Campus in Blue to Honour Frontline Professionals during the Covid-19 Pandemic

GUtech Lights its Buildings Blue in Honour of Health Professionals and Frontline Staff and Workers

GUtech Campus Glowing in Blue

GUtech campus glowing in blue to honour the efforts of all professionals keeping us safe and protected.

To honour health professionals and all frontline staff and workers who are confronting the Covid-19 virus in hospitals and health centres, GUtech lights up its buildings in blue each evening at dark for an indefinite period of time starting from tonight, 11 May 2020.

Illuminating buildings in blue lights, GUtech rectorate and community show appreciation and gratefulness for the dedication and sacrifice of all professionals and remind all of us to wash hands and keep social distancing.

“We are glowing our campus in blue which can be seen from far to send a message of hope to the community around us for a better tomorrow and to say thank you to health professionals and all others for their hard work.” The Acting Rector, Dr Hussain Al Salmi, stated in support of all those professionals who are keeping us protected during the pandemic.

(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Infrastructure Department

Students speak about their life and study experiences during the lockdown

“It opened my eyes to appreciate the small things we took for granted”

The current lockdown during the COVD-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the way students experience their studies and their environments. Four GUtech students who study in different programmes share some of their experiences.

Abdulaziz Al Sinawi, a 2nd year student in Mechanical Engineering says: “I can say it opened my eyes to appreciate the small things we took for granted, for example meeting friends or eating out in peace as well as the smallest things we might never had considered before such as breathing. I dare to say the lockdown has strengthened a lot of our relations, mostly within families.” However, currently Abdulaziz biggest struggle is that he misses his friends and colleagues at GUtech. On the other hand, he has discovered many positive aspects in working from home and with less disturbances. “It shows how easily everything is accessible online and how we can work from home with little disturbances.” Currently his main worry are his studies. “My batch of graduates may be lacking important concepts related to their fields of studies due to not being able to understand the entire course materials. This may have drastic impacts on our future,” he said.In addition, practical learning in laboratories is currently on hold. Abdulaziz believes that students can ask for more support from their professors. “A main issue most students face is the overflowing of assignments and deadlines. Some students take up to seven courses per semester and we usually receive weekly assignments. I really understand lecturers have a lot of work pressure and I appreciate their hard work, but easing up on deadlines will definitely put a lot of load off our backs. An important thing to bear in mind is that assessments should be made to test the knowledge of students and not to challenge them. I understand that the assignments should be difficult to some extent but they should be solvable within the given time frame.”

Similarly concerned is Sadiyah Manidhar, an 8th semester student in Process Engineering. “Students awaiting to complete their projects and theses, are especially concerned about delaying their graduation. Not being able to work on projects would require them to postpone their work. Internships and employment opportunities post-graduation face uncertainty,” says Sadiyah who initially wanted to conduct her Bachelor thesis at the Department of Process Engineering at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. Sadiyah had to change her plans and conduct the thesis here in Muscat. “When the pandemic started, I knew that it would influence my thesis writing. I was mentally preparing myself for it by looking for alternatives with my supervisors at RWTH Aachen University and GUtech. Ultimately, my supervisors and I felt that it would be best to pursue the thesis at GUtech. I knew it was for the best – risking to exposure by traveling and delaying my graduation didn’t seem worth the risk.” Now, her Bachelor thesis topic is very different. “The reason for this is that my previous topic required experimental work. Given that practical work has been suspended until further notice, I don’t mind a fresh start,” she said.

Hilal Al Mahrouqi, an 8th semester student in Logistics says the most significant challenge that he faced in this crisis is to gather data from several companies that he needed for his bachelor thesis. “I don’t blame them because this crisis has affected many companies. They have other priorities to handle, which are more important than my research.” Hilal believes that the crisis has positively affected students’ lives. “It forced us to count on technology more efficiently and to generate new ideas to enhance our knowledge and to understand our personal needs. I believe, every bad thing happens for a good reason,” he says while highlighting that he has been spending much more time with his parents and other family members. “That’s something I didn’t do before, because I was busy going to university and staying late there for studying or meeting with my friends.”

