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April 11, 2002 Electronic commerce courses get a boost from Quebec



by Barbara Black

Professor Anne-Marie Croteau, who is the director of the new graduate certificate in e-business offered by the John Molson School of Business, is delighted to have some new money to work with.

She has just received word that her application for a grant of $70,000 has been approved by the Quebec ministry of education’s program to encourage short-term courses in information technology.

The grant will finance, among other things, summer employment for six deserving students who will help bring the courses on this up-to-the-minute subject right up to speed and ensure that they will stay there.

First graduates expected in June

This course started in September 2001, and has gone very well in its first year, with 34 students taking the six-course program in recently renovated “mini-labs” with fully-equipped workstations. Most of them are fitting their studies around a work schedule, but the two who have been in the program full-time expect to graduate in June.

Croteau, who has a PhD from Université Laval and has just achieved tenure-track status in the Department of Decision Sciences and Management Information Systems, said that the students are high achievers.

“They must have an undergraduate degree (although many of them also have master’s degrees), with a GPA of at least 3.0, and they have to take the GMAT and get a score of at least 550,” she explained.

“They don’t have to have any work experience, but many of them do, and that adds a lot to the class discussion. One student had worked in a bank, and he provided a lot of relevant information.”

All the teachers of the theoretical courses are full-time tenured or tenure-track professors with PhDs; the more technical courses are taught by adjunct professors who are aware of the latest developments through their own business careers.

Croteau admitted that e-commerce has been relatively slow to develop in North America, compared to Europe and Asia. “Our phones are going to be like a wallet,” she said. “In some places, you can point your cell phone at a vending machine to buy a drink.” We’re not quite there yet, she said, but “the culture will change.”

We also tend to be cautious customers; for several years, the percentage of commerce done over the Internet has been around 0.5 per cent.

“It’s still low,” Croteau said, “but people will lose some of their fear. They need to trust the security of the system, which is improving, and they are inclined to put their trust in businesses and brand-names they know.”