“I want every day to be a challenge” – A UPAD students shares his study experiences

 

HALBAN A 4th year student in Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD), Abdullah Al Mandhari (pictured), has shared some of his experiences about his online studies and his on-going projects. Sometimes Abdullah has been studying while being surrounded by his nephews and niece. This highlights the challenges students face within their home-environments, in a region that is highly family-oriented.

Managing social life at home and online studies can be challenging at times. In his view, online classes have positive and negative aspects. “Currently most of the students stay in their comfort zones, at home. But I think there will be less quality in our final projects, the thesis. Unfortunately, most of us are too distracted most of the time. I am currently working on the time-frame of my final project. I have worked on that every single holidays in our semester breaks,” he said. Recently Abdullah has worked on architectural design projects such as a drive-through cinema. “I have some other goals to reach within this year. I will participate in the International Design Contest “Jump the Gap” which will be held this month.” Jump the Gap is a worldwide competition in designing innovative and sustainable bathrooms for the future, held by Roca and in collaboration with the Barcelona Design Centre.

To concentrate on his projects and assignments, Abdullah has been following a weekly schedule. “When I focus on my goals, I can reach them easily. I always schedule my week to do different things such as my assignments, physical workout, I also work in my online business and I learn new skills. I want every day to be a challenge, so that I can learn much more from life and enhance my personality. I like to share the positive energy and create a motivating study-environment at home. I think students can always remind each other to work together or compete with each other in order to reach each phase of their work. I think many students don’t know how to increase their self-motivation at home. I sometimes played an important role to increase their motivation,” said Abdullah. He has been advising some of his study-colleagues via zoom meetings. “As far I can see, all the projects went very well. But now after two months of online classes and towards the end of our semester, it seems that the energy levels have dropped. We need continuous motivation to work on our projects,” he said while adding that “as a social person, I always text and call the people who I love and care for. We also watch movies online or have joint videos calls. It is fun because we realize how good days make us stronger in life. We didn’t realize that when we lived the moment but we realize now during these times, when we stay at home. In future, I can see myself as a businessman working in different fields. Currently, I don’t have any plans to do a master’s degree, but maybe later on in international business.”

Caption: Abdullah Al Mandhari surrounded by his niece and nephews.

© GUtech: Photo provided by Abdullah Al Mandhari, Text by Dr. Manuela Gutberlet

HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecertary of Tourism, addresses Faculty of Business students on the impact of Covid19 on the tourism sector on Oman

HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary of Tourism, addresses Faculty of Business students on the impact of Covid19 on the tourism sector on Oman

The Ministry of Tourism is taking precautious, but well defined steps in addressing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Oman’s Tourism Sector.

GUtech Business and Economics students got a closer insight into the protocols activated by the Ministry of Tourism in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Tourism.

The Undersecretary was hosted via Teams Microsoft by Prof. Dr. Heba Aziz, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics and director of MBA programme recently.

Undoubtedly the pandemic presents new challenges to the tourism and aviation industry in Oman which has prompted the Ministry to commission a study to look in to the economic and financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Undersecretary stressed on the importance of collaboration that exists between the Ministry of Tourism and Oman Aviation Group (OAG) and highlighted on the streamlined communication between the two organisations; as the aviation and tourism sector should be going hand in hand none of them could succeed independently of the other. OAG encompasses Oman Air, Oman Airports and Oman Aviation Services. “Every crisis offers an opportunity and with this crisis we have the opportunity of redefining our market segments, the business and adventure segments are likely to recover quicker than other segments.” The undersecretary shared with the students. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to learn about the Ministry’s support to investors by extending deadlines for due projects and plans to explore new markets confirming that the domestic and regional markets will be very important at the coming stage.

Her Excellency concluded that the tourism sector despite the crisis still holds a lot of opportunities for young Omanis, “I started in the aviation sector from a junior position and the aviation and tourism sector offered me lot of opportunities – I hope you also can embrace the endless opportunities that this sector offers,”   end.

