All you wanted to know about Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

As promised in the blog about referencing and citation, this week, we bring you information and facts about academic integrity and how to avoid plagiarism.   

As a master’s student, expect yourself to be surrounded by deadlines to submit assignments, academic papers, and dissertations for most of your academic life (follow our #DILO – A Day in the life of an RKC student series to know more). Academic integrity is a crucial aspect of academic studies, and strict protocols must be followed to abide by the rules of academic writing.   

So, what is plagiarism? 

When one submits another person’s ideas, writings, words, images, or data as their own, it is termed plagiarism.   

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Source: https://mimiandeunice.com/2010/07/30/thief/ Author: Nina Paley, 1968 

Plagiarism is among the four most common forms of academic dishonesty, the other three being cheating, academic misconduct, and fabrication. While looking for ideas and information is good research, not giving proper credit for the work cited becomes plagiarism. It is easy not to recognise potential plagiarism in one’s writing. Here are some examples:  

  1. Using information from the internet is commonly considered public information. However, it is still required to be cited.   
  1. When one paraphrases (i.e. puts someone else’s ideas in their own words) and does not provide credit to the original idea.   
  1. When one sources information from reading material provided by the professor, it still needs to be cited.  This is considered poor academic practice though, as you need to demonstrate independent research, and go directly to the sources mentioned by the professors in their lectures, rather than cite the lectures themselves. 
  1. When one copies their own ideas, used in previously marked work, and submits the same material for a new paper. This is commonly known as self-plagiarism.   

How to avoid plagiarism?  

As complex as it may seem, plagiarism can be avoided by simply citing and referencing your work wherever necessary and giving due credit to the original ideas, theories, words, quotations, images, or graphs.   

It is essential to make sure an appropriate style of citing and referencing must also be applied. Commonly used styles include Harvard, APA, MLA, and Chicago. You can check out detailed information on the blog: Attribution, to avoid retribution: referencing and citations for academic writing.  

Don’t panic. We’ve got help!  

Studying for a masters, working full-time, juggling work-life-study balance itself seems daunting. Do not get lost in trying to find the correct way to present assignments and avoid plagiarism. There are various sources that you can use to ensure effective writing every time.  

  1. Access the electronic library through your University account – there is always a guide to academic writing, referencing, and tutorial support directly from librarians  
  1. Ask for help from the tutors and student support services, who can help you get unstuck and direct you towards the resources that can help 

I hope this prepares you well for authoring your academic papers and assignments.  If you are stuck or have any questions, our highly qualified, world-class faculty will guide you through using the correct methods and techniques to follow academic integrity. 

#DILO – A day in the life of an RKC student – Antonio  

We continue with our blog series bringing you answers to some of the questions we at Robert Kennedy College (RKC) frequently get from students looking to join one of our online programmes. We asked some of our past and current students to share their thoughts and opinions, to give their feedback on how they handled online learning challenges. Hopefully, this will, in turn, help you make an informed decision.  

I believe learning is a life-long process. You never know when an opportunity to learn is thrown your way. Would you grab the opportunity, or would you think it’s too late to learn and study when you reach a certain age? But is age just a number?  

Antonio, an RKC student from Mozambique, is a shining example of how age is just a number when it comes to studying for your Masters. Let’s hear his story!  

Who you are, really?   

Antonio M, from Mozambique. A senior citizen still willing to learn and upgrade my skills in new areas associated with my country development.  

Which Uni are you studying at?   

University of Salford  

Which programme did you choose and why?  

Online MSc in Procurement, Logistics and Supply Chain Management  

How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

Initially, I thought 2h a day would suffice, but I learned that I needed to spend at least an additional hour every day. Let me say, for someone with my slow thinking speed, you need an average 3h a day to be comfortable and do all the homework (forum discussions, contributions). Do this for 6 days a week, 1 day to rest if you can afford it.  

PC: Unsplash.com

What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g., early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)   

In my case, evenings due to silence and more available bandwidth for Internet data.  

How did travelling impact your ability to study?    

Being an online course, travelling did not impact too much. When travelling, the main issue was Wi-Fi availability.  

How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?   

Most of my peers were around the same or close time. Having a platform and forums eased the interaction. It was not immediate, but I would get the reaction soon enough. With those closer peer friends or people with closer affinity, we shared our mobile numbers, and if required, we would use the mobile phone and interact.  

How much time did you devote to each assignment?    

A lot of time. As soon as you get the assignment brief, start immediately and dedicate at least 3h a day for the assignment. Make sure you state an initial outline as soon as you understand the problem to be solved. Having the outline, Google Scholar all the required stuff, minimum of 15 peer-reviewed references per assignment (my opinion).  
  

PC: Unsplash.com

What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

6-7h sleeping, 6-8h working and 3-4h studying, 3h solving family issues, 2h socialising with other people. My community, Rotary, and family would require more of my time and reschedule this time outline.  

Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies?    

