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March 29, 2001 New e-commerce programs enrich degrees







by Sidhartha Banerjee

Wael Hijazi was waiting for an opportunity to combine an interest in Web design with his business background. So, when Concordia introduced the new minor and graduate certificates in Electronic Business Systems, he jumped at the opportunity.

“Web design is really a passion for me,” said Hijazi, a third-year MIS co-op student. “So when the opportunity came, I thought, ‘If I take this minor, it could help me find a job afterwards.’”
E-commerce is rapidly becoming the way to do business, and Concordia won’t be lagging behind as the demand for graduates with e-commerce experience increases.

Launched in January, the 12-credit minor currently has 40 students enrolled from a variety of commerce-related backgrounds. The 18-credit graduate certificate is scheduled to be launched in September.

Both options will offer a range of courses, from how to strategically use the Internet to how an electronic supply chain system works — all while keeping a strong general commerce component.

“It’s still business first and how technology can support it,” said Anne-Marie Croteau, the director of the Graduate Certificate in E-Business and one of the professors who developed the program.

“It is tricky, because sometimes we have expectations that are more advanced than what the technology can offer, and some other times, people don’t understand what the technology can do. You still need to have a strong business model.”

The e-commerce idea came from a recent addition to the John Molson School of Business, Gregory Kersten. “We started with the idea of setting up an institute in e-commerce,” said Dr. Croteau, who has been at the university for four years and developed the idea with Kersten.

“Our department has been teaching courses related to e-commerce for the past three years, so we were in a good position to start thinking what we could offer to our students in terms of a minor.”

The program was developed specifically with Concordia’s own professors and their research interests in mind. “We really started in-house,” Dr. Croteau said.

“We based our program on our current faculty members and their research interests so that we could offer knowledge in e-commerce, not something that is just made up. Doing this has also given us more faculty support.”

The graduate program will comprise six classes of 18 credits. All students will be required to take two core courses that cover the fundamentals of e-business, and then choose either the management stream or the technology stream, or a combination of both.

Entrance to the graduate certificate is not a given; requirements include an undergraduate degree (not necessarily in commerce or business) with a fair GPA and reference letters. Applicants also have to write the GMAT entrance test.
“It’s like getting into the MBA program, minus the work experience,” Croteau said.

The future looks bright for e-business at university, with programs at Concordia and McGill popping up this year. Croteau can see the program eventually developing into an undergraduate degree. “I think we’re very close,” she said. Next year will be spent looking at the minor and graduate degrees. “These are the first steps, but I think it will grow.”

As for Hijazi, currently putting some of his skills to use at Ericcson as part of his co-op, he feels that e-commerce will continue to grow.

“You’ll always have the traditional way of doing business,” he said, and even with the recent dip in Web-related business, “you’ll always need e-commerce graduates. It would be a step backwards for society if it doesn’t continue to evolve.”