5 Best Practices for Online Learning

By: Iavjot Kaur,

5 Best Practices for Online Learning

As a response to the current global pandemic, most educational institutions have turned towards online learning to provide a safer learning environment for both educators and students. However, online learning is not everyone’s cup of tea and it is not without its challenges. Taking this into consideration, the following article will recommend 5 best practices which can easily be applied in online classrooms to help students and teachers master e-learning.

Creating a Supportive Online Learning Community

First and foremost, a supportive online learning community is crucial for any kind of online learning (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). Since teachers are not going to be physically present in a classroom with students, it makes it harder for them to check in with students and see how they are doing physically, emotionally and academically (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). Thus, it is important for teachers to “build time into [their] teaching and learning to reduce social isolation and support feelings of connectedness and belonging” (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). One way to do this is by encouraging peer learning (Boettcher, 2019). For instance, teachers can open a general student forum where students can post and ask for help from each other so that they can get support from their peers as well (Boettcher, 2019). Teachers can also set up small groups or whole class discussion forums where students can not only mentor and support one another but can also do pair or group projects together (Boettcher, 2019). Moreover, during class time, if the teacher is making use of video conferencing apps such as Zoom, then small breakout rooms could be arranged for the class so that students can interact and discuss with one another. If necessary and possible, teachers can also arrange individual phone or video calls to check in with the students and see how they are coping with their studies and even personal life (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). This cannot only make students feel less isolated but can also make them feel like they have agency in this online space (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020).

Mixing Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning

            A good balance of asynchronous and synchronous learning is need for effective online learning. If students are sitting from 9am-5pm in front of their computer screens attending live online lectures, it will be counterproductive as students are likely to get distracted or tired. However, if students are only given pre-recorded lectures to listen to, then it is hard to track their learning progress. Students might procrastinate and not listen to the lectures at all or they might be doing other things while the lecture plays in the background.  Thus, a mixture of asynchronous and synchronous learning is needed. Apart from using asynchronous learning to give students to opportunity to learn at their own pace, they also need to be engaged in “more collaborative and more reflective activities” in synchronous learning (Boettcher, 2019). During live online lectures, students should engage in interactive brainstorming and sharing discussions to stimulate their learning (Boettcher, 2019). At times, students can also be asked to “think, plan, write and summarize” on their own as individual learning needs to be balanced with peer learning (Boettcher, 2019). Moreover, live online classes should be recorded so that students can review them and use them for revision after class (Boettcher, 2019).

Setting Classroom Rules and Clear Expectations

            At the beginning of a new course, teachers should set classroom rules and set clear expectations on course workload (Boettcher, 2019). For example, if a teacher is going to be using Zoom to convene the course, then clear expectations regarding student participation should be conveyed in the first lesson (Harvard University, 2020). Doing so not only ensures active student participation but also ensures that students are paying attention to the course material. Teachers should also communicate how much time students should be spending on asynchronous learning each week (Boettcher, 2019). As previously mentioned, it is easy for students to put off doing their work and procrastinate especially if there are no set deadlines. Therefore, the time that students need to do their work needs to be scheduled and planned for (Boettcher, 2019). For instance, teachers could ask students to listen to one pre-recorded lecture and complete one discussion forum question before coming to class. This not only inform students how much time and effort is required of them on a weekly basis but it also keeps them on track by giving them a deadline (i.e. before the start of the class).

Effective Communication Between Teachers and Students

            It is important to establish clear guidelines on what communication channels students can use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their teachers. Channels of communication between teachers and students should be made clear in the beginning of the course so that students know exactly how to reach their teachers if and when they encounter problems in their online learning. Teachers should inform students on how they can be contacted, e.g. via email and videoconferencing, and also inform them on when a response can be expected, e.g. within 24 hours on weekdays (Boettcher, 2019). Moreover, talking on the phone with their teachers in case of emergencies could be made an option for students (Friedman, 2020). For instance, if there are some technical issues during live online classes, then students need to know how they can inform their teachers about their situation in the quickest way possible. Some teachers, especially professors in universities, have weekly office hours where students can just drop in for consultations (Friedman, 2020). Since face-to-face office hours is not possible in light of the global pandemic, teachers could instead hold virtual office hours where students can ask questions about the course or their assignments (Friedman, 2020). In case some students are not available during that weekly office hour, virtual consultations or phone consultations by appointment should also be made available. By setting clear expectations on how students can contact their teachers, it can lead to effective communication which is conducive to a better online learning environment.

Accessible Materials

Course materials, especially those for asynchronous learning, need to be made accessible to students. Teachers should refrain from using unfamiliar digital tools to post course materials as some students might not know how to access them (Friedman, 2020). Teachers should instead try to make materials available on easy everyday apps, such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Docs (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). In case a teacher finds a digital tool particularly useful for online teaching, then they should provide technical support to students, e.g. by recording a short demo on how to use the tools to access course materials (Friedman, 2020). Moreover, instead of using inaccessible scanned PDFs for handouts, teachers should create PDFs with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for better reader accessibility (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). If teachers are using audio or video files in their teaching, then a short text description should be provided (Rappolt-Schlichtmann, 2020). This way, students will still be able to know what the audio or video is about in case they could not access the files.


Boettcher, J. (2019). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online. Designing for Learning.

Friedman, J. (2020, May 4). Tackle Challenges of Online Classes Due to COVID-19. U.S.

News. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/how-to-overcome-challenges-of-online-classes-due-to-coronavirus

Harvard University. (2020). Best Practices: Online Pedagogy. Teach Remotely


Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G. (2020, March 18). Distance Learning: 6 UDL Best Practices for Online Learning. https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/for-educators/universal-design-for-learning/video-distance-learning-udl-best-practices

How might AI affect how people (and personal outlook) do their jobs in the months or years to come?

AI and Home Office

By Hayley Feng,

How might AI affect how people (and personal outlook) do their jobs in the months or years to come?

Education industry as my preference (overall outlook)

Artificial intelligence can alter educational tools and institutions. Though teachers’ presence is irreplaceable, AI can still shake the future landscape in education: for teaching efficiency and better practices.

Overall, AI can drive efficiency, personalization and streamline admin tasks to allow teachers the time and freedom to provide understanding and adaptability. By leveraging the best attributes of machines and teachers, the vision for AI in education is one where they work together for the best outcome for students. (Forbes) Accordingly, AI has already been applied to education primarily in some tools that help develop skills and testing systems.

AI can make differentiated and individualized learning come true. Adjusting learning based on individual’s needs has been prioritized by educators for years, and companies such as Content Technologies and Carnegie Learning are developing intelligent instruction design and digital platforms to provide learning, testing and feedback to students from pre-K to college level. The AI technologies applied are used to identify challenges students face, gaps in knowledge and redirects to new topics when appropriate. As AI get more sophisticated, it might be possible for a machine to read the expression that passes on a student’s face that indicates they are struggling to grasp a subject thus modify a lesson to respond to that. By customizing curriculum for every student’s needs, AI-powered machines will allow many levels of differentiation that is impossible for teachers managing the entire class.

AI also has much potential in automating admin tasks. Educators spend a tremendous amount of time grading homework and tests, and AI can step in and make quick work out of these tasks while offering recommendations on closing the gaps in learning. Machines can already grade multiple-choice tests now, and they are remarkably close to being able to assess written responses as well. By automating more admin tasks, teachers can reshuffle time to focusing on each student’s needs. Furthermore, enrollment and admissions processes can become more efficient by saving human resources from repeated and tedious work.

Smart content

Smart content includes virtual content, digital resources, and customized learning facilities. AI technology has already reached a classroom setting. Smart content includes virtual content like video conferencing, video lectures, and “smart textbooks.” On digital content, AI systems are using traditional syllabuses to create customized textbooks for certain subjects. As a result, textbooks are being digitized, and new learning interfaces are being created to help students of all academic grades and ages. (eLearning Industry, 2019) For example, Cram101 uses AI to make textbook contents more comprehensible and easier for students to navigate through summaries of the chapters, flashcards, and practical tests. Another useful AI interface is the Netex Learning which enables professors to create electronic curriculums and educative information across a myriad of devices. (inside telecom, 2020) Netex includes online assistance programs, audios, and illustrative videos.