“The biggest challenge I have faced is learning online with the computer only in front of me. In case I have any questions I have to struggle and write a comprehensive email to the professor in order to get a response,” says Shamsa Al Harthi, a 2nd year student in Applied Geosciences. On the other hand, Shamsa has become more resilient, increasing her knowledge on how to cope with different environments and circumstances as well as having an increased awareness on the importance of technology. “I personally think that we will work much more efficiently in groups in future because during this crisis we have realized the true meaning and value of group-work,” she says. Shamsa tries not only to learn for her studies but to manage her hobbies and practice what she likes.

With regard to the impacts of the pandemic on society at large, Sadiyah believes: “The best way to make a difference is to be self-aware – of your actions and their impacts on the society. I have been using my social media to create awareness about the need to quarantine. I also hope to volunteer to do grocery shopping for my neighbors to prevent exposure, and donate hand-sanitizers, gloves and masks to those who may not have access to them such as construction workers, car washers and cleaners. Considering that, most of the temporary service staff may not find work and would have a lack of income. I would check-in with at least those whom I am familiar with and provide their some advance payments.”

(c) GUtech/ Text: Dr Manuela Gutberlet; Photo provided by Abdulaziz Al Sinawi

The Transition to Online Teaching during the COVID-19 Pandemic and its Challenges

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has been teaching all courses online since mid-March. GUtech academics speak about their teaching experiences and challenges faced. “GUtech’s strategy was to support several online teaching tools to allow professors to select the tool most suitable for their classes. This has increased buy-in from professors who are more than happy to share their best practices with colleagues. Students, for the most part, have been very responsive. However, there is a small percentage of students who have limited internet access. Fortunately, joint efforts between MoHE, charities, telecommunication operators and GUtech have resulted in workable solutions for most students. It means that only a very small number of students have to postpone their studies,” said Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech.

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Department of Applied Geosciences (AGEO) at GUtech said that their department received numerous encouraging messages from students, admitting that under the given circumstances of the pandemic they were happy to learn in a safe environment and from home. “During the last week however, the messages we received from students changed and the students are now more concerned about the situation. Most concerned are our last year students. They don’t know when they will be allowed back to the laboratories to complete their thesis work. I think this is understandable after five weeks of isolation,” said Prof. Wilfried. Another pressing challenge is the delivery of practical courses where the outcome should be a transfer of hands-on skills and internships. “Currently all our laboratories are closed, so that we have to postpone such courses to the next semester,” said Prof. Wilfried while the questions regarding conducting internships remain open. “It is not only that students cannot foresee the end of the restrictions, they also don’t know when they can find an internship or even later a job. They begin to understand that the economic situation caused by COVID-19 can threaten their future and those of their parents, relatives and friends,” he said.

Prof. Dr. Osman Barghouth, Head of the Department of Logistics and Tourism at GUtech said that in their Department students’ motivation and their participation is very high. “I think this high participation depends to a large extent on the course instructors. We as professors must consider the learning process as a two-way communication process. We have to think creatively in order to find ways to involve, motivate and engage our students instead of just giving tasks without feedback,” said Prof. Osman.

In the past weeks Prof. Wilfried Bauer and his team have gained a lot of experiences in adjusting to the current pandemic and in online teaching. However, recorded or live-streamed lectures are different than face-to-face classes. “Our lecturers and professors often lack more elaborated presentation skills of a film producer like David Attenborough. We also often lack the means to adapt all our teaching materials to more elaborated distant learning methods which require much more skills and equipment than recording our voices and preparing white board drawings on a tablet. Without direct feedback from students, we have no possibility to modify the content of the lectures,” said Prof. Wilfried Bauer.

Prof. Osman Barghouth has introduced Microsoft Team Viewer to communicate with all students. To enable the direct contact via video and calls, the Department has added all students in the course to Microsoft Team Viewer. “In our department we design homework assignments that measure the students’ understanding of the online course material and their ability to apply what they learned in practice,” he said. In conclusion, Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein said that the current experience will bring a long-term change to higher education. “Even when (hopefully soon) the Covid-19 pandemic is over, I anticipate that blended learning will become much more common. Further investments are needed to get from Internet teaching in an emergency situation to proper online education; but Covid-19 has put us on this path.”

