Conquering Virtual Learning: A Q&A with ALUSB Faculty

Conquering Virtual Learning: A Q&A with ALUSB Faculty

Author: JerryLynn Kariuki, Intern, ALU School of Business

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history. Students and teachers have had to adapt to the world of virtual learning; a world that comes with its own set of challenges. Luckily, Chidi Afulezi, ALUSB’s Head Faculty for Product, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is no stranger to challenges and he took this one head-on. We caught up with Chidi to learn more about his experience as an educator during a pandemic and get some tips on how to make the most out of virtual learning.

Q. How has COVID-19 impacted your work as an educator? 

Chidi: One of the main impacts has been losing the personal face to face connection I previously had with my MBAs. It’s not possible to truly replace the particular aspects of in-person learning, such as body language or feeling the tension in a room when navigating difficult conversations. 

Fortunately, ALUSB had already stepped up with virtual learning. The virtual learning experience was made more comfortable by hosting webinars, using emails and other platforms to communicate with students. I believe the broader ALU community is looking up to ALUSB as a benchmark for how we do virtual learning. As a faculty member, I am proud to know that it is not just the MBA’s who are getting some form of instruction but the whole ALUSB community is learning. I believe that among the many offerings, this element makes ALUSB an exemplary learning institution.

Additionally, this experience has prompted me to up my game in terms of the equipment, technology and tools I need to provide an engaging learning experience. Looking at it from teaching methodology, I had to find ways to bring empathy, energy, kindness and firmness to support my students through this challenging time and ensure we produce bonafide MBAs.

Q. What are the benefits of online learning/teaching?

Chidi:  Through virtual learning, there are opportunities to bring more people into the classrooms.

There is also an opportunity to combine classes and to extend the executive education classes, not just to our students but to other corporate organisations. 

Moreover, going virtual has allowed me to be with my family. While travelling was exciting, spending more time with my family has been a blessing which I genuinely appreciate, and I consider this a benefit of the transition to virtual learning. 

Q. What are your highlights from our second online intensive this past July?

Chidi: The first thing I can point out is the ALUSB Operations team who stars in their execution of the virtual intensives. The group organised and ran a world-class virtual learning experience that was engaging for both the educators and the students.

My second highlight was the interaction with students, especially during the capstone presentations where they shared some of the projects they have been working on to solve challenges they have identified all over the continent and in different sectors. It was a learning experience for me too, and I felt inspired by their excellent work.

Q. What is your prediction for the education sector post-COVID-19?

“The education sector in the world, and more specifically on the African continent, is about to see some significant disruption.”

Chidi: The education sector in the world, and more specifically on the African continent, is about to see some significant disruption. Essentially, COVID-19 is an accelerant rather than a change agent. Previously, the changes happening in the education sector were moving at a slower pace. But with COVID-19, I anticipate the acceleration of significant shifts in the industry. I believe we are going virtual, and this will translate to more students having access to education. 

Notably, this is predicated by the availability of supportive infrastructures such as internet connectivity and electricity. Universities and other physical structures will not disappear as these too have their significance in society. However, virtual education may become more predominant. 

In addition to this, educators will need to be exceptional at what they do to attract the kinds of people who stick around virtually. This will be an opportunity to highlight the ‘superstars’ who can deliver instruction and teach via virtual mediums. 

Finally, Chidi shared the following practical tips to make the most out of online teaching:

  • You have to be interesting. While delivering content virtually, you need to make the delivery of your content exciting and simplified. An educator needs to be very engaged to ensure that students don’t get disengaged. This could mean having visual content that is well thought out and keeping your energy levels high.
  • Get the right tools. Improve your delivery by ensuring that you have the right equipment to deliver online learning. 
  • Learn from other educators who are doing well. 
  • Find something that your students and team can look forward to. It is important to have something that brings you together and lifts your energy levels.

Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:

Applications to join our MBA classroom in March 2021 are now open! Start your application today at: http://bit.ly/APPLYNOWM21 !

 

Teaching through COVID-19: A Faculty Perspective

Teaching through COVID-19: A Faculty Perspective

The education sector has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us understand what this period has been from a student’s perspective, we have not heard much about experiences from educators. In this article, Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye, Head of Leadership at ALU School of Business, shares how she navigated these uncertain times.

Dr Zukiswa Mthimunye’s interest in education was sparked after receiving an opportunity to teach. Since then, she’s been motivated to ensure that access to quality education is not a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but rather something that everyone can access at all times. After eight years in the corporate world, Zuki delved into the education sector which led her to ALUSB, where she currently heads our flagship leadership course.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your work as an educator? 