Please make sure you do participate in the weekly activities since usually they prepare you for your assignments. If you do it right, you may have a considerable part of your assignment done, at least in terms of the referencing. Going straight to the assignments is the wrong strategy. I did learn with some pain later that if I had done the week activities it would have made my life easier and would have saved time for my assignments. Otherwise, while busy with the assignment, you understand that you still need to do the work you avoided.  

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If you have been dreaming of joining a master’s programme or have had this personal goal to gain a higher degree, now is the time! Take valuable advice from our current students, gain from their experience, add your unique study strategies, and make your own success stories! I would love to feature you one day on our college blog.    

Chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, the application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time. 

#DILO – A day in the life an RKC Master’s student – David

As a former Education advisor, if I had to pick one of the most frequently asked questions by prospective students, it would be “How many hours do I need to study?”  

The vast majority (if not all) of our students are working and leading hectic professional lives. Some are motivated and have already decided to undertake a master’s, while others contemplate the unknowns of an online programme. In my experience, two things affect their decision the most.   

First – finances, and second, being able to strike the perfect work, study, and life balance. While I cannot completely help you with the finances (partially yes – check out the discount offers currently being offered on our online MBA, MSc, and LL.M programmes), I thought what I could do to help was to bring some facts to light about the other unknowns – what does a typical day in the life of an online master’s student look like?  

I asked a few of our students from different walks of life, occupations, and personal situations to answer a few questions on their study tactics and strategies, plans and reality, and so on.  So, through our ‘#DILO ‘a typical day in the life of a master’s student’ blog series every month, we bring to you one of our actual students or alumni sharing the insights.   

Today, we’re looking at David’s typical study days. David, an RKC & University of Cumbria soon-to-be graduate, offered us these answers:  

An Introduction  

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Which programme did you choose and why?  

David Andaclio (DA):  MBA – International Business. I chose this topic based on my experience and the UoC partnership with Robert Kennedy College in Switzerland and the global diversification of international students.  

Stayed focused and consistent

The Study Plan   

VK : How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week?  

DA: I dedicated time during the week and each day, stayed focused and consistent, and it took approximately 4 hours a day.  

VK: What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?)  

DA: Early mornings were more suitable for me.  

David allocates approximately 4 hours a day for study

VK: How much time did you devote for each assignment?  

DA: I devoted about 8-12 hours.  

Travelling and Communication  

VK: Did you travel for work? How did travelling impact your ability to study?  

DA: Not at all  

VK: How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences?  

DA: Not an issue. [Editor’s note: Interaction is mostly asynchronous through discussion forums] 

A typical day as a master’s student  

VK: What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you?  

 DA:I had to learn to balance everyday work and family matters and dedicate time out of each day to the online master’s program. Being consistent and focused was key to managing the process.  

Any advice?  

VK:Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies.  

DA: Yes. Map out a study plan, identify the hours you will spend, develop a framework to stay ahead and once again, be consistent with the task. No procrastination.  

Develop a framework to stay ahead and no procrastination!

Alright friends, this was a sneak peek of a typical day in David’s life as a master’s student. I hope you find it insightful and informative and that it gives you an idea of what to expect when you enrol for our master’s programmes. Watch this space as we have many more interesting insights coming up! 

Celebrating Motherhood: Is it possible to be a working mom and be a master’s student at the same time? The answer will (hopefully) NOT surprise you!

Motherhood is unique for every woman. It’s full of joy, love, challenges, despair, anguish, fun, responsibility, selflessness, and sacrifice.  As it is rightfully said,  

A Mother is an epitome of love, strength, and sacrifice.

A mother makes many sacrifices while raising her family and children. The instinctive selflessness and dedication of a mother make her go to extraordinary lengths to care, protect, and provide for her children. Yet, while tending to the needs of her family, a mother commonly puts her career and further education on the back burner. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn and Censuswide, nearly half of the working mothers consider a career pivot and prefer not returning to work after maternity leave in the US. And 63% of working mothers who opt to take a career break do so to spend more time with their children.    

Now, if being a career woman, juggling between the roles of a wife and a mother is hard already, then deciding to enhance your career with a master’s education will make life much more challenging. But does it mean a mother cannot pursue her dream of having a job and family together? Should she not be allowed to advance her career?  

The answer lies in what my mother always tells me:  

I can do anything; I am a mother!

That’s right. You can do anything! Being a mother does not mean that you have to sacrifice your career and education goals. On the contrary, achieving that perfect work-life-study balance is very much possible (check out our blog and a short video about work-life balance) and realise your long-awaited dream. All it requires is a mix of planning, dedication, and clear focus on your ultimate goal.  

Here are five tips that can help you better in the transition to a master’s students’ life:  

Find your motivation 

There could be several reasons for continuing education, such as updating your skills, gaining advanced qualifications, adding new knowledge or specialities, career pivot, financial enhancement, or the personal challenge of finally getting that university degree! First, find your motivation, as this motivation will keep you fueled and focused all through your journey of master’s for the next 1 to 2 years. Should you deviate, or lose focus, your motivation will always get you back on track and remind you of your ultimate goal.  

