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Customized learning solutions: tailor-made training enhances bottom line.

The kaleidoscope of established courses and programs offered in Ontario's colleges is remarkable--but sometimes companies want curricula tailored to their individual needs. Stan Talesnick, Dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education and Training at Seneca College, says, "We provide company- and sector-specific education and training for business/industry partners using varying degrees of customization. We link with companies through corporate training, and we end up with partners, not just clients."

Seneca's Vice-President Academic Cindy Hazell agrees. "Several years ago, Scott Farber, an executive for BMO Bank of Montreal, called to discuss the bank's challenge in keeping up with the demand to recruit strong business graduates to work in a financial call centre environment. We worked with BMO's key players and our curriculum design experts to develop a stream of our business administration programs for students who wished to specialize in financial/call centre management."

Farber is a Seneca graduate who now serves on the college's Board of Governors, "Our challenge at the time," he says, "was to shorten the length of learning curve time from the usual 12 weeks to four or five. The partnership was a win-win-win situation. The college expanded on its programs, students learned marketable skills and graduated with a high likelihood of getting hired, and BMO had the opportunity to source individuals and cut down specific training time."

Loyalist College customized a diversity program for General Mills for new employees at the company's expanded Trenton facility. Training and Development Account Manager Chuck O'Malley says, "We piloted the program with a steering committee that took into account the company's culture and corporate values." Another innovative Loyalist initiative involves the customized Municipal Management Professional Development Certificate for three local municipalities as part of the Managing and Leading in a Municipal Environment program.

Bob Charlebois is Vice-President of Business Development for the ACERRA Learning Inc. (www.acerra.ca) division of Algonquin College, "We're into custom learning solutions including e-learning. Our team bench strength includes creative designers, instructional designers and programmers."

Recently ACERRA developed a specific course for a health care organization to help employees with change and stress management. Linda Watt, a Strategic Learning and Change Consultant at ACERRA, completed an internal pre-training electronic survey. "The data drives the curriculum design," she says. "We set specific outcomes and objectives from that."

According to Luke Ward, an Instructional Designer for ACERRA, "Mr. Lube approached ACERRA with the requirement of standardizing training for its stores and franchise operations across Canada, with the end goal of making employees productive as quickly as possible. The pilot program showed immediate direct benefits and has resulted in us expanding the training into other roles."

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Lyne Michaud, Director of Professional Development Services at La Cite collegiale, says, "One of our unique assets at la Cite Corporate Training Unit is our ability to deliver training that keeps pace with the bilingual job market. Our courses incorporate both French and English terminology, giving our clients a competitive advantage. Our corporate training services are adapted to meet the individual or corporate needs of the participants." She cites as one example the Gatineau paper mill Bowater, for which the college designed curriculum to train managers in time and stress management. La Cite is also the first college in Canada approved for an applied degree in biotechnology. "We conduct training for the National Research Council in specialized genetics."

Recently, Fleming College partnered with the Ministry of the Environment to develop curriculum for a mandatory 10-day course in well construction. According to Diane Moldaver, Director of Fleming Training Services, the customized course is designed in response to recommendations in Justice O'Connor's Walkerton Report. "Another major area in which Fleming partners with industry is in our Heavy Equipment Centre for Technology. We deliver an operator's program, technician program and corporate training on state-of-the-art equipment."

Confederation College has developed an Information Technology I program for Thunder Bay Telephone. "We worked in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Utility Management," says Don Bernosky, Executive Director of Skills Development. "We do other industry-related customized content, including designing an assessment tool for companies such as Norampac to measure mechanical reasoning, problem solving and other attributes."

Northern College is home to the Metallurgical Engineering Technician Diploma Part-time evening program developed in partnership with Falconbridge Limited, Kidd Metallurgical Division for its employees. According to Johanne Recoskie, Northern's Manager Contract Training & Workforce Development, "The program offers participants the opportunity to access post-secondary education and earn while they learn."

"Having Northern College working on industry's behalf provides us with a unique opportunity to offer our employees a higher level education that they otherwise might not receive," says Mike Vecchiarelli, Superintendent Maintenance Shops & Training, Falconbridge Ltd. Kidd Metallurgical Division.

Sault College (in partnership with George Brown College) is launching a rail program with CN. Rick McGee, Director of Public Affairs at Sault College, points out that the rail industry in Canada is facing a critical skilled labour shortage. "Nowadays, technology is so sophisticated that new employees have to have a higher skill level than was required years ago. The Signals and Communications Technician program contains curriculum designed by the industry to meet industry needs across Canada." George Brown will eventually deliver training for rail conductors.

Darrin Caron, Director of Corporate Training for George Brown College's Centre for Continuous Learning, says, "We have found over the years that the ability to customize curriculum to a client's needs is in demand." The college has worked in partnership with Maple Leaf Foods to custom design and deliver their Supervisor Leadership Program for their supervisors and middle managers across Canada.

St. Clair College's Corporate Training division has been providing customized and "off the shelf" training for business and industry for 20 years. "We have the flexibility to customize many unique programs for business," says Jamie Wilson, Director of Community and Corporate Training for St. Clair. "We conduct a needs analysis to ensure we're delivering exactly what the company needs. Currently we are working with local CAW retirees to provide computer training for them and their spouses."

"We do custom curriculum for companies at Centennial College through Continuing Education," says Barbara Dickson, Chair of Corporate Training and Distance Learning. "We deliver to a wide range of customers domestically and abroad, including training for call centres in India. In Canada, our programming encompasses an interviewing program for TTC Wheel Trans applicants, and programs in accounting and French language skills for Canada Customs and Revenue."