“This is an exciting era if we take this as an opportunity.”

A: Part of the work I do is in corporate training and development. As different companies made budget cuts and other financial changes to accommodate the new circumstances, I wound up losing a lot of business in the corporate sector. Additionally, the education sector in Africa heavily relies on private funding, and during this pandemic, this has been a significant setback. On the other hand, this has been an exciting time as an educator mainly because online learning has become a necessity and COVID-19 has resulted in fast-tracking of online learning which I believe is a way to make quality education accessible to more people. This is an exciting era if we take this as an opportunity.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced in the transition to online learning, and how have you overcome them?

A: Luckily when it comes to online learning ALUSB has been miles ahead in comparison to other institutions on the continent. I realised if I am going to create meaningful learning experiences virtually I needed to invest in quality. I, therefore, got a home studio with equipment to ensure high quality of lighting, video and audio. Additionally, I realised it takes longer to prepare learning content because we have to pay attention to every second of online time as we try to create virtual learning environments that can break the impersonal barriers.

Q: What are the benefits of online learning/teaching?

A: First, virtual learning has the potential to provide more people with access to education. Learning virtually reduces the burden of living and transport costs which are currently barriers to people’s access to education. 

Secondly, online learning allows one to learn at their own pace rather than a fixed schedule. Online learning allows you to take charge of your learning experience and fit it into other aspects of your life. 

Thirdly, it has opened up space for more diversity in the classrooms as people from different organisations and regions can get to the same learning space and learn from each other. 

Q: What is your prediction for the education industry post-COVID-19?

“The first and most significant step is to adapt.”

A: I do not believe there is a universal future of education, and therefore the future of education in Sub-Saharan Africa will depend on where one is. In its mould education may not change as some levels of education require more contact education to benefit socially, psychologically and cognitively. Moreover, rural areas may also continue to have in-person learning due to lack of the infrastructure to support online learning. People in urban communities are likely to have more virtual learning experiences if barriers such as internet costs reduce. 

In addition to that, I believe online learning could possibly become more cost-effective if we can work on access to quality internet at lower costs. The future of education post-COVID centres on participation by the private sector. The leading players, in this case, would be the telecommunications sector and financial services.

Finally, Zuki shared some tips on how educators can make the most out of online teaching. She adds that these tips are applicable to people without a professional background in education who due to the current global crisis needed to play the role of educators.

  • The first and most significant step is to adapt. This includes understanding and imagining a classroom to be more than standing next to a chalkboard or whiteboard. You need to ask yourself what your curriculum seeks to achieve and what it is achieving. Adapting is also about getting comfortable with the technology at your disposal in the context you find yourself. 
  • Secondly, we need to expand our practice beyond teaching and assessing then assuming that learning has happened. Educators need to focus on the type of learning experience they are creating. Education needs to be about learning experiences that move people forward and encourage development. 
  • Thirdly, be kind to yourself as an educator. We hold a lot of responsibilities but it is okay to take a moment and let everything just sink in.

Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:

Author: JerryLynn Kariuki, Intern, ALU School of Business

How to successfully start a new job remotely

How to successfully start a new job remotely

How are you doing? I hope you are safe and healthy as you read this post. 

Months into the COVID-19 travel restrictions and work-from-home realities that have become the new normal this 2020, we and our organisations have started to adapt and move forward. It hasn’t been easy, but we take each day as it comes, doing the best we can.

One thing that gives me hope is my LinkedIn feed! I’m particularly struck by the number of my connections who have started new jobs in this period. And of course, some of these are members of the ALUSB community! 

So I got to thinking: How are people starting new jobs remotely and how are employers onboarding their new hires? 

Step up Akshay Vishwanath ‘20, a newly minted MBA, proud Kenyan and rising leader in conservation. In June, Akshay joined Maliasili as Manager, East Africa Portfolio, and kindly agreed to an interview with me to talk about his experience:

__________

Q: OK, so let’s set the stage. You completed your MBA at ALU School of Business in March 2020. You were ready for a new professional challenge. What kind of opportunity were you looking for? 

A: I reflected a lot towards the end of the programme, as part of the final MBA Leadership Lab term. I identified three main objectives for my next professional move and for the kind of African leader I wanted to be: 

  • To play a part in supporting the growth of indigenous conservation organisations.
  • To improve the financing of conservation across the continent.
  • To play a bigger role in the advocacy and social justice side of conservation.

Maliasili was an excellent fit, given its mission to support the growth of local, entrepreneurial, people-centred conservation organisations in Africa.

Q: You applied to Maliasili just as COVID-19 restrictions started to impact regular business operations. How did this impact your recruitment process? 