An RKC alumni, Meg Plooy, a mother, a wife, a friend and a (foster) mother of Pitbulls, found her motivation in two things: First, to be an inspiration for her young children and be able to show them that if you work hard, anything is possible. The second was to advance her career opportunities.  

Another master’s alumni, Manal Al-Khaled, shares her motivation, “In 2013, my daughters were only 4 and 5 years old when my husband lost his job due to political unrest in the region (Middle East). There was never a right time to do my Master’s degree. There were always other financial priorities, and with two little kids and a full-time job, time was a luxury I didn’t have much under my control. So I kept postponing it for all the reasons in the world. Then it hit me – it’s now no matter what”.  

Develop and maintain a support network  

One of our students, who is also a mother, suggests reducing personal commitment, waking up early, and staying up till late at night. While this arrangement may not always be possible for everyone, it is necessary to have a cushion, a support system to help you cope with any stressful situation you might face, or in case of emergencies. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your husband, siblings, parents, employer, or even neighbour!  

Don’t be shy and ask for help when needed

Make a plan and work on a schedule  

90% PLAN + 10% EXECUTION = 100% SUCCESS  

Before you even enrol for a master’s, the first focus should be on how you will manage work, home, and studies. Plan a schedule and follow it religiously.  Formulate a 30-60-90 plan according to the number of modules you register yourself for in a given quarter. A 30–60–90-day plan details the targets you plan to accomplish in the first 30, 60, and 90 days of your studies. Set concrete goals and a vision for your abilities at each stage of the plan, that will act as a guiding rope and will constantly move you towards the goal.

Planning your study space at home or work, away from distractions, is also essential. Again, self-organisation is critical to be able to plan efficiently and to be able to execute it successfully.  

Most of RKC’s working mothers planned their days and weeks to strike an optimum balance; they would usually be working during the day on weekdays and allocate study hours to night-time and weekends.  

Meg again: “A good routine and sticking to a schedule [are a must]. The best time to complete my studies was after the kids were in bed, which gave me anywhere from 2 to 2.5 hours each night. In addition, I used Monday through Thursday as “school nights”, which ensured I was still getting downtime over the weekends. This helped me to stay focused and manage time effectively”.  

Find a study buddy  

Trust that you are not alone in this situation. Getting back to being a student and coping with an online learning environment can be pretty daunting. Having a study buddy will help to relieve your stress and keep tabs on the OnlineCampus class discussions and assignments. For online education students, if you can look for a study partner in the same time zone, it will be more convenient for your interaction.  

Having a study partner can help relieve the study stress and help in class discussions and assignments

Believe in yourself!  

As one of our students suggests, have the confidence to believe in yourself and not procrastinate. Obtaining a master’s degree is a life-changing experience for most, and you must believe in yourself that you can achieve this goal.  

Naomi, an MA Leading Innovation and Change (now MBA LIC) graduate, gave herself this pep talk: “Yes, women face issues with their husbands, childcare, and the fact that society doesn’t expect too high an education from women. My friends think having a bachelor’s degree should be enough for me, especially because I own my own business. To the society around me: “what else are you looking for in life”? Also, challenges with workplace issues, especially when women are working for other employers. Lack of funds to sponsor oneself to school, tight work schedules, and traffic to get back home are all challenges. Eiiii!! Naomi, everything is possible. Don’t think of your tight schedule at your office, the needs of your staff, or the number of employees under you. Don’t even think your husband or your three children would be hindrances. Remember, Naomi, that with determination and hard work, you can make it”.  

I agree the journey may not be a walk in the park, but taking one step at a time will bring you closer to your ultimate goal – attaining the Masters’ qualification. So many working mothers have successfully achieved their educational goals, and so can you.  

Happy mother’s day to all of you out there, and if you have a story about being a working mother and a master’s student you would like to share, the floor is yours!

Step-by-step: how to write an effective abstract for academic papers

As a Master-level student you will be asked to write abstracts for your papers, or for your dissertation. Writing an abstract is not rocket science, but it is somewhat different from “regular” writing. I have summed up here advice from professors and librarians on how to write an effective abstract for academia. A step-by-step approach to writing abstracts is proposed, and this should enable you to write effective abstracts.

If you are still reading, my first paragraph is a good abstract. Yay!

Why are abstracts important?

In academic writing the use of “abstracts” is particularly important, for practical reasons. With the amount of reading one needs to do when studying/researching, being able to quickly tell what a given paper is about (before the paywall) gives abstracts a crucial value.

Writing is an integral part of our professional and personal lives. Every day we write texts, emails, letters, applications, comments on social media, blogs, etc. Professionally, we may be required to communicate via email, reports, blog posts and articles, or team chat (more so since the pandemic started).

