CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

March 29, 2001 Educational technology keeps us learning in the workplace






David Wells

Concordia graduate students are gaining valuable experience in dynamic corporate environments, said Education Professor David Wells.


Photo by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Amy Paradis
“People tend to think of education in terms of an elementary school or high school classroom,” said Education Professor David Wells, “but what do you think goes on in corporate training?”

Wells is the director of the Educational Technology graduate program. In an interview, he explained that while the use of technology is certainly beneficial in school settings, corporations have increasingly been demanding — and willing to pay for — technological solutions to training employees. And thanks to high-quality internships, Concordia graduate students are gaining valuable experience in this dynamic environment.

Educational Technology, said Wells, is an applied social science in which technology supports learning and performance. In recent years, for example, the popularity and the availability of the computer has introduced CD-ROM- and Web-based training to corporate settings.

The computer, above all other tools, is changing our expectations regarding business practices.

“When I first came to Concordia, I remember that when people tried to reach you by phone, they’d expect you to call them back within four to five days,” Wells said. “Now, with e-mail, if someone sends you a message at nine in the morning, they call you at noon asking, ‘Have you got my message?’”

A recent performance technology innovation is electronic performance support, which provides employees with a large quantity of easy-to-access knowledge at their fingertips. This is often used in call centres, where the workers may not personally know the answers to the customers’ inquiries, but can search for them on a database.

“Before electronic performance support, companies were training their employees one week out of two to keep them up to speed. But today, rather than asking, ‘What do I have to know?’ electronic performance support systems allow us to ask, ‘How fast can I access what I need to know?’”

Wells and others in the department have also built up connections with high-profile Canadian corporations, such as Bombardier, Air Canada and the Canadian Space Agency. Companies are provided with corporate educational tools in exchange for student internships.

Students who choose to attend the 675-hour internships at these companies may work on developing training packages, or creating Web sites, among other projects.

“We want to give them the best possible return for what they put into the course,” Wells said. “When students leave, we want them in situations where they can pick and choose the companies they want to work for.”

Their on-the-job experience has certainly paid off.

“Thirty to 35 students graduate from the program every year. At the graduate level, in English, in Eastern Canada, we’re it,” Wells said. “The supply is not as great as the demand.”

The diversity of the students’ educational backgrounds is regarded as a bonus to the program.

“We have Arts and Science, Fine Arts, Commerce and Engineering students from all over the map, bringing interesting perspectives,” he said. Wells himself graduated from Concordia with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

“It creates a rich environment, and a lot of peer-to-peer learning takes place.”