisting on outcomes as a universal panacea for measuring the success of education and make learning learner-centred again.  Remember, this is not academic, it affects each one of us, students, educators and society alike - right here, right now.   As students and educators, we must speak out and start the debate around relegating OBE to the parts of education where it suits best and promote better adapted assessment structures in other areas of learning.

“Words” in Silence: Non-verbal Communication

As a product of the late 1970s and someone who grew up with the music of the 1980s, it is no wonder that I can seem to relate every topic that I write about to music. Even today’s topic on non-verbal communication and its importance in our ineractions with others starts with reference to a classic song. An old 1982 song by F.R. David starts with “Words, don’t come easy, to me”. I can most certainly relate to this. Sure, the song refers to words of love and how the singer struggles to express the emotion but the underlying sentiment can be extrapolated to fit in all areas of life.

I think that this is true for most of us. Words, in whichever language we choose to express ourselves, don’t come easily to most of us. This is most likely because our words carry significance. They carry weight and have immense impact. Words are important. This is an inescapable fact. Words let people express themselves. Words let others know what someone is feeling and what they are thinking. Words can sustain, uplift, improve, hurt or demotivate. Words are powerful tools. We, as humans, know this. We use our words to get what we want. We use our words to persuade. We use our words to scold. We use our words for a plethora of reasons. Yet, sometimes, words fail. Why is this? Words sometimes fail because the verbal language we are speaking does not match the non-verbal language we are displaying. We say something where the words are innocuous but people take offence. We then become confused how some seemly innocent verbal utterance from us could cause harm or discomfort.

An old cliché goes that “it is not WHAT you say but the WAY you say it”. A cliché is a cliché for a reason. It is an oft repeated phrase because at its core there is some truth, even if because of overuse it appears to lack originality and become trite. In this case it still seems to hold water. Our tone of voice can get us into trouble, even when we do not mean offence. Tone forms part of a list of non-verbal communication tools that everyone possesses. From small children who screw up their faces to signal that they will start to cry if they are not entertained immediately to silent looks of disapproval we send and receive in the workplace, we all use our arsenal of non-verbal communication tools. This is both a conscious and an unconscious process.

There is an argument to be made for the point that our nonverbal communication can often be more powerful and speak louder than our verbal communication. Think about a situation where you are sitting alone in a crowded room where you don’t know anyone. These days our first inclination will be to take out our phones and check email or whatever social media platform we are registered on. No-one will approach you. Why is this? No-one will approach you because you have closed yourself off, metaphorically, without having to explicitly state “don’t come near me”. Your phone becomes your focus and therefore people do not feel comfortable approaching you. You have created your comfort zone but other people have become uncomfortable. You will leave that room not having made a single contact and will most likely wonder why. Your body language spoke volumes without you having to utter a single syllable. Your body language might not reflect the true you but that is the message that was being sent at the time. For this reason, we need to be very careful of what our non-verbal communication says about us.

Non-verbal communication can be intentionally used in commanding ways and in this way can be a true asset to everyone. Non-verbal communication can become another method of expression and a wonderful tool in our communication arsenal. For this to be true we need to be very careful about what our non-verbal communication says about us.  We need to be intentional and plan what our non-verbal communication conveys. This is true for both social and professional spaces. For the purposes of this short article, let us look at a five items of non-verbal communication and their impact in the workplace.

  • First up is an issue of non-verbal communication that can be tricky for interpersonal reasons. Self-presentation, specifically related to grooming and clothes is something that most people under then need for. There are instances though where managers have to intervene. Why is this? It is simply because as we all know, our first impression is not made with our voices. Our first impression is made with our appearance. Whether this is politically correct or not can be argued for 100 pages but the sad fact is that this is the way the world currently works. In a workplace you must be well-groomed, by this it is meant that you must be smartly and appropriately dressed for your workplace, according to the norms and culture. What are some of the things you need to keep in mind as far as clothing and appearance are concerned in your cultural environment?
  • Next, something simple that is so easy to get wrong is eye contact. Yes, even for this there are ‘guidelines’. Eye contact should be appropriate, not constant. If eye contact is constant you risk people thinking you are staring and therefore becoming upset. A good and simple rule to follow in the workplace is to always look someone in the eyes (please adjust for culturally appropriate interactions) but to look away once and a while. For example, you can look away when you are nodding. Don’t do things like look at your watch or your phone as people will think this means you are not interested in what they are saying. Also, do not tighten your eye muscles as this makes you look like you are frowning.
  • Thirdly, facial expressions are usually the item that lets people inadvertently know what your mood is. In the workplace you should strive to have a positive and open expression. Your face will be looked at most while people are talking with you. In fact, this is the feature that most people will look at before they even approach you for help or advice. You want to make sure that you have an open and friendly expression on your face. You do not have to be smiling widely 24/7, but you do have to have a relaxed and pleasant look on your face. You do not want to frown or push your eyebrows together, or roll your eyes, even when you think no-one is watching you.
  • Body language and positioning, mainly referring to posture is where you want to communicate your openness and get people to work with you. Have an open posture by keeping arms out and not crossed, standing or sitting up straight, turning your body towards the person who is talking. All these items will let people know that they can approach you.
  • Finally, the article returns to the issue of tone of voice. Tones to try to emulate are soothing, understanding, sometimes to gain attention – woman are often taught to speak softly and have a ‘nice to listen to’ voice. Think about when we tell bedtime stories to children or sing them to sleep. This tone of voice is very appropriate for home but for the workplace you might need to make it a bit stronger. Men might want to reign in their ‘instinctive dominant’ tones.