There may be a few commonalities within each type of writing, but each writing type brings its own format, tone, formalities (formal or informal), and target audiences.

You are probably well versed with the personal and professional writing styles. Still, as a student, you will encounter an entirely different type of writing – academic writing. Academic writing is a more formal style of writing, used in universities and scholarly publications, typically involving literature reviews, case studies, and application of theory in “practice”. A subject for another blog post, so stay tuned.

For the typical master’s level student at Robert Kennedy College, academic writing is a new form of writing. From the module assignments to the dissertation at the end of the programme, the students are expected to excel in this writing style.

What are abstracts?

The abstract is typically a single 200 to 300 words paragraph, “selling” the rest of the paper/article they describe to the interested reader. The abstract is not, formally speaking, part of the paper it describes, which is why it normally appears before the table of contents and is not listed in it.

The abstract must provide information on why the paper should be read in the first place – so why the research is important. For assignments, where students are encouraged to practice abstract writing in view of the dissertation, the abstracts typically try to convince the markers that the brief was addressed in its entirety. If you can imagine Jack Nicholson, do it: “the brief, the whole brief, and nothing but the brief”.

The abstract must also provide information on what was done, and how. For a dissertation, the student will concisely describe the research methodology. For an assignment paper, the same (“I have critically reviewed literature on X, Y, and Z. I have then analysed a case study on A using B and C models/frameworks, etc.”).

The abstract must also give a glimpse into what was found. Not full details, but enough to entice an interested reader to click-through to the full article. For dissertations and assignments (where the reader does not have a choice, but must read the full paper anyway), you want to reassure them (they are typically marking your work) that you have not only addressed the brief, but also found some interesting things.

The final function of the abstract is to provide a take-home message. A concise and factual conclusion that the reader can use as justification for their reading the paper in full.

What abstracts are not

In our work with mature students like yourself, the most common confusions arise between abstracts and executive summaries, and between abstracts and introductions.

Abstracts are not executive summaries

Executive summaries are a business-environment construct, whose purpose is to give the reader (executives, hence the name) enough information to make an informed decision, without having to read the full report/paper. Unlike abstracts, executive summaries are much longer (one to two pages), are much more structured (with internal headings much like this post, allowing executives to orient themselves within the summary), and must provide clear action points/decisions to be made after the supporting arguments have been presented.

Abstracts are not introductions

Although there are similarities between the two constructs, abstracts are not introductions either.

An introduction goes deeper into the WHAT (what your topic is, or what you are addressing in the paper) and the WHY (why is this important? Background context) of your work.

It will also lay out your own stance or focus given the context and the topic, and provide a “map” to your paper, describing what each section of it discusses. The introduction is typically written in the future (“will discuss X in section 1, etc.”) whereas the abstract is typically written in the past tense, or present, but never future.

How to write an effective introduction – a topic for another blog post!

Conclusion

Now that we know what an abstract is, and what it is not, here are the five steps to writing a compelling abstract that I promised in the … abstract 😊

1. Define what your work is about: provide a precise statement of the problem

2. Give some background information: provide enough background information for your study or research that describes both the main topic and the problem.

3. What and how you did what you did: summarize the research method & designs you employed, stating the key techniques used.

4. Findings: describe your findings. This part attracts the most attention as the reader is intrigued to know about the results.

5. Conclusion: Provide a brief and precise conclusion. An overstated conclusion can mislead the readers, so do not overkill.

Not everyone is born with a flair for academic writing, but, like many things in life, this can be learnt and, with experience, can also be improved over time. All you require is some guidance and practice.

Our highly qualified, world-class faculty provide you with in-depth knowledge of the course while guiding you on how to best write your assignments and prepare for the dissertation. Talk to our education advisors and enrol today for the online master’s programme that is closest to your interests.

Are you stressed? Here are 5 ways how to cope with stress

I cannot stress enough (pun intended) that stress is part of everyone’s life, in one way or another: it is the proportion that differs.

We all are different and handle stress in different ways.

I recently moved from one province to another. Trust me, it was more stressful than moving countries as I did almost four years back.  I stopped to think, why? I was venturing out onto an unknown territory in both cases, I knew one or a few friends and family there, and it was a new challenge in my life. Then what was different, I wondered. Upon analysing the situation, I came to an interesting conclusion. There were a few things that were different in the first case: 1. I was more willing/open to change 2. I was mentally better prepared 3. I was young(er). (But does that matter? Check out our blog: Age is just a number) 4. I had greater acceptability for risks 5. The fear of the outcome was significantly less/or none at all. 

By definition, stress is a feeling of physical, psychological, or emotional tension. It can originate from stress-causing factors or stressors; that makes you feel nervous, angry, or frustrated. The feeling of stress that continues even after the stressor (the event or the thought) is gone becomes anxiety. The body, as a result, requires immediate attention. And like I said before, it’s one’s response to stress, and it is stress management that makes a big difference to their well-being. 