AThe Maliasili team was already working remotely across the continent and the US. They adapted quickly and were able to remain focused on the growth of the organisation and so the recruitment progressed. My start date was delayed by one month, but this was to ensure that I had a full plate of work when I started.

Q: Tell us about the onboarding experience. You were joining Maliasili’s Kenyan office, but due to COVID-19, starting remotely and working from home. 

A: I started with two others. A completely remote, online onboarding was new for the organisation and also for the new hires! Maliasili had to adapt and conduct our onboarding in unprecedented times. 

When you change a job and join a new organisation, you normally make a mental shift. Usually, this happens as you move into a new office space and experience a new commute. Sometimes you move home and city! You turn the page and you start a new professional chapter. 

This time everything was virtual. My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture. They made sure we understood the quality and standards that were expected as part of delivery. Doses of humour and fun infused everything. Whereas other organisations usually begin by providing a lot of reading material for you to familiarise yourself with the organisation’s goals, strategy, operations, successes and on-going work, I felt that Maliasili flipped it. They put more focus on team dynamics and organisational culture first.

“My new employer made a great effort for us to initially understand their team culture, dynamics and organisational culture.

Q: So how has your first month been? 

A:  I spent my first three weeks in the new job understanding the organisation and team. Maliasili eased me into the job and organisational culture. 

Q: So we’ve heard a lot about what Mailiasili did. What about you? What did you do to adapt to this new way of starting a job? 

A: A big part of it is to go easy and not put too much pressure on yourself. Take a day at a time. Make a conscious effort to maintain your curiosity and hunger for the new job and all the potential that comes with it. 

I was also conscious that my new employer was in unchartered territory too, and that we were experiencing these unprecedented times together. 

Q: Any final tips to share about how a new employee can start remotely, successfully?

A: Here’s my advice: It’s about mindset. As the global health crisis continues into the second half of 2020, we are aware that things are not going to be the same. So throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed. 

But it’s ok. We adapt. Adjust your expectations and roll with it. Sometimes new chapters in our lives will be super creative and innovative, but things will also go wrong. Be ready for anything. 

Don’t compare what is going on now with how things were done in the past or what you’ve experienced before. Experiment and figure things out – everyone has room to make mistakes. Be bolder, feel like you can apply yourself. You are not alone, there are many of us experiencing this across the world. Feel more confident to be your best self, knowing that mistakes are more accepted in these times of adaptation. 

And I can’t stress enough; place emphasis on your new organisation’s team dynamics and culture. Spend time getting to know people on a 1-2-1 basis and schedule time to have fun together. When you finally meet in person, I am confident that you will slot right in. 

“… throw the rule book out of the window and get comfortable with the fact that the world as we know it has changed.” 

Want to read more stories from our ALUSB community? Here are some links to get you started:

Start your application today at http://bit.ly/APPLYO20

Author: Vani Nadarajah, ALUSB Director of Admissions

The ALUSB MBA Online Intensive Week: Highlights And Takeaways

The ALUSB MBA Online Intensive Week: Highlights And Takeaways

Every 4 months, the ALUSB MBA students travel to Kigali for a week-long “intensive” where they get to connect with their peers and learn directly from African business leaders. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent travel restrictions, we were unable to conduct our intensive in person. Nonetheless, the ALUSB community gathered online for an exciting week of engaging sessions led by academic experts and business leaders from across the world. 

Read on to discover some of last week’s highlights and takeaways! 

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Successful Online Learning: 10 tips from ALUSB MBA students

Successful Online Learning: 10 tips from ALUSB MBA students

The ALUSB MBA is a blended, part-time programme. This means that the MBA is part in person (in Kigali, Rwanda) and part online, where students engage in interactive, online learning while remaining at work in their home countries. This part-time MBA learning structure requires students to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week to their studies during their online periods. And as the world was forced to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our students became full-blown online learning experts! Although learning from home has become more common, distance learning is still a unique concept for most MBA students.

As we prepare for our second online ALUSB MBA intensive, we reached out to some of our ALUSB MBAs to put together a list of tips to make the most out of your online learning experience.

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10 inspiring pieces of advice from powerful women in business

10 inspiring pieces of advice from powerful women in business

Sometimes, we come across a piece of advice that sticks with us and propels us forward. As part of our ‘Woman Of the Week’ campaign, ALUSB asked some of the women in our community to offer some advice to their peers in the ecosystem in the hopes of inspiring and empowering young, up-and-coming businesswomen across the continent. Whether you’re getting ready to make an important business move, take your career to the next level or just looking for some inspiration; this blog post is for you.

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