In the end, these are just guidelines of parts of communication that you might like to take note of. Remember though, we don’t need words to communicate and therefore we need to ensure that our non-verbal signals are communicating the our intended message.

HR Trends Post COVID-19

 

Life has not been easy for individuals and businesses across the globe during the year 2020 due to the constant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All global reports indicate that the way organizations tried to respond to this sudden uncontrollable situation ranged from making keen efforts to understand and respond to the demands of the situation; improvising some internal factors to gain control on the situation; adapting to enhanced the use of tech-related solutions to reduce losses; synchronizing to new industry and national standards, and lastly, discovering new work procedures and employee issues. This year has been a roller-coaster ride with ups and downs, but indeed, providing a great learning experience for small and big firms. In other words, the firms adapt to the new normal which is a state to which an economy, society, etc. settles following a crisis, when this differs from the situation that prevailed prior to the start of the crisis. The term has been used following the financial crisis of 2007-2008, the aftermath of the 2008–2012 global recession, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

A host of interesting and timely international including Deloitte and Gartner reports opine that five critical steps may support and enable firms to bounce back and develop resilience in the post-COVID times. They include:              

(1) Reflect: The leaders need to reflect and understand the situation in the context of their organization and the industry they operate in.

(2) Recommit: The leaders need to recommit to transiting the organization in order to recover from the situation by setting new commitments and priorities for the organization as well as the employees. It becomes critical for the leaders to communicate directly with their workforces on new priorities and business goals.

(3) Re-engage: Clear directions and priorities need to be conveyed by the leaders to the workforce where an understanding is generated about the skill and competence requirements of employees. In the new normal, the leaders need to involve workers in meaningful work where employees feel valued and be able to contribute to the demands of the new vision. Enough training is the key. New technology solutions need to be adopted by organizations as well.

(4) Re-thinking: Shifting away from rigid routine and structure is the requirement of the new normal. There is a need to closely communicate with everyone in the organization. Firms have even rethought about their vision and mission during the post-COVID times.

(5) Reboot: A pivot toward HR designed for speed, new ways of working, digital first, teams, adaptable organizational strategies, and changing business requirements is a pivotal decision. These five steps could be the game changers for resilient organizations post COVID era.

Social Media: Transformation of Lifestyle

As the matter of fact, no one can deny that social media applications have become one of the most essential day-to-day activities that one cannot simply ignore or roughly overlook! I remember the early days of the last decade just before the start of the new millennium, when the Artificial Intelligence bots were designed to run a chat simulating a human to serve and even entertain users in certain discussion areas such as science, literature, or even general social talks. Now, and after more than two decades, the technology has been drastically developed and the evolution of similar media has taken other dimensions. With the restless telecommunication advancements that always strikes the community with everyday new technology generations, people became completely dependent on their smart devices and gadgets.

Social networks have become a necessary activity and even one of the most important means of communication in modern daily life. One of the main reasons why social media has gained this popularity in such a short time is the nature or the essence of human beings, which is, they are naturally social, living in groups or communities to maintain a civilized lifestyle. Over time, social media has developed and become an important part of our daily life. Beyond that, social media has developed much more than a random communication means, it has taken almost no time in transition to offer a variety of interesting activities within the service itself; for example, it provides a geographically limitless platform to connect with other people without meeting them in person. Also, it has been used in many other aspects such as creating groups of the same interest, passion, or profession. This is all considered to be the bright side of the story with the different services offered by different social networks such as general, professional, news, entertainment, and others. It has also proven its strength and value as an important means of communication during the current crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic when quarantine and lockdown have been applied to control the spread and limit the infection.