Caption: Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Applied Geosciences Department and Dean of the Faculty of Sciences

(c) GUtech: Text by Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, Photo: provided by Prof. Wilfried Bauer

 

 

GUtech's Employees To Join ETIMAD

GUtech’s Employees to Join the Second Batch of the National Leadership Development Programme (ETIMAD)

Four employees from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) have been selected to join the second batch of the National Leadership Development Programme (Etimad).

The Etimad programme aims to train and qualify 10,000 Omanis working in the private sector and improve their leadership skills. This specialised programme is Funded by the Government under the supervision of The Ministry of Manpower and is developed in collaboration with professional global and local institutions. To empower its administrative human capital, GUtech nominated a number of its employees to take part in the selection process. The assessment of applicants for the short list had to pass a series of tests and an interview before joining the second batch of the programme, which will include 250 participants from major private sector companies in various sectors, including the higher education sector. The evaluation revolved around the general thinking capacities and the candidates’ ability to deal with information, data and written patterns. Candidates were also tested in personal skills, teamwork, task management, English proficiency, communication and comprehension and management skills.

Excited about being selected to join the second batch of the programme, Kamla Al Bulushi, Admissions Manager, shares: “I look forward to grasp the learnings that will help me boost the level of my leadership skills and improve my managerial ability to meet the needs of my employer and my colleagues at work.”

Congratulating the participants, Dr Hussain Al Salmi, GUtech’s Acting Rector Cum Chief Executive Office of Oman Educational Services (OES), the owner company of GUtech gladly emphasised, “I am proud to see four of our talented employees make it through the selection process. I personally support every opportunity available that assists in the development of leadership skills and capacity of our talented employees. GUtech and OES are firmly committed to developing a strong local human capital able to elevate the overall performance of our organisations.”

 

 

Info session on DAAD Scholarships – Masters in Germany

The DAAD is offering a special scholarship for the MSc Sustainable Management – Water and Energy at RWTH Aachen University to current graduates and alumni from GUtech’s Environmental Engineering programme. If you would like to learn more, please join us the upcoming Info session on DAAD Scholarships for GUtech Graduates and Alumni – Masters in Germany on Monday, 4 May 1pm https://zoom.us/j/96242676788 We will be joined by Thomas Dondorf from RWTH Aachen University, who is coordinating the MSc Sustainable Management – Water and Energy scholarship programme, so get your questions ready.

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics Administers Survey on Acceptance of Virtual Tours During the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics Administers Survey on Acceptance of Virtual Tours During the Spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID – 19 is affecting all our lives in multiple ways. Supermarkets are running out of toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitizer, small shops have to close, airlines stop operating – the economy all over the world has to face some severe changes!?

Meanwhile we are questioning ourselves: What impact will this crisis have on the Tourism sector!? Our research team is about to answer this question with your very much appreciated help!

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics is asking the public to participate in a survey-based study to understand the acceptance of virtual tours during the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This research is about the use of Virtual Tours during crisis such as COVID-19 and its acceptance by the society (you).

The survey takes approximately 10 minutes.

The survey can be found at this link: https://forms.gle/AF34PSHjkaiBMAHf6

Managing the online study-time at home

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has been conducting online classes for all students in the past weeks. Online learning requires a lot of self-motivation from students while on the other hand students seem to be more flexible. Studying and learning within the online environment and at home is entirely different from studying at the university within tight time-frames, social networks and face-to-face interactions with professors and lecturers. While studying online, study plans may be changed or missed out easily. In addition, studying remotely can make it difficult to balance studies, personal and family life. Therefore, it is important to make a plan and schedule the study-time on a daily basis.

GUtech professors and administrative employees advise on how to manage the time and studies and in effective ways. Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Department of Applied Geosciences, highlights that a continuous daily learning routine is very important. “I record all classes two hours in advance and make them available exactly at the starting time of a class. My greatest concern is that students will come to the conclusion: ‘Everything is recorded, no problem to catch up later.’ The amount of work will suddenly increase by the end of the current restrictions. Many will find out that there is not sufficient time to catch up.”

