Biz school gets railroaded
By James Pugsley
Canadian Pacific Railway crossed some technological tracks Friday after it jumped into the realm of Western's virtual classrooms.
A $250,000 donation by the Canadian Pacific Charitable Foundation will allow CPR executives to participate in an executive masters of business administration at Western's Richard Ivey School of Business Administration without leaving CPR headquarters in Calgary, Alta.
The classroom, which is linked with Ivey by a videoconferencing network found in five other Canadian cities, is part of the business school's goal to allow more access for students and corporate executives interested in taking MBA or EMBA programs.
"[Videoconferencing] is an exciting innovation that will be a model for a lot of schools and companies across the country," said Ian La Couvee, public affairs representative for CPR. "This is just an extension of a long-standing relationship with Ivey."
The Calgary video executive MBA site will include the use of smart cameras which, unlike traditional videoconferencing, will track students as they move while offering a better audio and visual link between the professor and the class.
La Couvee said he believes the new classroom will be an asset for CPR management who may not be able to venture to London to utilize the program.
"Many of our executives spend up to two or three weeks to travel for courses at the [Western] business school," he said. "This gives them access to one of the best business schools in the country without disruption from work or their family life."
Larry Tapp, dean of the Western's business school, said the progress of the two-year-old VEMBA program is beneficial to all parties.
"Corporations like CPR must continue to pursue modern ways to learn about issues if they wish to stay competitive," he said. "For Ivey, [videoconferencing] is a means to put a program out anywhere in the world and make it interactive which will enable us to use resources around the world as well."
Tapp is confident the reaction to VEMBA will be positive on the corporate level, although he admits the professors and students may take a while to adjust with the advanced technology. He explained Ivey and CPR's attention to improving the quality of the system will make the program as close to a real classroom as possible, which should make the transition easier.
The next videoconferencing pursuit for the business school will be the development of alumni involvement in MBA programs, enabling graduates to participate in high-quality virtual classrooms at Western regardless of where they are in Canada.
The VEMBA program costs $24,000 per student, not including the cost of rental telephone lines and is limited to 12 people per course.