Jal Wadia, Director of Special Projects at Conestoga College, says, "We design specific, hands-on training and education and work intensely with business and industry to develop what they need." Recently, Conestoga received approval for a program in Health Informatics Management. "Graduates will work in health and allied health-related industries in the IT field with health information systems and business management."

Looks like the custom of custom-designed curricula is here to stay.

Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology were established in 1967 by the Government of Ontario to provide accessible, quality, career-oriented education. Community colleges in Ontario enroll approx 150,000 full-time and 350,000 part-time learners per year. Much of the education and training going on is taking place online as the phenomenon of e-learning gains momentum.

"All Colleges are using e-learning to some extent to augment in-class delivery," says Glenn MacDougall, Director of Learning and Teaching Services for Algonquin College, "but we have embraced the hybrid form and it is proving to be the most successful format for student-centered learning." At Algonquin College nearly every one of the 12,400 fulltime students participates in at least one hybrid course each semester. These are courses that combine online learning with in classroom activities. At Algonquin's Online Learning Centre, students can receive one-on-one help, sign out laptops, or meet together in groups while working with the online materials. Teachers use the centre to meet with their peers and receive assistance with the design of their hybrid courses. The college is one of North America's largest users of the Blackboard software, which provides a standardized e-learning protocol.

College Boreal has developed a Centre of Expertise (BORE@L.EDU) in online course development and production, which serves the regular post-secondary and business development sectors. Nicole LaFlamme, Vice-President of College Boreal, stresses that with seven geographically diverse campuses and 15 access centres, e-learning is critical. "When the college was established in 1995, we knew we would have to do things a bit differently to reach our learners." The balanced approach between technology and pedagogy recently earned College Boreal a McGraw-Hill Ryerson Award for Innovation in Education at the 2004 "This is IT" Conference, for the online "Theory of Welding Certificate" program. This program was developed by BORE@L.EDU, in partnership with TVO, Omniweld (LiquidAir) and the Goderham (Canadian Welding Bureau), using advanced animation and sound. Additional to the online development, the college has also designed and developed its own portal for the management and delivery of products.

Brian Pennington, Director of Corporate and Continuing Education for the Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, says, "Most of our programs originated in the in-class format, then were repurposed and redesigned for online delivery via the WebCT platform." Web CT provides content in an asynchronous (students access information at their convenience) format with synchronous (students meet online at specific times) components. Pennington adds, "The features an organization wants in terms of offering employees online learning include things like reporting on training metrics, monitoring and measuring training activity. With WebCT, employers can validate learning through tests, quizzes and assignments."

Angelo Vouloukos is a Program Co-ordinator at George Brown College, another leader in technical distance education training. He co-ordinates the Electronics Technician, Electro-Mechanical, and Programmable Logic Controllers accredited Certificate programs that offer options to advance through online courses. "We have a partnership with Athabasca University," Vouloukos says. "We do a lot of corporate training, and students appreciate the open enrolment aspect. They can register any time during the year and study at their own pace. Many are blue-collar workers upgrading their skills, and many corporations have adopted our programs as part of their retraining program."

Martine Cardinale is Director of Continuing Education and E-learning at La Cite collegiale, which has offered E-learning for the past four years. "The E-learning component is important to us because we serve Francophones in a wide geographic area that we hope to broaden," she says. "We have created some credit courses with continuous intakes so people can register whenever they are ready. Our content is in French, and we have developed a mixed-mode delivery that allows people to work on their own and incorporates some contact with the group to share ideas." La Cite has invested in MediaSite, a server that functions similarly to a lab. "This allows students to access an in-class experience from their computer at home. They are virtually with us in the classroom. This works well when there is a high component of interaction in courses such as those in health sciences."

Things are pretty exciting at Lambton College, which recently launched several courses in its Chemical Production Engineering Technology Program (CPET) online. Dee Cox is Manager of Lambton's Learning Innovation Centre (LInC), a high-tech resource area designed to provide college staff with the tools and training to add e-learning to their professional development. "An online component to CPET was anxiously awaited by the chemical industry," she says. "The only program of its kind, CPET prepares students for careers that require the use of complex chemical processing equipment. E-learning provides a part-time flexible alternative for those who wish to upgrade skills while working in the field." Cox points out that Lambton offers several other hybrid courses to accommodate people's needs and busy schedules.

Susan Savoie is the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Continuing Education at Seneca College. "Total e-learning represents about 10 per cent of our Continuing Education activity," she says. "Online courses differ from correspondence courses in that they usually involve communication with faculty and other students. This is a viable option for people who can't geographically or physically come to a classroom, but who want the interaction."

Katharine Janzen, Associate Vice-President Research and Innovation for Seneca, is also Co-director for the Technology Enhanced Learning Institute--a unique partnership with York University that focuses on developing and evaluating emerging technologies to enhance teaching and learning. "We are conducting research on how best to use technology to enhance learning from an academic perspective," she says, "rather than implementing new technologies just because they are available." At Centennial College, Barbara Dickson is Chair of Corporate Training and Distance Learning. "The main driver in e-learning is accessibility," she says. "Many of the programs we offer are part of the Ontario Learn consortium. The growth in online programs far exceeds the growth in classroom-based courses."

In the health care field, Centennial launched North America's first Nursing Telepractice program in 2001, and continues to expand on this success by designing courses for telenurses at Telehealth Ontario and other post-diploma nurses working in the field. "Accessibility has been a real issue for busy nurses," says Centennial College Health Sciences Dean Renee Kenny. "These learner-centred courses are delivered at their convenience, and we research outcomes to find out whether the courses have an impact on students' practice. We have one undergraduate nursing degree program course offered totally online. Most are held in class, and are supported by e-learning. This community of learning is the trend of the future."

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Title Annotation:training healthcare industry employees
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:2239
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