Prof. Dr. Osman Barghouth, Head of the Department of Logistics and Tourism said students and professors should communicate continuously. “Students must maintain their enthusiasm during those days and continue their lessons and activities on a daily basis in order to avoid accumulating lessons at the end of the academic year. On the other hand, instructors should find effective ways to communicate with students, track their performances, and engage them in how to organize their online learning. Only through interactive learning that ensures and stimulates student participation and interaction, distance-learning will succeed in achieving its goals.” Dr. Yathrib Ajaj, Senior Chemistry Lecture at the Department of Mathematics and Sciences said that she engages the students. “I train students to be leaders. Currently four students support my teaching and communicate with the other students. Each week I speak to these students and give them the schedule ahead. They then help the other students to understand the course material. I always give them some assignments during the lecture.”

GUtech’s Head of IT Service Department, Jiji Varghese has some general tips for studying at home. These include studying within a healthy environment with a lot of light and fresh air. Regular exercise, social contacts online and regular breaks are also important. “Make your workplace bright, get some sunlight through your windows. Try to get as well some exercise, mediation, yoga or just laugh every day. Make time for chatting and taking breaks, watching positive, funny videos” he said while adding: “Avoid watching too many news about the Corona pandemic.”

GUtech students speak about their study experiences and how they manage their time during social distancing and online classes these days.

Sadiyah Manidhar, an 8th semester student in Process Engineering is currently working on her final thesis. She said: “I recommend to stick to the normal routine, especially with sleep so that I do not have trouble attending or missing out any online classes. What also works for me, is making reminders and a to-do-list for fun and work activities so that there is a balance and I feel engaged and not pressurized to do something. Apart from that, it is important to have a good organization of my studies. I am currently using mind-maps for my thesis. To-do-lists and personal reminders also help me not to rush into my deadlines and not worry about too much stuff,” she said.

Rayyan Al Ajmi, a 3rd year student in Process Engineering said that she has developed a study routine. She usually wakes up early in the morning. “I watch the uploaded lectures and take notes. I have specified each day for a certain course. That day, I try to focus on watching the lectures, solve tutorials and study a little bit of that course. Later on, I do some exercises and then I practice my hobbies like playing piano, cooking and I do some art like painting canvases. Quarantine really made me figure out the things that I can master, without leaving my studies and I somehow consider this as an achievement.”  Rayyan also stays in contact with her friends, while talking to her friends online and discussing assignments and solving them together and sometimes playing online games together, makes my quarantine easier as we cannot see each other, but we are still in contact.”

 

 

Tourism research presented during the Virtual Conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG)

HALBAN Until the current pandemic, cruise tourism has been on the rise worldwide. Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, who is a tourism researcher from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech), has recently presented some research results on mega-cruise tourism and overtourism in Souq Muttrah to international researchers during the virtual conference of the American Association of Geographers (AAG). The AAG conference is one of the leading geography conferences worldwide. The virtual conference offered 180 sessions and panels on topics such as climate change, political, human and social geographies, the role of geographers as actors in public policy and advocacy, trends in geoethics, race and ethnocentrism’s impacts worldwide.

Overtourism is associated with unsustainable growth of tourism and concepts like ‘visitor pressure’ and the social and physical ‘carrying capacity’ of a destination. “Until the current corona pandemic, large-scale cruise tourism has been one of the emerging sectors worldwide, especially in the Middle East and in Asia. Compared to 17.8 million cruise passengers in 2009, a total of 30 million passengers were traveling worldwide in 2019,” said Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, who is currently writing on a book on ‘Cruise tourism and overtourism on the Arabian Peninsula’. Her virtual presentation explored the impacts of mega-cruise tourism in Souq Muttrah, a popular tourist destination in Oman. “In my research I have been analyzing the urban physical space, local community perceptions and behaviors of shopkeepers, business owners and tour guides with respect to overtourism and changing authenticities in an emerging cruise destination on the Arabian Peninsula. I have conducted intensive qualitative and quantitative research in Souq Muttrah,” said Dr. Manuela Gutberlet. Detailed studies on mega-cruise tourism and the social and cultural impacts on local communities are little worldwide and non-existent in the Arab world. “My results suggest that the culture in Souq Muttrah is transformed into new configurations of diversity, where the concept of a ‘homogenous Omani culture’ is redefined. The future of sustainable tourism development in Souq Muttrah lies in an active participation and in the power of locals but as well of cruise liners,” said Dr. Manuela.