Personalized learning

Like the personalized recommendations on Netflix, AI is introduced to teachers for offering personalized recommendations to each pupil, by designing curriculums to suit for students at all levels, especially students struggling to reach their full potential or having difficulties following along. By accessing through AI-powered apps, students can get targeted and customized responses from their teachers. Teachers can condense lessons into smart study guides and flashcards. (eLearning Industry, 2019) Unlike the past, college students can now access a larger window time for interacting with professors after receiving instant feedbacks from smart tutoring systems like Carnegie Learning.

Global learning

AI also helps to cut boundaries. By facilitating e-learning of any course from anywhere across the globe, AI-powered education equips students with fundamental IT skills. With more inventions, there will be a wider range of courses available online and with the help of AI, students will be learning from wherever and whenever they are.

AI & applications (techniques)

AI generated content

AI content writing programs can pick elements from a dataset and structure a “human sounding” article. An AI program called Word Smith produced 1.5 billion pieces of content in 2016, and is expected to grow further in popularity in the coming years. AI writers are useful for reporting on regular, data-focused events. For example, quarterly earnings reports, sports matches, and market data. (BETA SOCIALS) In financial services, AI generated content could form a useful part in content marketing strategy.

Smart content curation

AI-powered content curation can better engage visitors on websites by showing them relevant content. It can be applied to blog content, customer services, and subscription businesses.

Dynamic pricing (in marketing)

By targeting unique offers at those likely to need them, dynamic pricing can avoid the problem of hurting the bottom line when conducting sales and discounts. Machine learning can build a propensity model of which traits show a customer is likely to need an offer to convert, and which are likely to convert without the need for an offer. (LinkedIn, 2017) Dynamic pricing can increase sales whilst not reducing profit margins by much, thus maximizing profits.


Allen, R. (n.d.). 15 Applications of Artificial Intelligence in Marketing. Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/15-applications-artificial-intelligence-marketing-robert-allen

Amine, Y. (2020, December 14). AI in education: Bringing schools into the digital age. Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://www.insidetelecom.com/ai-in-education-bringing-schools-into-the-digital-age/

Johnson, A. (2020, April 22). 5 Ways AI Is Changing The Education Industry. Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://elearningindustry.com/ai-is-changing-the-education-industry-5-ways

Marr, B. (n.d.). How Is AI Used in Education — Real World Examples of Today and A Peek into The Future? Retrieved January 07, 2021, from https://www.bernardmarr.com/default.asp?contentID=1541

Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Learning

Pros and cons of online learning

By: Iavjot Kaur,

Benefits and Pitfalls of Online Learning

Our knowledge about online learning and teaching has rapidly grown over the last decade and especially this past year as a response to the current global pandemic. Although online learning, also known as e-learning, was implemented in most schools around the globe long before Covid-19 happened, most schools did not bother learning how to fully utilize online resources to enrich students’ learning until they had to. Since the shift from in-person classes to online classes happened so abruptly, it is easy for students and teachers to feel overwhelmed, especially for those who do not have any prior experience in online learning. In light of this, the following article will discuss the benefits and the problems of using online learning.

Research has shown that there are a myriad of benefits of using online learning (Community College of Aurora, 2020). Undoubtedly, most people can agree that online learning brings about flexible schedule and environment for both teachers and students (Heap, 2017). The flexibility that comes with asynchronous learning gives students and teachers a chance to work at their own pace (Community College of Aurora, 2020). This prevents students and teachers from overwhelming themselves by not having to schedule their time around a packed school timetable. Personally, studying online has also freed up my schedule by saving me from the daily 2 hours long commute to and from university. Moreover, it also allows students and teachers to customise their learning environment (Dambauld, 2020). Online learning gives students and teachers the flexibility to learn and teach from the comfort of their own homes or even outside of their homes if they wish. As opposed to traditional classrooms that can be quite noisy, online learning also provides a quiet learning environment for students which minimises disruptive environments and allows for better concentration (Dambauld, 2020). However, this will vary from student to student as it depends on how quiet their home environment is. I usually have no problem studying during the day as my family is off to work. However, my home environment becomes quite disruptive at night when everyone is watching TV and having dinner. For this reason, I prefer to work during the day as I am able to better concentrate then.

            Another benefit of online learning is that it helps students develop essential skills, such as self-motivation, self-discipline, time management and communication skills (Heap, 2017; Segaren, 2020). Since online learning now takes places remotely, students have to really be self-motivated as they do not have someone physically present to constantly remind them to stay on top of their studies (Heap, 2017). Asynchronous learning also gives students more responsibility and control over their learning as they will be the ones deciding how they will delegate time towards their studies (Community College of Aurora, 2020). This not only helps students become more self-disciplined, but it also helps with improving their time management skills. Before the shift towards online learning, I would always procrastinate and put off doing assignments till the very last minute. However, over the last few months, I have learned the importance of self-discipline and have trained myself to stick to a fixed working schedule to avoid procrastination. Furthermore, as students are working remotely outside of classroom, they will have to work harder in communicating with their teachers and peers (Segaren, 2020). This can improve students’ both verbal and written communication skills as they can use various methods to communicate with their teachers and peers, such as via video-conferencing, emails or even instant messaging apps.

            Furthermore, asynchronous learning can promote students’ career advancement and cultivate their hobbies (Heap, 2017; Segaren, 2020). As studying online gives students more flexibility, they will have more time to do internships and part-time jobs since they can fit their work schedule around their coursework easily (Heap, 2017). Moreover, flexibility also gives students more time to cultivate their hobbies which they normally could not do as they have to attend school from morning till evening. Despite the global pandemic, I have actually been able to take on more part-time jobs and virtual internships due to the flexibility granted by asynchronous learning. As asynchronous learning does not require students to attend live online classes, I have been able to allocate more time to my career advancement and simply listen to pre-recorded lectures and participate on discussion forums at my own convenience (Heap, 2017).

            On the other hand, online learning comes with its own challenges. One of the drawbacks of online learning is that it can create a sense of isolation (Chamberlin, 2020). On top of the enactment of social distancing rules in response to the global pandemic, having only the computer as their companion especially for asynchronous learning can be lonely and even terrifying for some students (Chamberlin, 2020). Consequently, not being able to go out and being trapped in their room studying all day can intensify students’ sense of isolation. As the online environment is completely different from traditional classrooms, where one is constantly surrounded by their peers and teachers, it could take some getting used to for students (Chamberlin, 2020). I have heard cases from my peers of some students falling into depression due to the lack of human interaction. Thus, schools and teachers in particular need to be sensitive towards this issue and provide students with not only academic but also emotional support to the best of their abilities.

            Another challenge that online learning brings about is the worsening problem of procrastination. Although asynchronous learning aims at promoting self-discipline and self-motivation, every student is different and not everyone can achieve these goals. Instead, it can backfire and cause students to procrastinate. When learning online remotely, students have no one to remind them to attend their class, to complete their assignments on time or to study for their upcoming tests and exams (Chamberlin, 2020). Teachers are not physically present to preach to students and chase after them to make them complete their work (Chamberlin, 2020). In fact, if parents are also not involved in students’ academic life, it will make things worse as students will then have no fear of consequences. Thus, if students do not have any authoritative figure present in their lives making sure that they are staying on top of their studies, it is easy for them to put off their readings and assignments while engaging in online learning (Chamberlin, 2020). Luckily for me, with a lot of perseverance and self-discipline, I am able to avoid falling into the procrastination trap most of the time. However, it is understandable why some students, especially younger kids, would feel disengaged and demotivated from learning if there is no around to pester them to do their work.

            In addition, technical issues and adapting to unfamiliar technology is another challenge that both students and teachers have to overcome. Experiencing technical issues is not uncommon for students and teachers while learning online, especially during synchronous learning. Sometimes, the computer might not work or might unexpectedly shut down and sometimes the Wi-Fi connection can be poor (Friedman, 2020). For poor Wi-Fi connection, I have found that turning off your video camera helps a lot with stabilizing the connection. However, students should notify their teachers of their technical issues as soon as possible especially if they require everyone to turn on their cameras. Moreover, due to the transition to online classes, most schools want students and teachers to make use of digital tools to facilitate online teaching and learning, such as Zoom, Audacity and Canva. However, sometimes students and teachers need to work with digital tools that they might have not even heard of let alone know how to use (Friedman, 2020). Thus, this could lead to students and teachers wasting precious class time on figuring out how to use unfamiliar technology. I know from experience how frustrating that can be for both students and teachers when they cannot even figure out how to share-screen or use the breakout rooms on Zoom.  


Chamberlin, S. (2020). Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Courses. Montgomery

College. https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/academics/online-learning/distance/advantages-and-disadvantages-online-courses.html

Community College of Aurora. (2020). Benefits of Online Education.


