March 8, 2005
CCA CONFERENCE COVERAGE
E-learning catching on
in construction circles
While e-learning may not be perceived as “real” learning in some circles, Canada’s construction industry is beginning to realize the potential of online training, says George Gritziotis, executive director of the Ottawa-based Construction Sector Council (CSC).
“Receptivity to e-learning is growing,” he said in a presentation prepared for a session at the Canadian Construction Association’s 87th annual conference this week in Mexico. “There is an opportunity for the CSC to assist the industry in moving forward.”
The council has been working with the CCA to move its national Gold Seal certification program for project managers, superintendents and estimators into an e-learning environment.
Gritziotis said American Society for Training and Development data indicates that management’s major e-learning concerns include requisite technical competency, costs to both implement and maintain, a non-supportive culture and technology requirements.
The Canadian construction industry is in the early stages of e-learning adoption, he said in his presentation that was entitled “E-learning for the Construction Industry: It makes sense.” Early adopters have been the provincial safety associations.
Gritziotis said potential benefits to industry include:
— Consistency: Different trainers have different approaches. E-learning allows workers to receive a consistent message.
— Timeliness: Content changes are not readily accommodated in traditional text-based courses. Continuous updates are easily made in e-learning.
— Efficiency: Greater acceptance of computers leads to spin-off benefits such as increased worker self-reliance, better internal communications and increased efficiencies.
— Accreditation: E-learning enables the industry to ensure workers have specific credentials and qualifications.
Other benefits are reduced travel and other costs, increased opportunities in terms of new product training and building technical capabilities, improved customer satisfaction and loyalty, an enhanced ability to learn new things and adapt to change and employee satisfaction and retention.
For workers, Gritziotis said e-learning means construction education and training is available “anytime, anywhere” and is self-paced, enabling staff to learn at their own speed.
As a “credible, neutral broker,” CSC is well-positioned to address national education and training needs through e-learning, he said.
Planning is currently under way on development of an interactive, e-learning portal, he said. The Construction Learning Centre will be a venue for education, planning, development and delivery.
To date, the council has developed an “E-Gold Seal” course on communications, negotiation and conflict resolution. Next up are courses on construction contract law and project management.
Stating that access to Gold Seal-accredited courses currently is “limited and uneven,” Gritziotis said the number of certified personnel must increase to meet future demand.
The Gold Seal national curriculum can be developed for Web-based delivery, he said.
The council’s first venture into e-learning was a pipeline construction safety training course which was launched last October at an industry event in Calgary. Initial student enrolment is expected this spring.
The course was the first product to run off the CSC’s distance learning engine, a software application that allows organizations to create, store, use and re-use construction learning content in a cost-effective way.
Looking down the road, Gritziotis said the next steps entail building on the Gold Seal and pipeline construction safety training initiatives by engaging industry, building operational capacity and making the Construction e-Learning Centre into “a real hands-on, e-learning experience.”
The CSC is a not-for-profit, independent labour-business organization established in 2001 to address the current and future human resource needs of the construction industry in Canada.
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