 

Caption:

HE. HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary for the Ministry of Tourism

Prof. Dr. Heba Aziz, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics and director of MBA programme

(c) GUtech: Text by Fatima El Madkouri, Photo: provided by Prof. Dr. Heba Aziz

 

 

 

 

The Hospitality industry: Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic

Crisis Management in the Hospitality Industry: Insights from the General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel

The Hospitality industry: Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many variables that are obscuring the prospect of recovery of the hospitality sector.

Dr. Heba Aziz, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics and director of MBA programmes invited the General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, Katrin Herz, to a virtual talk to students of the International Business and Service Management (IBSM) department recently to gain insights into crisis management in the hospitality industry amid the covid-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased that students enrolled in my course “Contemporary Issues in Tourism: Crisis Management” had got the opportunity to learn about what is happening in the hospitality from a hospitality practitioner with an extensive local and international experience.” Commented Dr. Heba Aziz.

Herz gave her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, in particular and the hospitality sector in general. A sector that has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. She started off by pointing out to the importance of having a crisis management team during this difficult time, inclusive of key personnel from finance, communication, marketing, human resources, and procurement. This team is tasked with addressing all sorts of aspects relating to communication, staffing  and contracts, hygiene and cleaning standards to new procurement initiatives.

Addressing a question from Fatma Al Madhani, Herz confided that a rise in operating expenses and direct costs is imminent as hotels will be required to acquire all sorts of protective equipment including, shields, masks, gloves, alcohol-based sanitisers and disinfectant installations, to maintain social distancing and ensure a touch free guests’ interaction across the hotel facilities supported by solutions such as QR scanned menus in restaurants and mobile applications for check-in.

Speaking via Microsoft Zoom to students, Herz shared how Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, is gearing towards a staycation strategy to circumvent the pandemic’s painful impact on the hotel’s revenues, and developing package deals to attract local guests and families.

Students got also to learn that most hotels rely on external subcontractors for operating their facilities. Negotiating these contracts are among the tasks any hotel manager would start with to minimise losses. Besides, revisiting personnel’s contracts and agreeing with employees on salary cut to avoid redundancies.

The student Reem Al Khalili raised the question about gaining customers back after the pandemic. To this, Herz emphasised the importance of transparent and clear communication about social distancing practices that the hotel is planning to put in place. Besides, the hotel has been very flexible with its refund policy, allowing customers to claim their deposits or reschedule their events at no additional cost.

The virtual talk offered  the opportunity to students to learn how the hospitality industry is reorganising and redistributing resources to develop and cope with new hygiene protocols for a better customer experience. From identifying all touch points in a hotel, to dedicating personnel who will be focusing on the hygiene aspects, are among the changes a hotel will have to prepare for.

 

Caption: Katrin Herz, General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel.

(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Dr Heba Aziz

 

 

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

 

 

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.”

 

 

GUtech Commemorates 7th Anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Visit

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) commemorated on Tuesday 24th December the 7th anniversary of the visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to its campus.

The 24th of December marks the private visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to GUtech campus in Halban. The commemoration of the private visit of His Majesty is annually observed by GUtech community. Students and staff remember the day to reflect on the importance of the visit in GUtech’s history and on the vision of His Majesty the Sultan for Oman’s academic and research development.

In the late afternoon of December 24th, 2012, the founders of GUtech and members of the rectorate welcomed his majesty to GUtech campus and its facilities, few weeks only after its opening.

In visiting GUtech campus and meeting the founders and the rectorate, His Majesty confers upon it an unusual distinction. “We welcome His Majesty’s private visit to GUtech campus as a gracious expression of his trust in our university and a vital catalyser enticing us to work harder and faster for further progress” proudly declares Dr Hussain Al Salmi, Deputy Rector for Administration and Finance.

The significant and ever-lasting contributions His Majesty has made to Oman and to the lives of its people are universally known; not less impressive than the wise introduction of far-reaching reforms which has promoted the development of the education system, and the prosperity of the country in general.

As more as 3000 male and female students enrolled in the university in the last 12 years. More than 400 male and female students graduated from it while there are more than 2200 male and female students are currently pursuing their studies.

(c) GUtech/Text: Fatima El Madkouri