Dr Ahmed al Bulushi, dean, College of Engineering, National University of Science and Technology has a mantra for college students to get by the lockdown and into a new era of online education where the focus is not on classroom learning but on individual effort. “You need to acquire and develop life-long, innovative and creative skills, besides your specialised knowledge of your field of study, as soon as you can,” he emphasises.
Dr Bulushi, who believes that online education will play a decisive role in the way education is conducted in Oman in coming years, as well as in shaping individuals and their careers, calls on the student community to build up innovative and creative thinking skills, IT and technical abilities, effective communication in more than one language, research and lifelong learning skills and an entrepreneurial thinking approach towards their future.
“In the past, a driver used to know everything about the automobile to the level he/she did not need a mechanic to fix the vehicle, if something went wrong. Similarly, the IoT era requires every single person in society to be an IT technician, or at least close to it, in order to be able to live without distractions. Are you ready for such a life?” he asks.
Drawing attention to the changes taking place in every direction and sector, Dr Bulushi asserts that people are already assessing and experiencing what works well and what not for themselves. A lot of traditional and successful businesses and retailers are going bankrupt while non-traditional businesses, such as Amazon, Zoom and Talabat app are booming, he said, pointing out, “Locally, online retailing and mobile apps such as Tharwa, Athmar Plus and Mandoob are emerging.”
Similarly thousands of traditional and routine workers are losing jobs while a good number of SMEs are surfacing. Responding to change and taking the opportunity, active entrepreneurs have started using innovative ways in conducting their businesses. A quick shift to online services has also taken place in some higher education institutions. “This is a proof, if you have the right skills and attitude, you can’t go wrong,” he asserts.
Dr Bulushi futher points out that changes at institutional or individual levels take time and it goes into different phases. Also, many people resist and defend their comfort zones. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated all such norms and brought an opportunity for a holistic approach to systems and individuals – “Now, it is ‘swim or sink’ and hence resistance to change is not an option any more. Therefore, we have to reinvent ourselves and adapt,” he says.
The most important factor in this change process is our attitude towards learning and thinking approach towards our role in life. Hence, it is time to focus on learning as a means to an overall good life and not only for a certificate or for employment.
In order to catch the train before we miss it, we have to take some practical actions such as:
• Taking responsibility of our learning and seeking knowledge and skills beyond the study syllabus
• Learning and practising new learning approaches and habits and reading wildly
• Giving more attention to overall self-development by joining college clubs and professional chapters
• Developing and practising useful hobbies.
• Developing social networking skills and participate in volunteering activities
“As a youngster, you must be an active person in the society and have a systemic approach to life. This is to say, you have to plan your days and weeks in advance and evaluate performance and check achievements frequently. Most importantly, get rid of bad habits such as blaming and complaining and develop some good ones such as trying new ways of conducting yourselves, trying new ideas and become a change agent. Remember everything you do now will pay back later, for sure,” he assures.