On the other hand, in many cases, social media usage has turned to be an addiction, and has been misused in many different ways that negatively affected real social life. People are not physically socializing the same way it used to be before the appearance of social media networks. For some  people, they are fleeing actual life and chose to live their fantasies by creating a whole virtual life on cyberspace, thinking that they might have the life of their choice that they cannot get in real life.

Undisputedly, the future is not certain. Who can tell what will be the future of the social media in the coming few years? One can never be so sure, but we are social creatures after all. Keeping in mind that the Internet has revolutionized every aspect of our habits, any form of gathering that leads to either physical or virtual meetings, in particular, to communicate or socialize with others, will continuously be applied in some form or another, and will eventually bring about a full transformation of our lifestyle.

 

Post COVID-19 Marketing Opportunities and Challenges

This COVID-19 pandemic created a roller coaster ride for many business enterprises across the globe. All the business entities encountered numerous challenges, except the pharmaceutical and information technology businesses that are affected to only a minimal level due to logistics and supply chain issues. The majority of the sectors have been severely affected, especially the hospitality and tourism industry.

The digital divide is a major issue. Many customers experimented on the online platform for performing many of their basic professional, shopping, entertainment, fitness, and information needs. This will lead to changes in consumer behavioral dynamics, especially for the post-COVID-19 era. Evidence from research reveals that many adults’ behavior dramatically changed during this global pandemic because they were exposed to many websites and platforms.  Taking advantage of this situation, marketers need to tap select business models to promote their businesses that were relatively better placed before the COVID-19. Incidentally, after every crisis, innovative business models emerge; hence, capitalizing on the right model of business is a crucial factor for the success of any enterprise. Stifled demand will be there for select products and services, and will offer opportunities. On the other hand, many business models and strategies become obsolete. For the success of any business enterprise, it is mandatory that contribution from all the stakeholders is very much significant, considering the current economic situations and GDP statistics are the clear indicators that reflect the weak consumer and investor sentiment. The gradual unraveling which is happening across industries depends on the severity of COVID-19. Hence, marketers must embrace the challenges they faced during this period and identify the suitable online platform relative to the individual entities. Many enterprises deployed hybrid models, eventually cost-cutting and enhancing business viability. With the significant reduction in marketing budget across companies, customer engagement online, Omnichannel marketing, digital efficacy, virtual reality, etc. are the new normal.    

Bigger enterprises have more chances of surviving compared to small scale industries due to working capital issues that eventually lead to marketing revenue and other functional departments. At a global level, every country started announcing economic packages to create both supply and demand. Varied approaches by the select country’s economic packages are largely influenced by the political agenda. Hence, the real demand pick up will be noticed only after the normalcy returns based on consumer confidence, and when customers started spending more like the pre-COVID-19 levels. Greater scope of consumer priorities may change in the post-COVID-19 era due to a healthy lifestyle, and branded products and services may have better leverage in the near future.

Most of the consumers are at home during the crisis and most of the events are happening through a virtual platform, and having a strong technical system in place becomes vital for every sector. With the digital eco-system, an increased need to understand and apply technology by navigating and building customer relationships 24/7 is the mantra in the post-COVID-19 era. The Coronavirus pandemic is a tech-opener for business organizations and it’s the responsibility of every enterprise to invest in the right instruments.

Smart Healthcare System and Devices

The healthcare service has been growing with the technological developments of embedded and wearable medical devices, mobile internet and Internet of things(IoT).

Personal Finance and Its Importance in Today’s Scenario: Learning the Art and Basics of Personal Financing

In today’s ever-changing world and with the Covid-19 pandemic going on, having basic personal financial skills is one of the most valuable things you can do to live a healthy, happy, and secure life.

E-governance: The Pathway to Closer and Agile Government

The endless transformations we are witnessing in the world today in political, economic, technological and social domains have changed many concepts and practices not only within the context of business organizations but also within the domain of governmental organizations. Governments all over the world are seeking to exploit the accelerated knowledge revolution and the opportunities it brings with it to improve the quality of government work and to achieve internal efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, transparency, accountability and agility of the government have become basic requirements for citizens and all entities dealing with the government.

Many countries have made substantial leaps in this direction. Some have gone beyond the so-called concept of e-government which is based on the use of information and communication technologies to deliver government services to the concept of e-governance which includes fundamental changes in the government in its institutional concept in terms of its structure, operations, systems, legislations and all its components through the optimal use of renewable technological capabilities. This includes a fundamental rethinking of the government’s relationships with its stakeholders with the aim of achieving long-term strategic goals that include improving the quality of life, creating of agile government and changing the bureaucratic stereotype of government.