Currently, international tourism has stopped since last month. “Cruise tourism will continue worldwide, however on a different scale. To relaunch tourism, further social research should be done on the impacts of the current pandemic on different tourist destinations.”

Wasting internet bandwidth at home may prevent others from accessing valuable data

HALBAN The internet has become a vital source for teaching, learning, communication as well as research. The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has introduced online teaching in the last month. However, the internet consumption requires a responsible consuming behaviour of the entire community, similar to water consumption. Through the internet, we are all connected. “If you waste your internet bandwidth at home, you may prevent others who urgently need internet access from valuable data,” said Prof. Dr. Nabil Sahli, Head of the Department of Computer Sciences at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech).

He added that “the current pandemic COVID-19, has taught us that we should stop thinking selfishly, if we want to survive. If we do not provide the same healthcare and prevention measures to all, the virus will spread in the community. Similarly, if we take all the bandwidth of the internet for ourselves we will prevent others from even small data packets. Consequently, they will have difficulties to teach and learn online, do business, or communicate with others online.”

Prof. Nabil explained that internet users of the same internet address (ISP) usually have limited bandwidth within their neighborhoods. “Currently the internet is becoming a vital resource for our everyday-lives, a public utility, similar to water and electricity. Most of us will try not to waste water or electricity in order to avoid getting high bills,” said Prof. Nabil. In some countries tap water is free-of-charge or it is subsidized like here in the Gulf region. This increases the risk of wasting water. “Most people who know that water is a vital, scarce, natural resource, they will not waste it. In the same way, internet consumers who have unlimited Internet access at home should not let go their YouTube or Netflix streaming while they are off,” said Prof. Nabil Sahli while highlighting that charges can regulate the data consumption. “Those consumers who have limited internet connection and who pay for their downloaded and uploaded data, will usually use the internet with more moderation,” he said.

Architects held an Online Research Workshop On Urbanism

Despite the current limitations in face-to-face meetings, academics from the Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design at the German University of Technology (GUtech) are carrying on with their scholarly projects in unusual ways. “Every crisis has a potential to create innovative solutions,” says Prof. Nikolaus Knebel, who had to overcome the short-term cancellation of an international two-day workshop on “Cities In Their Own Right. Southern Urbanisms Along The Indian Ocean Coast” that was planned for months. Last year, the renowned Urban Studies Foundation granted a fund to hold an International Seminar Series to Prof Nikolaus Knebel, Dr. Nathalie Jean-Baptiste from Ardhi University in Tanzania and Prof. Dr. Nina Gribat from Cottbus University in Germany. The focus of this research project is on understanding cities along the coast of East Africa, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, which, over the next decades, will experience drastic changes to their urban and social structures. The question is: Are there models for this transformation that suit the specific conditions of these cities of the Global South? For example, Dar Es Salaam is a city which is predicted to grow to the size of Mumbai in the foreseeable future. “We want to foster a scholarly exchange to see what one side can learn from the other. But the participants are also very much rooted in practice, because they work on everyday issues of their cities and citizens through setting up so-called City-Labs, which are platforms for discussions, research, practical problem-solving as much as visionary thinking.”, says Knebel. “We have built up a network of scholars from cities in the South like Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, Muscat, Karachi, Mumbai, Kochi and Colombo as well as also contributors from Oxford, Dortmund and Stuttgart and were looking forward to our workshop. We wanted to meet in our group of researchers to discuss our papers, but had to switch to an online meeting last minute,” says Knebel. “It was interesting to see what the change of format brought, meeting within a limited timeframe of two hours instead of two days. Of course, we missed the informal chat and networking that always makes conferences a fertile ground for new ideas and new partnerships. But on the other hand, we worked so concentrated on the discussion of research papers. I had the impression that we were much more disciplined and focused than it is in live sessions sometimes.” The positive experience of this online conference led to the group wanting to continue meeting with this format for the time being. “However, our topic is urban studies, it is all about people and the public life in a city, which is quite the opposite of being quarantined at home or confined in an office. I can imagine that after this period of experiencing empty cities devoid of people we might appreciate the qualities of social life in urban spaces much more,” says Prof. Nikolaus Knebel.