Dambauld, B. (2020, September 16). 13 Great Benefits of Online Learning. StraighterLine.


Friedman, J. (2020, May 4). Tackle Challenges of Online Classes Due to COVID-19. U.S.

News. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/how-to-overcome-challenges-of-online-classes-due-to-coronavirus

Heap, T. (2017, June 5). 5 Benefits of Studying Online (VS. Face-to-Face Learning). Illinois

Online. https://online.illinois.edu/articles/online-learning/item/2017/06/05/5-benefits-of-studying-online-(vs.-face-to-face-classroom)

Segaren, S. (2020, April 21). 5 Major Benefits of Online Learning. Study International.


5 Best Practices for a Successful Mentoring Relationship


By: Iavjot Kaur,

5 Best Practices for a Successful Mentoring Relationship

            Mentoring in professional careers is often employed for the mentee’s growth and development. By building a reciprocal relationship, mentees can learn from their mentors and achieve their goals (Bansal, 2020). However, mentors and mentees are often left unclear by their organization about the role they play in the relationship and how they can mutually benefit from each other (Bansal, 2020). Thus, having a clear set of guidelines can help mentors and mentees achieve their fullest potential. Although mentoring is not a one-size-fits-all, certain practices can help develop a successful mentoring relationship. Hence, the following article will suggest 5 best practices for building a successful mentor-mentee relationship.

Choosing the Right Mentor

            First and foremost, it is important for mentees to choose the right mentor for their career path. Doing research on the mentor can give mentees the head start they need. LinkedIn and other social media would be a good starting place to get a sense of the mentor’s professional career and past experiences (Agarwal, 2018). Instead of simply relying on others’ testimonials, mentees should do their own research to ensure that their mentor has experienced the kind of experiences they have had, including “experiencing the highs and lows to be where [they] want to be in [their] business in a few years’ time” (Agarwal, 2018). If the mentees are working towards a specific position in their business, then they should aim at finding a mentor who is in the same position as the one they are working towards so that the mentor is able to provide them with “more specific and tangible feedback and guidance” (Barbee, 2019). In case a mentee is still figuring out what their goals are and want more advice on creating their ideal career path, then seeking out a career mentor could help them get the specific advice they need (Barbee, 2019).

            If there is a third-party involved in matching mentors with mentees, the first step for mentees and mentors would be to fill out a matching form, which should include the following three components (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Firstly, mentors and mentees should indicate the competencies they want to mentor or be mentored in so that mentors and mentees with the same competencies can be matched (Mentoring Complete, 2019). This can allow both parties to have a focus as they begin their mentoring journey. Secondly, a personality test should be included so that mentors and mentees with compatible personalities can be matched together (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Lastly, a ranking of key roles, such as teacher, counselor and friend, can allow mentees to indicate the type of mentor they are looking for and allow mentors to decide the kind of mentor they want to be (Mentoring Complete, 2019). After the mentors and mentees have completed the form, the matching process can then be facilitated either through manual or software matching (Mentoring Complete, 2019). Manual matching is rather subjective and requires a program managing committee to hash out matches based on the information provided in the matching forms (Mentoring Complete, 2019). However, this can be a time-consuming process as it requires days of discussion to ensure that the right matches are made. On the other hand, a lot of organizations have recently turned towards using online algorithms to ensure a more objective matching (Mentoring Complete, 2019). The use of mentor matching software also saves a lot of time for the mentors, mentees and program managing committee.

Setting Clear Expectations

            Setting clear expectations on the mentee’s goals and the mentoring relationship in the beginning can ensure successful mentoring. If there are no clear expectations on what the mentees’ goals are or what they hope to get out of the mentoring relationship, then it would be difficult for the mentors to figure out what is required of them and what they can do to ensure the mentees’ success (Barbee, 2019). This would lead to both mentees and mentors wasting their time and blindly continuing with their mentoring relationship without a clear path ahead (Barbee, 2019). Therefore, it is essential to “clarify the mentee’s expectations for the mentor-mentee relationship and their needs related to career advancement” (Michigan State University, 2019). This could be done by establishing clear expectations for the mentoring relationship, including “time commitment, meeting schedule, and ground rules” (Michigan State University, 2019). A mentor can also be expected to share their knowledge, guidance, perspective and network with their mentees in a friendly yet professional environment (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018). However, ultimately, it is up to the mentee to decide what to do with the mentor’s input (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018).

Establishing Clear Boundaries

            An effective mentor-mentee relationship requires a professional relationship (Khidekel, 2019). As mentors and mentees become closer and the relationship grows, lines can become blurred and there is a risk of mixing personal with professional life (Barbee, 2019). A mentoring session could then turn into a rant session about things going not so well in the mentee’s personal life (Barbee, 2019). Although personal issues might be “a part of the deal in the mentoring relationship” as sometimes personal life could affect one’s professional life, there is a risk of making the mentor uncomfortable by sharing too much personal information if such boundaries had not been clearly defined (Barbee, 2019). To prevent this from happening, it is best to establish clear boundaries in the beginning of the relationship as to what is and is not acceptable to talk about in the mentoring sessions. Moreover, boundaries need to be established in terms of contacting the mentors. At the beginning of a new mentoring relationship, mentors should clearly communicate about how they can be reached, especially in terms of the modes of communication and the mentor’s working hours (Khidekel, 2019). Without setting such boundaries, the mentee runs the risk of contacting the mentor outside of office hours, thus crossing the lines of their personal and professional lives.

Establishing Mentee’s Goals

            In the beginning, a mentoring session should be dedicated to understanding the mentee’s needs and goals (Qooper Mentoring Software, 2018). According to Bansal (2020), “a mentor-mentee relationship that’s based on ad hoc needs without establishing clear goals does not last long”. Thus, the mentee has to first “list down the goals that they wish to achieve with the mentor’s help” (Bansal, 2020). Then, a plan for both the mentee’s short-term and long-term goals should be created, and a timeframe has to be set by the mentee and mentor to achieve those goals (Bansal, 2020). As it might sometimes take a few tries before the desired results are achieved, both parties should hold each other accountable and should not give up when faced with multiple difficulties and setbacks (Bansal, 2020). After establishing goals, it is important to monitor the progress and check-in with one another to see how the mentoring relationship is going (Barbee, 2019). Barbee (2019) asserts that regular check-ins between mentors and mentees can help to “evaluate and assess the goals, where they started, where they see this going and make adjustments if needed”.

Effective Communication

            Effective communication is the key to making the partnership between mentors and mentees work as it not only establishes trust and credibility but also provides a clear understanding of the mentee’s goals and expectations (Agarwal, 2018). In the beginning, the preferred mode of communication and office hours with the mentor should be clearly established. Apart from this, the mentee should be proactive in tracking and communicating progress towards their goals with their mentors (Bansal, 2010). A mentee should also take the initiative to prepare for each meeting and create an agenda in advance so as to make the most out of the mentoring session (Agarwal, 2018). This can help the session to remain focused on the assistance the mentee really needs from their mentor and will allow them to ask their mentors specific questions to help them achieve their goals (Khidekel, 2019). After each meeting, it is also recommended for mentees to summarize the discussion and action items to send to the mentor for their future reference (Bansal, 2010).

On the other hand, the mentor should come prepared to guide their mentee and impart wisdom and knowledge (Agarwal, 2018). During the discussion, “the mentor should be open, direct and provide an objective perspective” (Agarwal, 2018). Apart from holding the mentee accountable and reminding them of their goals, the mentor should also offer positive yet sincere feedback to keep the mentee motivated (Agarwal, 2018). The mentor should aim at providing “a non-judgmental and non-biased platform where the mentee feels comfortable discussing their business ideas without fear” (Agarwal, 2018). If the mentor feels the time is right, then they can also challenge and encourage their mentee to step out of their comfort zone and take risks (Agarwal, 2018). Such communication strategies employed by the mentor can help to build a strong foundation with the mentee.


Agarwal, P. (2018, August 28). Top Tips for a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship.

Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pragyaagarwaleurope/2018/08/26/top-tips-for-a-successful-mentor-mentee-relationship/?sh=a45eb602fb19

Bansal, V. (2020, October 15). Mentorship: Key to Effective Mentor and Mentee

Relationship. Tech Hello. https://www.techtello.com/mentor-mentee-relationship/

Barbee, C. M. (2019). 9 Guidelines to Ensure Your Mentor-Mentee Relationship is

Successful. The CEO Co. https://theceo.co/9mentorshiptips/

Khidekel, M. (2019, March 29). 12 Keys for a Successful Mentor-Mentee Relationship.