This shift towards e-governance requires a fundamental change in relation to the mentality of government, its management paradigms as well as its culture. Similar changes are essential in the societal culture, educational system in addition to a huge amount of investments in building and maintaining an improved technical infrastructure at the level of governmental organizations as well as at the country’s level in general. This radical shift also requires strengthening the integration of government institutions and the development of what so called networked government. Many countries succeeded in meeting these requirements. This enabled them to reach the desired goals and work towards achieving more holistic vision of governance through creating and implementing a comprehensive, participatory and influential concept on society, which is the concept of smart governance. With the new trend of smart governance, government has become closer to the citizens on the one hand, and able to establish a simultaneous interaction with the society and its economic, social and security components on the other hand. The development of smart sensors and tools that are linked to the Internet, such as security surveillance cameras in cities, climate sensors and energy and electricity consumption meters linked to the government Internet, has enabled the applications of smart governance to create a direct positive impact on the individuals' personal lives.

According to a classification issued by the United Nations in 2020, countries such as Denmark, South Korea, Estonia, Finland, Australia and other countries have made great achievements in the field of e-governance. Among Arab countries, the UAE was ranked 21st globally on the overall UN E-Government Development Index (EGDI) and the first in the Arab world. Furthermore, the UAE was ranked 1st in the Arab, 4th in Asia region and 8th globally on the Online Services Index (OSI). These immense achievements and significant steps were not possible without following an ambitious systematic methodology that is a model to be followed.

However, the roadmap is not full of flowers as lots of challenges are expected. Among these challenges are the overall cultural setting on the country and government levels, government traditional mentality, lack of political leaders understanding and support, and the poor technological infrastructure. Gaining success in e-governance efforts requires a systematic strategy that considers the capabilities of government and the challenges ahead in addition to a lot of efforts to create an appropriate participative climate. Since the wheel of development continues and the future of government is changing, sooner or later, e-governance will be a necessity and a huge demand might be there from the citizens as well as businesses towards more efficient, effective and transparent government.

The Implications of COVID -19 on Global Economic Growth

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread with alarming speed, affecting millions of people and bringing the global economic activity to a near-standstill because the countries sanctioned tight restrictions on the movement of people to address the spread of the virus. The pandemic badly influenced international trade and tourism. The June 2020 Global Economic Prospects highlighted that the impact of the pandemic has long-term damage to the prospects of growth. The Global Economic Prospects’ baseline study forecasts a 5.2 percent contraction in the global GDP in 2020. In this article, an attempt has been made to highlight some of the implications of the COVID–19 on the global economic growth rates. 

 

The implications of the COVID-19 on the Global Economy from the time when the COVID-19 outbreak was first detected was spread over more than 200 nations. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy adversely affects the economic growth rates of the nations. The estimations showed that  COVID -19 could weaken world economic growth by 3.0% to 6.0% in the year 2020. The pandemic raises the risk of a global downturn with the rising levels of unemployment which is not experienced by the nations since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This pandemic also affects international trade by reducing from 13% to 32%, dependent on the seriousness and degree of the global economic recession. International trade and tourism affected the most due to COVID-19.  

It is evident from Figure 1 that the economic condition residues highly melted in many countries and regions around the world; it shows that world economic growth tremendously declines in the year 2020 in all the countries. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that the growth will decline by 6.0% to 7.6% in 2020, it is based on the spread of second wave of COVID-19 infections (OECD Report on 22nd June 2020).  It is also clear from Figure 1, based on the IMF estimations the global economy could drop by 4.9% in 2020. According to IMF, the global economy would experience its “worst recession since the Great Depression”. The IMF projected that UAE’s real GDP growth rate is going to decline to -3.5% for the year 2020. The World Bank’s baseline estimates indicate that global economic growth could shrink by 5.2% in 2020. In similarity, the IMF forecasted a 4.9% decline in the global growth rate in 2020 and will recover the growth by 5.4% in 2021. The World Bank forecasted that economic growth in UAE will decline to 1.1% in 2020 and while the IMF projected UAE growth rate will decline by 3.5%.  

The Covid-19 experience shows that it is difficult to estimate the costs of global economic activity. It raises many uncertainties like loss of jobs for workers both temporarily and permanently. Many countries will experience meltdown in economic activities and issues related to tradeoffs between public health and the influence of economic policies to understand the spread of the virus. 

 

References:

McKibbin, W., and R. Fernando. 2020. Macroeconomic Impacts of COVID-19: Seven Scenarios. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

World Bank. 2020. Global Economic Prospects. World Bank Group Flagship Report, June. Washington, DC: World Bank.