Types of stress

There are two types of stress: 

  1. Acute stress: acute stress refers to situational events relating to the present or near future. These can be small everyday situations like meeting a deadline, getting late to work or missing an appointment. Better time management can help you become more resilient towards acute stress. 
  2. Chronic stress: when you are exposed to high-pressure situations for prolonged intervals, it leads to chronic stress. This may lead to other symptoms of stress such as depression and anxiety. 

The stressors can be of three types:

  1. Routine stress such as work-related stress, studies, financial stress, etc.
  2. Unexpected stress like change in location, job 
  3. Traumatic stress that results from an accident, social, economic, or environmental disaster, etc.
Financial stress is a kind of routine stress

And I think that some stresses just fall under all the above three categories. For instance, Covid-19 that started as traumatic stress, has seeped into our lives as routine stress. 

We live in a very dynamic, ever-changing, highly competitive world with an information overload through various media including social-media. In the concrete jungle we live and work in, living in stress has become a new normal, and it’s down to ‘survival of the fittest. Because more than what stress you have, how you manage it is more important. Here are five ways how one can manage stress.

5 strategies to cope with stress

Time Management

Time management is key for successful and efficient life

I believe the key to a successful and efficient life is better time management. Most of our stresses that lead to more tensions can be warded off simply by managing your time more effectively. This is true in any part of our lives. If you are following our #DILO series – A day in the life of an RKC Student, you have noticed that all the RKC students and alumni trust that better time management is essential for work-life balance and successful completion of the master’s programme. Also, check out our blog on time management.

Yoga & Exercise

Set a routine that allows some exercise, a physical activity, going outdoors, or follow a sport. There are several forms of yoga such as hot yoga, power yoga, Iyengar yoga, Bikram yoga, and many more. Exercise and/or yoga relieve your mind and body from mental and muscular stress. It balances hormones and reduces stress. 

Meditate

Quiet your mind from unnecessary thoughts

As I mentioned before, stress is caused by an event or thought – the stressor. It is, therefore, necessary to quiet your mind and free it from unnecessary thoughts. Meditation has proven to be an effective tool in managing stress and leading a stress-free life. 

Eat healthily

Prepare a meal plan and avoid processed foods

Eating healthy should be a lifestyle you choose to live. In today’s world, everyone is rushed and mindlessly following the rat race from morning till night, meeting deadlines, jobs, handling personal responsibilities, relationships. There is no time to eat, let alone eat a healthy meal. Just a quick grab fast food has become a lifestyle for many. Eating a healthy balanced diet helps to develop a strong immune system that helps in dealing with stress. Prepare a meal plan for the week and buy the ingredients. While healthy eating planning can be daunting, it can be easily managed by prepping for a week or few days in advance. Prepare home cooked meals with fresh vegetables and fruits and avoid the processed foods. You may also want to cut down on sugar and artificially flavoured drinks and watch out fo the portion sizes.

Talk and share

Vent off some steam every now and then

If you feel stress symptoms, don’t be wary about sharing your feelings with friends, family, or colleagues. Often we realise that we are not the only ones dealing with stress, Vent off some steam now and then and that helps too.

While it may seem like stress management can be stressful, the above five ways prove to be simple yet effective means to cope with stress. It is essential to take care of your well-being. 

Stressed about which masters programme you should pursue, how online education works, or what the application process is? Don’t worry, we got you. Talk to our advisors today on WhatsApp to get answers to these questions.

Is your company competitive? Here are 4 strategies to make it one! 

“No competition, no progress”

Bela Karolyi 

I could not agree more with the world-renowned Hungarian-born Romanian American gymnastics coach, who transformed gymnastics coaching in the US and was responsible for bringing home numerous international laurels. His words are not only applicable in sports but are equally fitting in the business world as well.  

Businesses do not operate in isolation. Gone are the days of monopoly where companies could dominate a market or industry. Today, in the fast-moving-digital-world, every business, big or small, faces stiff competition to hold a fair share of the market.  

Carefully analyze company’s competitive environment when formulating a business plan

When formulating a business plan, it is essential to analyse the company’s competitive environment. The competitive environment is the intricate external system in which the business operates and comprises of several factors or elements that affect and shape the industry. These elements include, and are not limited to:  

1. Competitors – Direct and Indirect  

2. Government regulations and laws  

3. Suppliers  

4.  Substitutes  

5. Technological trends  

6. Demographic Composition  

7. Network of Distribution  

8. Corporate culture  

Industrialists, innovators, and entrepreneurs need to think critically about these factors that affect the company’s profitability and success. (Also, check out our blog on 7 ways to improve critical thinking). It is imperative to understand the competition landscape and scope. This is necessary to prepare the kind of resources, investment, and technology required to build a sustainable and profitable business. In the good ol’ days, companies could thrive with little or no competition. In comparison, companies now must adopt new and innovative means to compete with other firms in the business environment and to have a competitive advantage over them. Strategic forecasting, planning, and implementation can lead to success in competition. Various strategies can help businesses build undefeatable and sustainable products and services.  