Thrive Global. https://thriveglobal.com/stories/tips-wisdom-successful-professional-mentor-mentee-relationship/

Mentoring Complete. (2019). Making Successful Matches Between Mentors and Mentees.


Michigan State University. (2019). Best Practices for Mentors and Mentees in Academic

Settings. https://aan.msu.edu/mentoring/best-practices-for-mentors-and-mentees-in-academic-settings/

Qooper Mentoring Software. (2018, December 7). 8 Good Practices for Both Mentors and

Mentees in an Ideal Mentoring Relationship. Medium.


5 Most In-Demand Career Skills in 2021

In Demand Skill Sets 2021

By: Iavjot Kaur,

5 Most In-Demand Career Skills in 2021

With the job market constantly evolving, some occupations lose popularity while others gain an edge. Although it is hard to say for sure which jobs would be in demand or be obsolete in the future, having certain essential skills can make all the difference in your career regardless of the field you are in. By having some of the most in-demand hard and soft skills in today’s job market, it can give you the competitive edge you need over your counterparts to ensure your path to success. According to Anderson (2020), “hard skills concern an employee’s ability to do a specific task, and soft skills are more about the way they do them — how they adapt, collaborate, solve problems, and make decisions”. In view of this, the following article will suggest 5 hard and soft skills to make yourself more desirable and marketable and to increase your chances of landing that perfect job.

            The most sought-after hard skills include specialized knowledge and technical abilities in the following 2 aspects: cloud and distributed computing, and data analysis (Anderson, 2020; FutureLearn, 2020).

Cloud and Distributed Computing

            This particular skill is in demand because employers want employees “who can deliver and manage resources via the internet and a communication network” (Business News Daily, 2020). Due to the increased demand for accessing readily available information, the development of cloud and distributed computing has spurred to allow individuals and businesses to use “remote network servers to store, process, and manage data all over the Internet” (Collabera, 2020). Being an integral part of the IT infrastructure for many companies around the world, employers want individuals who can seamlessly implement a cloud environment into their infrastructure (Dsouza, 2018). Moreover, to overcome the constraints of traditional software and hardware licensing models, businesses are looking for employees who are capable of delivering services to customers via the Internet using cloud computing (DeZyre, 2021). On the other hand, employers are also looking for individuals to operate distributed computing which is a system that solves one single problem by breaking it down into several tasks where one individual computer solves one task (DeZyre, 2021). Companies want employees who can “add and change software and computational power according to the demands and needs of the business” (Dsouza, 2018). Thus, cloud and distributed computing is a highly valued skill as it can help organizations to not only reduce risks but also costs (DeZyre, 2011).

Data Analysis

            Living in an age of big data, data is now being harvested at a big scale that has never been seen before (FutureLearn, 2020). It is “used for everything from improving industrial processes to keeping shelves stacked to accurately targeting digital ads” (FutureLearn, 2020). It is no wonder that the World Economic Forum predicts data to be one of the key drivers of economic growth in the near future (FutureLearn, 2020). Accordingly, research has found that “those who are able to organize data collection, interpret the results, and make decisions based on these findings will be in high demand” (FutureLearn, 2020). Although one might assume that data analysis is only relevant in professions like business analysis and data science, it is in fact a skill required across all professions. Various professions across different fields, such as farmers and doctors, would need to make use of data in order to make the best possible decision (FutureLearn, 2020). However, as of right now, studies have found that there is a skills gap in terms of data literacy (FutureLearn, 2020). Accenture and Qlik’s research have found that over 74% of the employees would prefer not to work with data and this causes companies to “lose 43% of productivity per employee due to a lack of data literacy every year” (FutureLearn, 2020). In light of this, PricewaterhouseCoopers has predicted that almost 70% of employers will demand data literacy for their employees by 2021 (FutureLearn, 2020). Therefore, it is advisable to gain some data analysis skills to boost your employability in the current and future job markets.

            On the other hand, the most in-demand soft skills demonstrating an employee’s personal traits and cognitive skills are critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and cultural awareness (Anderson, 2020).

Critical Thinking

            According to Guerrouj (2020), “critical thinking skills are mental processes we use to analyse facts to form a judgement”. These thinking skills could involve problem-solving, decision making, categorization of information and objective analysis among many others (Guerrouj, 2020). Contrary to the popular belief, critical thinking is in fact not an automatic thought process as we are inherently programmed to think “uncritically”, making decisions subjectively based on our personal biases, self-interest or emotions (Mendes, 2020). As a result, one needs critical thinking skills to be able to make impactful decisions in the workplace by thinking critically (Guerrouj, 2020). There are a lot of ways critical thinking skills can be adapted to address the needs of the ever-changing modern workplace. For instance, as creativity is emphasised in a lot of workplaces, “a person with critical thinking skills can come up with innovative ideas and solutions to complex problems using logic and reason” (Guerrouj, 2020). To solve problems in a workplace, one could also first observe a situation, list the pros and cons and then decide on the best solution to deal with the problem (Guerrouj, 2020). It is also predicted for employees with critical thinking skills to be assigned the task of dividing teams and tasks between humans and machines in the future workplace (Guerrouj, 2020). As critical thinking skills often come in all sizes and shapes, your university degree can already give you some experience in dealing with certain types of information depending on the subject you are studying (Guerrouj, 2020). For instance, students studying English Literature often have to “read texts critically to form a qualitative argument or analyse the reliability of sources” whereas Engineering students have to “use the quantitative results from models to further their experiments or research projects” (Guerrouj, 2020). Therefore, depending on your education, you might already possess certain critical thinking skills. However, if you are aiming at a certain position in your workplace, then you would need to acquire the critical thinking skills needed for that particular profession. For example, a manager would need to use critical thinking skills to “foster teams that are intentional about accessing problems and devising problems” (Guerrouj, 2020).

Emotional Intelligence

            Emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ), refers to the “ability to know, handle, and fully understand your emotions, including that of other individuals around you” (Siragusa, 2019). Leaders with high emotional intelligence are often aware of how their positive or negative emotions could affect other employees (Siragusa, 2019). Being one of the most frequently referenced skills in the current and future job markets, high emotional intelligence could be seen as one of the most “reliable predictors of career success and salary levels” (Siragusa, 2019). To cultivate emotional intelligence, one needs to be empathetic (Siragusa, 2019). One should not only possess the capacity to understand their own feelings but also those of others as it often impacts one’s actions and decision-making (Siragusa, 2019). One should “show humility in giving and receiving feedback, are reliable and committed to helping others, and willing to apologise and to forgive when necessary” (Siragusa, 2019). These qualities can help one work well in collaborative environments, reduce stress and get the best results from all the stakeholders (Siragusa, 2019). In fact, the way people view work itself is changing (Jenkins, 2020). As Gen Z has the highest prevalence of mental illnesses and feelings of loneliness compared to other age groups, companies need to adapt to the emotional needs of their younger employees (Jenkins, 2020). Considering the youth is the future, acknowledging the importance of their employees’ mental wellbeing is crucial for all employers (Jenkins, 2020).

Cultural Awareness

            As workplaces become more diverse, cultivating cultural awareness should be a top priority for companies all over the world (Landry, 2018). Since cultural awareness affects “how teams collaborate and interact, and makes for a more inclusive, productive environment”, all employees are expected to have cultural diversity skills and cultural intelligence (Landry, 2018). Landry (2018) recommends  “unpacking the different layers and nuances of culture” to cultivate awareness to understand not only “the role you play in your organisation, but also the role your team members and organization plays to the world”. Goodman (2018) also suggests to “understand one’s self and how one needs to adjust to the environment and ecosystem that he or she is in” to become more culturally aware (as cited in Landry, 2018).  Since all individuals have the tendency to form stereotypes, whether it is based on one’s past experiences or one’s own set of beliefs, uncovering those stereotypes and acknowledging one’s bias can help them become “a stronger, more effective communicator and employee” (Landry, 2018). At the same time, it is also valuable for a leader to “understand, respect, and work harmoniously with people of a different race, culture, age, gender, language or sexual orientation” (Landry, 2018). Adapting to others with different perceptions of viewing the world can not only promote teamwork in an organization but can also help employees and employers to come up with ideas that drive new products or services in today’s globalised world (Landry, 2018).


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Leadership Models for Becoming a Better Leader

Leadership Ladder

By: Iavjot Kaur,

In this day and age, leadership is valued to be an important skill in life. As an article by Pennsylvania State University (2014) states, “effective leadership is essential to a functioning society” (para. 1). Whether it is in university or in the workplace, there will be times where you are required to step up as a leader. There might even be moments in your personal life where you can depend on your leadership skills to inspire those around you (University of the People, 2020). However, when thinking of leadership, it is important to keep in mind that leadership is not the same as totalitarianism, where one leader calls all the shots. In fact, “leadership is a process of social influence, which maximises the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal” (Kruse, 2013, para. 12). Nevertheless, the critical question remains: what makes a good leader? Although there are several types of leadership models out there, there is no one size fits all model. Thus, one should aim at choosing the right leadership model for themselves to maximise its effectiveness in the long-run. In light of this, the following article will introduce three leadership models which have been proven to make people better leaders, namely the Laissez-Faire, Transactional and Transformational model.

Laissez-Faire Model

Merriam-Webster (2020) defines laissez-faire as “a philosophy or practice characterised by a usually deliberate abstention from direction or interference especially with individual freedom of choice and action” (para. 1). As this leadership model is based on the French phrase “laissez-faire” which literally translates to “allow to do”, this model emphasizes “[letting] people do as they choose” (Merriam-Webster, 2020, para. 2). Thus, laissez-faire leadership, also known as delegative leadership, “empowers individuals, groups or teams to make decisions” (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 8). In practice, the laisse-faire leadership model requires “leaders [to] leave it up to their subordinates to complete responsibilities in a manner they choose, without requiring strict policies or procedures” (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 5). Thus, from the laisse-faire perspective, a leader only needs to focus on building a strong team by providing training and support and once that is accomplished, the leader leaves the decision-making to their subordinates and “stay out of their way” (Cherry, 2020; St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 5). As laissez-faire leadership employs a hands-off approach, “people who enjoy a wide degree of latitude in making decisions and working on projects autonomously are often most comfortable with laisse-faire leaders” (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 1). The laissez-faire leader also needs to be comfortable with their employees making mistakes and needs to have a certain level of trust and confidence in their subordinates’ ability to “possess the skills, knowledge, and follow through to complete a project without being micromanaged” (Cherry, 2020, para. 3).

Just like any other leadership styles, the laissez-faire leadership model has its own advantages. Firstly, this leadership style allows the leader to encourage personal growth (Cherry, 2020). As the leaders are adopting a hands-off approach, it allows their employees to have more hands-on experience in the workplace (Cherry, 2020). Secondly, this leadership model also encourages innovation (Cherry, 2020). As employees are given the freedom to make the decisions by themselves, it inspires their creativity and innovation (Cherry, 2020). Lastly, it facilitates the decision-making process and makes it faster (Cherry, 2020). Without the absence of micromanagement, employees can make their own decisions which also helps them to make quick decisions as they do not need to wait for days or even weeks for approval from their leader (Cherry, 2020).

However, the correct environment is needed for laissez-faire leaders to thrive. This leadership model is often suited better to businesses in the “incubator phase of product development” or business which are highly creative, such as advertising agencies and social media companies (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 13). This leadership style is highly relevant to start-up business too as “innovation is crucial to a company’s initial success” (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 13). As employees are often “highly motivated, skilled, creative, and dedicated to their work” in creative fields, a leader can obtain great results by employing the laissez-faire leadership style (Cherry, 2020, para. 14). For one to become a better leader using laissez-faire leadership, they need to excel at providing essential information and background at the beginning of a new project so that the self-managing employees can acquire the necessary knowledge needed for them to complete the task (Cherry, 2020). Furthermore, as this particular leadership style is better suited to the early phases of a project where brainstorming of ideas is needed, leaders should remain flexible and open-minded to changing their leadership approach to “a style that involves more direction and oversight” once the “design is in place and ready for production” (Cherry, 2020, para. 15).

Transactional Model

The transactional model is one of the most common leadership models used by enterprises around the globe. According to Indeed (2020), “transactional leadership is a managerial style that promotes compliance and attaining goals through supervision, organisation and a system of rewards and management” (para. 2). Unlike the laissez-faire leader, a transactional leader is “someone who values order and structure” (St. Thomas University, 2014, para. 1). Since it is a result-oriented approach, it works better with employees who are self-motivated (Indeed, 2020). Through a team of self-motivated employees, transactional leadership is able to achieve goals (Indeed, 2020). However, these goals are not focused on changing the organisation as a whole (Indeed, 2020). Instead, transactional leadership focuses on “short-term and long-term goals while maintaining a routine, conformity and the status quo of the company” (Indeed, 2020, para. 3). Depending on whether the goals are met or not, employees can receive rewards or punishments (Indeed, 2020). In this leadership model, as the leader views the relationship between managers and employees as a sort of exchange, employees will receive rewards or punishments depending on their self-motivation and performance (Cherry, 2020).  Hence, this leadership style is referred to as being “transactional”.

Although the rigid structure of this leadership model might seem unappealing to some initially, it does have some advantages over other leadership styles. Firstly, transactional leadership facilitates goal achievement (Indeed, 2020). As a lot of companies adopting a transactional style are focused on short-term goals, it is easier and more realistic to facilitate the achievement of goals (Indeed, 2020). Secondly, this leadership style is motivating (Indeed, 2020). Although the task and goals set by the leaders might be challenging, it helps to encourage productivity and motivate employees to overcome the challenging goals (Indeed, 2020). Moreover, self-motivated employees will be attracted by the monetary compensation they will receive upon the completion of their goals (Indeed, 2020). Lastly, transactional leadership can be seen as “a measuring stick for success” (Indeed, 2020, para. 22). As some companies do not clearly define their idea of success, transactional leadership can lay out simple and clear goals and guidelines for everyone in the office to follow (Indeed, 2020). The employees can then use these goals and guidelines as a measuring stick to if they have achieved what is expected of them (Indeed, 2020). This measuring stick can also help companies fine-tune their rewards and punishment policies for employees depending on how well the employees are doing (Indeed, 2020).

For transactional leadership to be effective, problems in situations need to be simple and clearly defined (Cherry, 2020). Unlike laisse-faire leadership, employees are not expected to find new solutions to problems or to be creative (Cherry, 2020). Transactional leadership also works well in situations where certain tasks need to be achieved within a short period of time. By assigning clearly defined duties to employees, leaders can make sure that everything will get done in time (Cherry, 2020). According to Cherry (2020), “transactional leaders focus on the maintenance of the structure of the group” (para. 27). Not only are the leaders required to communicate to the employees what is expected of them, but they also need to be able to articulate the merits of performing well and the consequences of failure (Cherry, 2020). Throughout the whole process, leaders should also provide feedback which will help to keep the employees on task (Cherry, 2020).

Transformational Model

            The transformational leadership model is often seen as the polar opposite of the transactional model. According to Bass and Riggio (1998), the authors of Transformational Leadership, “transformational leadership involves inspiring followers to commit to a shared vision and goals for an organisation or unit, challenging them to be innovative problem solvers, and developing followers leadership capacity via coaching, mentoring, and provision of both challenges and support” (as cited in Stafford, 2010, p. 102).  Bass and Riggio (1998) asserts that there are four components in transformational leadership which can make leaders and employees advance each other “to a higher level of morale and motivation” (as cited in Cherry, 2020, para. 3). The first component is Idealised Influence (II) in which the leader serves as a role model for their employees (Cherry, 2020). Through trust and respect for the leader, “they emulate this individual and internalize his or her ideals” (Cherry, 2020, para. 10). The second component is Intellectual Stimulation (IS) where the leader encourages creativity among their employees (Cherry, 2020). The leader should not only challenge the status quo, but they should also encourage their employees to consider new ways of learning and doing things (Cherry, 2020). The third component is Inspirational Motivation (IM) in which the “transformational leaders have a clear vision that they are able to articulate to followers” (Cherry, 2020, para. 9). Transformational leaders should be able to help employees “experience the same passion and motivation to fulfil these goals” (Cherry, 2020, para. 9). The last component is Individualised Consideration (IC) where the leader offers support and encouragement to their employees (Cherry, 2020). Keeping lines of communication open helps to foster supportive relationships as employees feel comfortable in sharing their ideas and in return, “leaders can offer direct recognition of the unique contribution of each follower” (Cherry, 2020, para. 8).