Caption – PESTEL model (reference)

Here are 4 strategies that can help build competitive advantages for your business:  

1. Cost Leadership  

Businesses run for profit. By definition, profit is a financial gain realised due to the difference between the amount earned and the amount spent on buying, operating, or producing a product or a service. It is one of the oldest tricks in the (business) book to be a cost-leader. When a business decides to pursue the cost-leadership strategy, it vows to provide the goods or services at a competitively lower price than any of its rivals can ever offer.

Such firms operate on the lowest cost structure, have reasonable control over the entire supply chain, suppliers, and raw materials, and have tight controls on the whole value chain activities. Walmart, IKEA, McDonald’s, Primark, and RyanAir are a few examples of firms that attribute their business success to a cost-leadership strategy.  

2.  Differentiation  

“You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it  differently”.

Steve Jobs  
Why HERMES?

Offering a low-cost product is not always an option in a competitive environment. Different consumers have different demands. Companies, by providing high-end quality products, also influence many customers’ buying decisions, who would otherwise choose the cheaper alternative. Even though companies always intend to keep their costs low, they are willing to spend on research and development costs, marketing, customer service, or innovation to develop a niche product or service, for which consumers are willing to pay a premium price. Apple, Starbucks, Tesla, Tiffany & Co., Emirates, and Hermes are examples of companies whose thoughtful approach to differentiation and compelling storytelling strategy makes millions of consumers spend premium prices for their products and services.  

3. Focus  

This strategy is quite different from the above two strategies. Business here focuses its primary strategy, i.e., operating at a lower cost or adding value but on a limited market, much narrower in scope than the broader cost leader or differentiator. The company intends to make concentrated efforts based on either a particular buyer group, geographic uniqueness, a unique product line, or a special attribute appealing to a niche customer class to cater to the specific demand of a limited number of customers. Gucci, Rolls Royce, Diet Coke, NetJets, and DC Design are a few examples of companies that have successfully adopted the focus strategy.  

4. Strategic group  

“Anytime you find someone more successful than you, especially when you’re both in the same business, you know they are doing something that you aren’t”. 

Malcom X  
The Cosmetics Industry has close knit competition and companies follow similar strategies to build competitive advantage

Groups of businesses of comparable size and range that operate in the same industry and follow the same strategies to build competitive advantages are termed strategic groups. The competition is so closely knit in such environments that even a small movement by the competitor affects the others’ market position. It helps build a strategic group map to identify businesses’ closest competitors and evaluate how your company is positioned in the industry. Common examples of strategic groups are the restaurants, retailers, cosmetic brands, and the aviation industry.  

These are four strategies, more commonly known as Michael Porter’s ‘generic’ business-level strategies as these can be applied to any business, by any firm in any industry.  

Which strategy do you think is the most powerful in building a competitive business advantage in your own context? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  

Top 5 differences between an MBA and an Executive MBA. Which one is better for you?

Pursuing the master’s degree is a big decision in many people’s lives. Choosing which programme will be most beneficial for one’s career development can be nerve wrecking too. Because there are choices – too many choices! For example, one might decide to go for an MBA programme, however, there is a choice to pursue an Executive MBA (EMBA) too! As an aspiring student, which one should you choose? Let us explore the differences, pros and cons of both so that you can make an informed decision. 

1. Admission criteria 

One of the foremost differences between an MBA and the EMBA programme is the admission criteria. For most of the MBA programmes minimum experience required varies between 1-3 years. Sometimes, even fresh under-graduates can also apply for MBA programmes given a good academic record.  

On the other hand, an EMBA typically requires candidates to have on average 3 to 6 years’ work experience with at least 2 to 5 years of managerial work experience. Our current MBA students and alumni for example, possess on average 5 to 10 years of work experience, holding leadership and management titles in companies such as risk and quality managers, heads of sales, senior corporate trainers, marketing directors, lawyers, consultants, politicians and diplomats, company presidents and CMOs. 

2. Pace of study 

The MBA programmes are typically pursued on full-time or on-campus basis, and have very demanding schedules. They have more traditional and rigid course structures. An EMBA on the other hand, offers a more flexible study schedule, and are typically delivered in blocks (weekends, once a month, etc.) or online. The majority of the EMBA students are working professionals with busy work schedules. Thus, to optimize their time, EMBAs offer lecture sessions at rarer, but more intense intervals than their MBA counterparts. When done online, these really put flexibility at the forefront. 
 

3. Intensity of the programme 

While both programmes focus on the same core modules, the degree of intensiveness in both varies. For the EMBAs, I will use an analogy of a multi-vitamin supplement – a power packed mix of various vitamins all together in one. Similary, EMBAs are intensive, and one should be ready to absorb a lot of knowledge in a short period of time.  

A regular MBA programme however, spreads the modules over a period of time. The course material is widely distributed and thus is comparatively less intensive than EMBAs. 

Group of students at the Residency in Zurich (At the moment we are conducting Online Residency in light of Covid-19 restrictions).

4. Curriculum and focus 

In an MBA programme, since it accepts candidates with fewer years of experience, the focus is on teaching and developing management knowledge from the basics. It has a broader choice available in terms of the electives that a student can choose from. An EMBA programme, however, has a higher bar set in terms of experience from its candidates. While some of the core modules are same as an MBA programme, an EMBA programme has a more focused approach.  
 

Celebrating our Graduates – University of Cumbria

5. Financial implications 

An EMBA wins over an MBA programme any day when we talk about financial implications of both. Firstly, an EMBA candidate can continue their day jobs and get paid to support their education. MBA programmes with full-time study schedules make it more difficult for students to continue with their jobs. Secondly, since a large portion (or in our case, all of the programme) is studied online, one saves a huge amount of money in travel and living expenses. Thus, the return on investment on an EMBA is typically much higher than a regular MBA programme.  

Money matters..

There is of course the issue of programme cost – these vary wildly though, and you can find really expensive programmes in both EMBA and MBA settings. 

I hope the above provides a few points to help you make the distinction between an MBA and an EMBA programme. 

Robert Kennedy College offers online MBA programmes – which are much closer to EMBAs than they are to MBAs because of their flexibility and incredible value for money. We do that in exclusive partnerships with the University of Cumbria and York St John University. Check out the list of various MBA progammes that we offer and choose the one that best suits your interests and career.  

#DILO (A day in the life of) a master’s student – Nigel

As a former Education advisor, if I had to pick one of the most frequently asked questions by prospective students, it would definitely be “How many hours do I need to study?” 

The vast majority (if not all) of our students are working and leading remarkably busy professional lives. Some are motivated and have already decided to undertake a master’s, while others contemplate the unknowns of an online programme. In my experience, two things effect their decision the most.  

First – finances, and second, being able to strike the perfect work, study, and life balance. While I cannot completely help you with the finances (partially yes – check out the discount offers currently being offered on our online MBA, MSc, and LL.M programmes), I thought what I could do to help was to bring some facts to light about the other unknowns – what does a typical day in the life of an online master’s student look like? 

I asked a few of our students from different walks of life, occupations, and personal situations to answer a few questions on their study tactics and strategies, plans and reality, and so on. I thank each one of the respondents for taking the time to share their experiences and give valuable advice to you – possibly future students. In our ‘a typical day in the life of a master’s student’ blog series once a month, we will bring to you one of our real students or alumni sharing the insights.  

Today, we’re looking at Nigel’s typical study days. Nigel, an RKC & University of Cumbria soon-to-be graduate, offered us these answers: 

An Introduction 

Vidhi Kapoor (VK): Which programme did you choose and why? 

Nigel Lee Tranter (NT):  MBA – Leadership and Sustainability, I chose this topic for two reasons  

1. I have a passion and high degree of interest in both topics  

2. I wanted to study through a recognised programme and a recognised college/university, and I wanted something I could easily apply in the workplace 

The Study Plan  

VK : How did you plan to study each module, and what was the reality? How many hours did/do you have to put in each day/or in a week? 

NT: My initial plan was to commit the majority of study hours at a weekend, however, in reality what actual worked was daily early mornings (2 hours per day) with a supplemental number at the weekend which flexed between 4 – 6 hours depending on workload. 

VK: What part of the day did/do you find most suitable to study? (e.g. early mornings, lunch break, evenings, weekends?) 

NT: For me definitely early mornings starting at 5 or 5:30 

VK: How much time did you devote for each assignment? 

NT: I assessed the requirements after reviewing each assignment and built in an extra 30% as contingency to allow for extra reading, research and breaks as each assignment progressed, this was based on the evolving nature of discovering something new and interesting during the research phase. I set aside about 20 hours per week for studies.

Travelling and Communication 

VK: Did you travel for work? How did travelling impact your ability to study? 

NT: Only rarely did travel affect my study time due in part to the early morning start time plus mode of travel (usually train or airplane) allowed me to study while travelling also. 

VK: How were you able to interact with peers and/or professors given the time differences? 

NT: The use of virtual and collaboration technologies eradicated the time differences. During my dissertation my supervisor and I agreed to also supplement using WhatsApp also to support the learning experience. 

A typical day as a master’s student 

VK: What does a typical day as an Online Masters’ student look like for you? 

 NT: Start at 5 or 5:30am, study for 2 hours. Commence my normal business day around 8 am, finish my business day circa 6 to 7pm then depending on how I felt, perhaps another hour’s study, however this was always optional so as not to feel it was mandatory thus avoiding the learning experience becoming stressful. 

Any advice? 

VK: Any advice you have for students to better plan their studies. 