            According to Bass and Riggio (1998), transformational leaders should be able to “stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity” (as cited in Cherry, 2020, para. 20). Bass and Riggio (1998) also assert that “transformational leaders help followers grow and develop into leaders by responding to individual followers’ needs by empowering them and by aligning the objectives and goals of the individual followers, the leader, the group, and the larger organization” (as cited in Cherry, 2020, para. 20). As such leaders have faith in their employees that they will do their level best, it makes the employees feel inspired and empowered which in return leads to having “higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders” (Cherry, 2020, para. 21). Apart from this, transformational leadership can also positively impact employees’ well-being (Cherry, 2020). Research has shown that “a transformational leadership style, which both conveys a sense of trust and meaningfulness and individually challenges and develops employees, also has a positive effect on employee well-being” as they feel valued in the company Cherry, 2020, para. 22).

However, similar to laissez-faire and transactional leadership, transformational leadership works better in certain environments, such as agile environments where the stakes for failure is comparatively low (White, 2018). Although a leader should aim for the development of a product to remain consistent and error-free, they should be careful not to “hinder the progress and growth of future updates and improvements” (White, 2018, para. 18). Small businesses can also benefit from such kind of leadership as “they work out the kinks associated with growth and brand-building” (Indeed, 2020, para. 29). In fact, upper management might also find transformational leadership helpful in achieving an overarching company vision (Indeed, 2020). Often times than not, as different management positions employ different leadership styles, transformational managers in hybrid-style companies can even pass down the company vision to transactional middle managers (Indeed, 2020).


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Motivating Innovation. https://www.cio.com/article/3257184/what-is-transformational-leadership-a-model-for-motivating-innovation.html

The Nonaka and Takeuchi Knowledge Spiral Model

Japan Spiral Model

By: Iavjot Kaur,

Japan is currently the third-largest economy in the world, after the United States and China. But how did Japan gain such economic power and become a world-leader in the automotive and electronics industries? What is the secret of their success? The answer lies in Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) Knowledge Spiral Model. The following report will first review the Knowledge Spiral Model and discuss what we can learn from it. Then, the report will suggest some practical ways of applying the model in education, especially in a classroom where peer learning often takes place.

In 1995, two business school professors Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi published The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation which provides insight into how Japanese companies work and most importantly, what enables the Japanese businesses to create new knowledge. As the title of the book suggests, Japanese companies are successful because of their innovations which are created from new knowledge. According to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), there are two types of knowledge, namely explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. As explicit knowledge is often found in manuals and procedures, it is formal and systematic and easily communicated (Nonaka, 2007). On the other hand, tacit knowledge is highly personal as it is learnt through experience only (Nonaka, 2007). This makes tacit knowledge difficult to formalise as one often cannot find the words to express the technical principles behind what they know (Nonaka, 2007). Thus, tacit knowledge can only be communicated to others indirectly, such as through metaphors and analogy (Nonaka, 2007).

According to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995), the creation of new knowledge is a spiralling process of interactions between explicit and tacit knowledge. However, a lot of US companies have shown to be heavily reliant on explicit knowledge such as “benchmarking” and “best practices” to help further their businesses (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). In contrast, Japanese firms often focus more on tacit knowledge and on the real-life application of creating knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Nevertheless, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) argue that that the secret behind Japanese firms’ success is that they have mastered how to utilize tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge to create knowledge in any organisation, whether it is from tacit to tacit, from explicit to explicit, from tacit to explicit, or from explicit to tacit. This led to Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) proposing the Knowledge Spiral Model.  

The Knowledge Spiral Model is also known as the SECI model, which stands for socialization, externalization, combination and internalization (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Firstly, socialization is the process of creating knowledge from tacit to tacit (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) describe socialization as the “process of sharing experiences and thereby creating tacit knowledge such as shared mental models and technical skills” (as cited in Siu, 2006, p. 497). Tacit knowledge can be shared in social interactions through “observation, imitation, practice and participation in formal and informal communities” (Yeh, Huang & Yeh, 2011, p. 147). Secondly, externalization refers to the “process of articulating tacit knowledge into explicit concepts and metaphors” (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995, as cited in Siu, 2006, p. 497). Yeh et al. (2011) describe externalization as “the key to knowledge creation” (p. 147). It is only when one is able to articulate their tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge that it can be shared throughout an organization (Nonaka, 2007). Thirdly, combination is the transference of explicit to explicit knowledge as it refers to the process of integrating and systemizing concepts into a knowledge system with the help of different media, such as review reports and trend analysis (Siu, 2006; Yeh et al., 2011). This allows the facilitation of passing on explicit knowledge (Siu, 2006). Lastly, internalization refers to the “process of embodying explicit knowledge into tacit knowledge”, which promotes the concept of “learning by doing” (Siu, 2006, p. 497). If one is able to internalise their explicit knowledge, then they will be able to convert it into tacit knowledge (Siu, 2006). Therefore, the Knowledge Spiral Model proves that explicit and tacit knowledge are in fact not completely separate entities as the four processes continuously interact with one another.

As stated by Siu (2006), Nonaka and Takeuchi’s SECI model “highlights organizational learning as a social process” (p. 497). Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) also emphasise creating new knowledge in a cyclical way to create a competitive advantage. Through organizational learning, one can establish a set of recurring set of activities which facilitate the conversion of one type of knowledge to another, such as explicit to tacit knowledge and vice versa. However, it is important to recognise that some processes favour explicit knowledge while some favour tacit knowledge (Siu, 2006). As externalization and combination rely on structural knowledge, they favour explicit knowledge (Siu, 2006). On the other hand, informal knowledge processes such as socialization and internalization favour tacit knowledge as these processes are often “spontaneous and voluntary in nature” (Siu, 2006, p. 497). This makes it easy for certain organizations, especially those that rely heavily on information technology which is limited to the transfer of explicit knowledge, to dismiss tacit knowledge (Siu, 2006). Nevertheless, research has proven that tacit knowledge is just as valuable, if not more valuable, than explicit knowledge in organizational learning (Siu, 2006). Therefore, Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) Knowledge Spiral Model can provide businesses with valuable insight into organizational learning and how to effectively combine explicit and tacit knowledge to create new knowledge for a better competitive edge.

            Although the Knowledge Spiral Model stemmed from business management, it can be applied to education as well, especially in peer learning. Peer learning is considered to be one of the most effective ways for students to learn as it is a two-way reciprocal process where peers have the opportunity to learn from one another. The following report will recommend some practical examples of how to apply Nonaka and Takeuchi’s Knowledge Spiral Model (1995) in both face-to-face and online peer learning.

            Firstly, socialization is performed by “interpersonal communication and/or intrapersonal insights” (Hvorecky, 2012, p. 4). Research has shown that socialization is a key element when it comes to collaborative activities (Minocha & Roberts, 2008). As socialization is the most basic form of learning, there are a number of ways it could occur in a classroom. Whether it is a physical or a virtual classroom, socialization can give the students a chance to get to know each other, especially at the beginning of a new course (Hosseini, 2011). This can be done by devoting the first few sessions to icebreaker either in face-to-face or online meetings (Hosseini, 2011). During these meetings, “the facilitator can ask students to talk about themselves, their experiences, preferences, and targets for attending the class and to share their current models, thoughts, and perspectives” (Hosseini, 2011, p. 266). In fact, students can also be asked to write a brief autobiography about themselves and post it in the e-classroom where everyone has access to it (Hosseini, 2011). It would be even better if students can attach a photograph of themselves along with the autography as it allows other students to view their photographs which can assist in developing interpersonal relationships (Hosseini, 2011). Giving the students a chance to get to know each other on a personal and professional level is key in establishing a climate of openness and interpersonal trust (Hvorecky, 2012). Under socialization, tacit knowledge can be attained through dialogue, which the students can begin by introducing themselves and then through participating in discussion forums as the class progresses (Kassem, Hammami & Alhousary, 2015).

            Secondly, externalization happens when “tacit knowledge turns to explicit form through discussion and storytelling among students” (Hosseini, 2011, p.267). However, for externalization to take place, students first must become aware of the tacit knowledge they possess (Hosseini, 2011). This could be done through codifying and turning tacit knowledge into pieces of information that can be communicated to other classmates (Hosseini, 2011). Once the information is received, students must “go through the de codification process to understand and digest the information” (Hosseini, 2011, p. 267). Thus, one could do a crowd-sourced glossary activity either in face-to-face or online classes to help facilitate externalization. Doing a crowd-sourced glossary requires “each participant in an exercise to build a glossary of new terms in a particular area, e.g. accounting” (BECKSearch, 2020). To do this activity, students should first find a news site where they are likely to find jargons, such as Harvard Business Review, and then write the unfamiliar terms on a shared class google document (BECKSearch, 2020). Each student will then look at the terms other students have put down and they will have to try to explain the terms in their own words or using a definition they found on the Internet (BECKSearch, 2020). Therefore, through this activity, students can get familiar with new jargons and contextualize the new theoretical terms they have just learnt (BECKSearch, 2020). As pointed out by Hosseini (2011), “having shared terminology and jargon among members help smooth the codification as well as de codification process” (p. 267).

Thirdly, combination is activated when information is systematized into a knowledge system and different bodies of explicit knowledge are integrated (Kassem et al., 2015). For this reason, activities such as treasure hunt and Venn diagram work really well for combination. Treasure hunt is a fun and interactive way for students to conduct online research in a group (BECKSearch, 2020). Each member in a group have to search for a piece of information on the same topic, such as “share price”, and then they have to report back the findings to their group (BECKSearch, 2020). Then, the group can compare and contrast the information each group member has obtained and generate a case study out of it (BECKSearch, 2020). By doing so, all the knowledge that the students have gained from this project can be discussed, analysed and synthesised in the form of a case study (Hosseini, 2011). Alternatively, students can also draw a Venn diagram which can help them to “evaluate the key similarities and differences between elements of [a] topic” (BECKSearch, 2020). Through this activity, students can integrate the knowledge they have about a topic and the information they found on the Internet into a knowledge system that is presented visually.

Lastly, internalization occurs when students’ “explicit knowledge is internalised into individual’s tacit knowledge bases in the form of mental models or technical know-how” (Chatti, Klamma, Jarke & Naeve, 2007, p. 781). One way of “learning by doing” is role-playing (Chatti et al., 2007). Role-playing allows students to apply the explicit knowledge they have learnt from their class to real contextual situations (Sweeney, 2020). By doing so, students can improve their understanding of the content being learnt or discussed (Sweeney, 2020). However, at the same time, “internalization is also a process of continuous individual and collective reflection” (Chatti et al., 2007, p. 781). Thus, students can be asked to write reflections after the completion of a project, or even after the completion of each step in the SECI model (Sudtho, 2018). Students can be guided by prompts such as “What I have learnt is that…”, “The challenges I faced were…”, and “Sharing ideas with my group made me…” (Sudtho, 2018, p. 34). This sort of reflective process aims at providing deeper learning to students “by looking at situations through a different lens and by asking them critical questions that challenge [their] assumptions about the world around them” (Sudtho, 2018, p. 35).

All in all, Nonaka and Takeuchi’s (1995) Knowledge Spiral Model is highly effective in helping businesses create new knowledge. Nevertheless, this model is also applicable to other fields, such as education. By applying the SECI model in peer learning, it allows for a “strong and integrated systematized knowledge creation path that leads to practical knowledge creation process” (Hosseini, 2011, p. 270).


BECKSearch. (2020). Compare and Contrast/Venn Diagrams. Active Peers at BECKSearch.


BECKSearch. (2020). Crowd-Sourced Glossary. Active Peers at BECKSearch.


BECKSearch. (2020). Treasure Hunt. Active Peers at BECKSearch.


Chatti, M., Klamma, R., Jarke, M., & Naeve, A. (2007). The Web 2.0 Driven SECI Model

Based Learning Process. 780-782.

Hosseini, S.M. (2011) The Application of SECI model as a Framework of Knowledge

Creation in Virtual Learning. Asia Pacific Education Review, 12, 263-270.

Hvorecky, J. (2012). Hvorecky, J. (2012). Applying the SECI Model and Bloom ’s

Taxonomy to the Preparation of Knowledge Management Specialists.

Kassem, S., Hammami, S., & Alhousary, T. (2015). Applying SECI Model to Encourage

Knowledge Creation in eLearning Environment. International Journal of Economic

Research, 12(4), 1601-1611.

Minocha, S., & Roberts, D. (2008). Laying the Groundwork for Socialisation and Knowledge

Construction within 3D virtual worlds. Research in Learning Technology, 16(3), 181-


Nonaka, I. (2007, July-August). The Knowledge-Creating Company. Harvard Business

Review. https://hbr.org/2007/07/the-knowledge-creating-company.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese

Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford University Press.

Siu, L.H. (2006). Tacit Knowledge, Nonaka and Takeuchi SECI Model and Informal

Knowledge Processes. International Journal of Organization Theory and Behaviour,

9(4), 490-502.

Sudtho, J. (2018). Pre-service Teachers’ Perception towards the Implementation of the SECI

Model for Reflective Knowledge Management. Human Behaviour, Development and

Society, 19(1), 28-39.

Sweeney, M. (2020, March 31). Roleplay & Peer Learning. Active Peers at BECKSearch.


Yeh, Y., Huang, L., & Yeh, Y. (2011). Knowledge Management in Blended Learning:

Effects on Professional Development in Creativity Instruction. Computers & Education, 56, 146-156.

Five ways to boost engagement when delivering online learning (as demonstrated by Ulster University Business School and Irish Times Training)

Online Study

By: Susan HayesCulleton

Overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed educational systems across the world. Like other educators, I was challenged to rapidly adapt educational programmes for remote teaching and virtual learning to ensure the continuation of high-quality learning experiences for students.

Rather than a sense of dread and a feeling of “now I will have to compete against Facebook and email for my students’ attention”, my mind started buzzing with ideas about how we could lever the power of so many tools to increase engagement and accelerate the learning journey.

By collaborating with Ulster University’s Office for Digital Learning, I was initially able to explore the functionalities of the virtual learning environment. Since I had access to top quality tools within the online Blackboard system and had already moved towards a blended learning approach, we could make that shift immediately and without an ounce of stress.

I’ve been a Recognised University Teacher at Ulster University Business School [UUBS] for the last four cohorts of the Springboard PgC Global Capital Markets programme and an Executive Education trainer at Irish TimesTraining for ten years. The two organisations partnered to offer this Springboard course for a cross-border, university accredited, locally delivered learning experience and I have worked closely with the UUBS course team to deliver teaching, learning and assessment.

Within my own business, I had already been exploring the opportunities of online, interactive learning.  In 2019, we set up “Active Peers at BECKSearch” to offer trainers and L&D professionals modules of exciting, peer-driven learning activities. We’ve worked with professional services firms, startups in the educational space, incubation centres, industry organisations and online communities. I knew I could use this experience and our technology to bring co-operation, learning and engagement to my students at UUBS.

One of the main concerns about developing online content is the level of planning and preparation required and the fear that results will be short-lived.  Over the past four semesters, I have developed twelve new peer learning activities for my students at Ulster University where it’s the students themselves doing most of the work as they learn and revise. This allows the lecturer to focus on adding value where it really matters and gives you the opportunity to “correct” incorrect assumptions before you see them on an assessment.

In this article, I want to give you five key ways that you can dramatically grow engagement in a highly active way for students while they learn from each other. I’ve shared examples from my experience, but you can apply them in your own domain of expertise. These activities have helped my students improve their overall results by 5% in comparison to previous groups taking the same course. Over this time, we’ve also crowdsourced a bank of 220 questions, a glossary of over 100 terms and ten study aids.

We have put together short step-by-step guides and built templates for you so that you can implement these ideas at your convenience at:

profile or LinkedIn page, please do reach out to us as we’re happy to feature great ideas.

How to Not Give a Terrible Presentation

Poor Presentation

By: Eric Chow,

We’ve all been there for a dry, boring presentation. Whether it was at school, or work, or some event, we all know what it’s like. You can’t wait for the presentation to be over, so you can get on with your life. There’s just no energy to it, and half the information is unnecessary. You end up thinking “why am I here?”

Then there are presentations that hit you. Maybe it makes you emotional – empathizing with pain, wanting to jump up in excitement, a moment where you can’t help but smile. The presenter has a great stage presence, it feels like they are talking directly at you, and you feel like you’re getting to know them.

In January 2020, The Harvard Business Review published an article titled “What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation.” In that article, the very first point was “Great presenters use fewer slides – and fewer words” and if you search on Google “why are most presentations boring” the entire first page will mention at least once – that we should change how we use slides.

There are many reasons for a dull presentation, including ineffective slides. So why is it that so many presenters struggle to give a great presentation? What makes certain presentations so much better than others?

Rule #1: Don’t be formulaic. Make the talk your own.