NT: Find your working space and condition yourself to prepare for learning when you enter this space. Build in contingency for holidays and breaks to avoid building pressure. Find your optimum study period of the day when you are most productive and experiment with this timeframe, learn how to research effectively to get the quality results you want, study productivity techniques that work for you and finally enjoy the experience. 

Alright folks, this was a sneak peek of a typical day in Nigel’s life as a master’s student. I hope you find it insightful and informative and that it gives you an idea of what to expect when you enrol for our master’s programmes. Watch this space as we have many more interesting insights coming up! 

Event Management during COVID-19

Well, I have said it before, and I am saying it again – we live in difficult times. But the more I think about it, maybe “difficult” is not the right term to use. I think the right word to use here is “challenging”, and “challenging” isn’t as bad as “difficult”. And what challenges give us, are opportunities.

This “opportunity” (and I know it might seem crass to term COVID-19 as an opportunity or as something positive, because it is definitely not positive, and I wish it never happened!) might not have been a choice and was forced on the world by COVID-19, but this is not the first time that the world faced a widespread pandemic and it will not be the last. Every time we faced something like this (global pandemic, world wars, etc.) in the past, we have come out of it stronger and better prepared for the future, so we might as well try to make the best of a bad situation now too.

Companies and individuals around the world are seizing on this opportunity that the challenge of COVID-19 has provided. New ways to think and work, new processes and operations, new businesses and technology, new products and services, and finally, new ways of managing events.

One of the sectors that have suffered greatly, at least in the short term, is Event Management. I mean, one of the basic ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19 is social distancing, and that is the antithesis of a successful event.

The following are some of the challenges and/or solutions that event managers have come up with in dealing with COVID-19.

Cancellation: Events are being cancelled, primarily because the fear and risks are real, and it is always better to be safe than sorry! However, the silver lining is events still need to take place, especially in the corporate world. New products and services still need to be announced and launched, Comic Con needs to take place to announce new movies and television shows, and to keep the fans hooked.

A royal wedding event in times before Covid-19

Opportunity: While events like “grand weddings” might be a thing of the past, at least for the immediate future, the opportunity still exists to plan for a classy, intimate, and yet a memorable wedding. After all, the wedding day will always be one of the most important days in a couple’s married life, and couples still need to get married (life doesn’t come to a halt because of COVID-19) and make their day special. A grand wedding reception can always be planned for when things return back to normal, until then, recordings of the wedding can be shared with extended friends and family. Planning for an intimate, yet memorable wedding can challenge the creativity of an event planner, but in this case, it is the challenge to overcome.

Technology: That was on the personal side of things. I believe it is a lot simpler on the corporate side. Technology has made it a lot easier to plan corporate events and products launches. Earlier this month, Samsung had their Galaxy Unpacked August 2020 event, and unlike previous years, their entire audience – from the media, to reviewers, to creators – joined them virtually. Also, most of the product launches looked like they were pre-recorded and professionally edited (I felt it gave it a more completed look overall, polishing out the rough edges that were visible in previous years).

A similar strategy was adopted in this year’s Democratic National Convention, in the United States of America. Apart from the day’s presenters, most of the key speakers, spoke from their home through pre-recorded messages for the nation. Only the candidates, whose acceptance speeches had to be live, addressed a greatly reduced live audience. And even here the event was planned in such a way that it tried to adhere to COVID-19 safety measures – like having the live audience being seated 6 feet apart and wearing a mask.

Democratic National Convention 2020

Events similar to Comic Con have adopted a similar strategy to Samsung, having invited their audience to participate online, hosting pre-recorded interviews of creators, developers, and stars that the audience can view. While at the same time, having interactive sessions through video conferencing/streaming with live chat options with the stars and creators of new shows.

Staffing and Salaries: With the cancellation of events comes loss of business and revenue, and by extension (maybe) downsizing and layoffs. Because, lets face it, if companies don’t earn, they can’t pay. For those that have not been affected by downsizing, the beautiful thing about being an event management professional is the ability to work from anywhere, at least most of the time. All that is needed is your mobile phone and your laptop (and something, or someone, to occupy the kids).

Training and Planning: For the bigger event management firms that have a large clientele, this time is a great opportunity to train their staff and plan for the future. All events take time to plan and having the right vendors in place with an optimised supply chain will go a long way in bring down costs and the turnaround time in executing a successful event. Because once things go back to normal, I have a feeling that there will be a rush of back to back events, to make up for lost opportunities.

RKC's residency event - before and after Covid-19
RKC’s residency event – before and after Covid-19

If you are interested in learning and being better prepared for the opportunities in event management, Robert Kennedy College through our exclusive partnership with the University of Salford, UK, offers a 100% Online MSc in International Events Management to better prepare you for the challenges to come.

You can chat LIVE on WhatsApp with one of our Education Advisors for more information on all the programmes we offer, application process, and for information on discounts we might be offering at this time.