One of the biggest reasons so many people deliver poor presentations is because they are following someone else’s example. They don’t add a bit of themselves into it.

Effective presenters add something special.

Many presenters frame the talk as a journey, they take the audience on a ride through certain moments of their life. They don’t tell the audience about their whole life or their whole career, they skip over much of it, and tell the key moments of the journey.

A presenter might add a certain “wow” factor. In 2009, Bill Gates did a now-famous Ted Talk where he released a small swarm of mosquitoes on the audience to illustrate his point – that while the people in the room were not affected by malaria (which was carried by mosquitoes) they should still care. By making the issue relevant to the audience, while assuring them that the mosquitoes were not infected, Bill Gates was able to draw the audience’s attention.

Rule #2: Be a Speaker, not a Reader.

Remember that you are a speaker, a presenter. The audience came to hear you speak, not to read an essay. They also didn’t come to watch you read. So don’t overcrowd slides with text. And don’t read directly from your slides, or from a teleprompter, or a script. If you need to have notecards, or non-crowded slides to aid you that’s okay.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s best speech moments came from improvisation. In his “Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial, the “I have a dream” portion was completely improvised! It wasn’t sheer talent, it was because he gave so many speeches and practiced them over and over that he was able to just put together the best of all those previous speeches together in that moment.

Practice your presentation, understand what you’re trying to say. What is your key message? Have a guide for how the presentation should go if you want, but don’t worry too much about exactly what you’re going to say. If you practiced enough, you’ll deliver.

Rule #3: Talk to the Audience, Not At Them.

It’s quite obvious to most people that if you’re going to present a topic, you should be well-versed in that topic. You should understand your material, and be an expert in it, relative to those you are speaking to.

However, a big problem for a lot of presenters is they feel, often without meaning to, that they need to share everything they know with the audience. They feel that they need to make everyone an expert. You don’t.

Focus on the audience, talk to the audience. Feel free to ask questions of random audience member volunteers, or ask rhetorical questions to draw attention before answering them. Use humor to liven up the audience if the situation allows for it.

Consider your presentation from the audience’s point of view and focus on what is most relevant to them. What do you think would be most valuable for the audience to walk away with? What are the most relevant points?

Let’s Talk About Slides

Remember that you’re a speaker, not a reader. The focus is on you giving the material, not on the slides.

If you must use slides, don’t overcrowd them. Don’t write paragraphs, write short sentences.

Make sure to use themes and make it look professional. If you’re going to use it, a well put together slide deck is important.

Make the topic more real for the audience, like Bill Gates did. If you can’t bring mosquitoes, maybe it’s an online presentation over Zoom, use pictures & videos! We live in a media-saturated society, but more importantly, human beings are visual creatures. A good picture accompanying what you’re talking about, or a short video can make a presentation much better.


Remember: Talk To the Audience, Don’t Share Everything.

Remember: You Are A Speaker, Not a Reader.

And most importantly, Remember: Don’t be Formulaic. Make the Talk Your Own.

Elements of Best Practice

Elements of Best Practice

By: Eric Chow,

The Elements of Best Practice Activity is about identifying, understanding, and then applying the “best practices” for an action, but before we go into how exactly that is done, it is important to explain what a Best Practice is.

Oxford defines a “best practice” as “commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.” Put simply, the best way to do something, simply because of the results, and using such strategies to improve performance.

Knowing the best practices for the activities frequently relevant in an individual’s life, or an organization’s routine, helps to bring about superior results. 

Superior results can be, but are not limited to: doing more in less time, reduced costs or energy or effort expended, avoiding common mistakes, improved performance or a better end product, and more! Everyone wants to do better, and identifying the best practices helps to avoid costly and time-consuming efforts, and makes it easier to duplicate and teach to newcoming members on a team.

Of course, that begets the question – how do we identify these Best Practices?

Identifying Best Practices

According to the Encyclopedia of Small Business, at referenceforbusiness.com, one way of finding best practices is by looking to firms with a known reputation. 

“For example, Federal Express is often cited as having best practices among competitors in the expedited small package industry for their on-time delivery and package tracking services. Microsoft, the computer software developer, is cited as being innovative and creative, while the L.L. Bean outdoor products and clothing company is frequently lauded for their customer service practices and return policy guarantees.”

The Encyclopedia also suggests that learning about best practices does not have to be within key industry, often, superior methods can be found in companies outside of the scope of a particular firm. Researching and observing companies in different settings to learn better ways to continuously improve may be worthwhile. 

Another way is by looking at organizations and websites that document the best practices, like the Best Manufacturing Practices website, which focuses on identifying and documenting best practices and sharing them across industry. Looking at winners of certain awards, such as the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, can also be beneficial. Studying what such awards or websites look at can be helpful in identifying companies to observe.

The Balance Small Business, part of the Dotdash Publishing Family, writes in an article in 2018 a step-by-step process for Best Practices.

  1. Identify one business process or service to improve. (Product delivery)
  2. Look for one metric to measure. (Late Shipment %)
  3. Find competitors and companies within your industry and outside your industry. (FedEx)
  4. Collect information on the successful, best practices of other companies. (FedEx spoke and hub system)
  5. Modify the best practice for your situation. (Have one retail store per city act as central hub for shipments.)
  6. Implement the process then measure the results.

Notice how this process also suggests looking within and out of industry, because knowledge can be found anywhere, this is again suggested. Step 5 stresses an important part of that however. The exact strategies applied in another company, particularly one outside of industry, has to be modified for the different situation. Having a metric to compare before and after, is also a very important step in order to see the effect of a strategy implementation.

With regards to the metrics of measurement, the David Consulting Group says that collecting quantitative data on the methodology and the process, and analyzing the results presents measured performance and capability profiles. Comparing the actual performance with the capability reveals opportunities for improvement, which can then be an opportunity to find best practices.

Info Entrepreneurs, from the Chamber of Commerce Metropolitan Montreal, calls such metrics, benchmarks. Through benchmarking, it becomes possible to compare your business with other successful businesses to highlight areas of improvement. To identify benchmarks,

  • Identify standards: independent bodies often establish fixed standards for industry and activities that can be used as benchmarks 
  • Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): measure progress in achieving business objectives across a range of activities (e.g. sales volume, profitability, turnover, etc.)
  • Communicating with different groups in a company: production staff will be aware of inefficient production processes, customer service staff will know common complaints, customer service managers will see local market demand shifts, etc. 

The key is to encourage innovation and improvement. Leaders have to look to innovate, and they have to allow employees to make suggestions for how that can be done. Constantly pushing to be better not only allows for Best Practices, but in general creates the culture of a company that continues to grow.

The Chief Learning Officer Magazine documents the strategies of “three learning leaders” for finding best practices.

  • Work your network: contact the best people you know, ask what they’re doing is similar, and how they address certain issues. What are their suggestions? Who would they talk to?
  • Become embedded: the high performers are those deeply engaged and learning about the relevant skills and topics. This can include attending events, reading journals, participating in discussions, and getting to know colleagues.
  • Look to the big players: the big organizations have all the resources, which provides a solid benchmark and gets you closer to the exemplars of industry. But it’s the small firms that are more creative and resourceful and explorative. 
  • Build boardroom credibility: draw on research and industry-specific journal articles. Read what your superiors might read.
  • Adapt, don’t adopt: do not just take the strategies and apply them. Adapt them to the particular situation and environment.

To summarize the key points of all these suggestions, looking for best practices is about identifying metrics of measurement (or benchmarks), identifying the best practices of other companies and individuals in and out of industry, adapting them to the new situation and environment, and then using the metrics to see the result of the newly applied practice.

Identifying Best Practices – The BeckSearch way these ideas are well-founded to identify the right strategies. With so many organizations that can be looked at, and each one can lead to new ideas that produce better results. However, looking at other organizations brings about several challenges. It can be difficult because there are so many of them. The time it takes to choose and then identify the relevant strategies may not be worth it, especially without a clear method of how to find the best practices, and then adapt them to the particular organization or individual’s context.

Furthermore, what about organizations that wish to innovate and bring about change? Following the conventional best practices won’t do, because they want to do better!

What about applying the concept of best practices to academic settings? Students and researchers can benefit greatly from understanding best practices in studying, researching, analyzing, critically thinking, etc. How does it apply to specific industries? How does it apply to relationships with people?

Is there a way to create and implement a process that generates the best practices that a team is already using?



Best Practices Suggestions –





The Problem with Best Practices –

The Active Peers at BeckSearch Approach to Best Practices –