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Restaurant Owners Partner with IP&T Students

What do upscale restaurant owners have to do with graduate students in instructional technology? In a recent article, MSE alum Peter Chan and MSE faculty member Eula Monroe team up with Ronald Miller to present a unique strategy built on a partnership between a restaurant business and a university. The partnership benefited the business by greatly improving corporate training at a low cost to the business, as well as the university students, who gained valuable experience and real-world application skills.

The project began when business consultants of an upscale Polynesian restaurant approached Chan, who now teaches instructional technology at BYU Hawaii. The business was suffering from performance deficiencies and low customer and employee satisfaction and wanted technological training solutions. Chan suggested utilizing his students to help design an employee training plan and volunteered to act as a mentor/apprentice in the business setting.

Apprenticeship mode of training has often been neglected in the last few decades, since education has shifted more and more to the classroom, where learning, often embedded in textbooks, is presented in abstract formats. Universities have difficulty finding affordable ways to implement practical training for their students; one solution is in partnerships with businesses, which has proven to benefit the business as well.

Chan’s instructional technology students formed two groups to develop an employee training system for the restaurant. The group designated as the human factors engineering group created process flowcharts for each of the tasks that required training. The group labeled as the instructional design students analyzed the needs, instructional content, target population, and current training and resources. With the mentoring guidance of the professor, the two groups merged their findings to create a comprehensive training system for the business’s employees.

The system covered all major training areas in a series of menu and submenu items, which included quizzes, video demonstrations, animations, supplementary materials, and transcriptions for the hearing impaired. The business has been supportive of the project and is implementing it on a larger scale this year.

The outcomes recounted in this study may open up future opportunities for university-corporation partnerships. The business receives low-cost, high-quality employee training. University students gain innovative experience in a real work setting, validating their university learning and improving their resumes for future job opportunities. Professors, too, benefit from the partnership by interacting with business concerns, developing additional teaching tools, and establishing possible consulting programs.

Chan and Monroe have a longstanding friendship that began when Chan was an IP&T doctoral student and Monroe was still a professor in the McKay School nine years ago. “I got to know Peter as a student. He often shared with me his research in advanced technology and how to use it to improve education across professions. He has since done such exciting and amazing work. This article is proof of that.”

Monroe acted as a guide on the side for Chan’s project, helping him with the editing and publishing processes. “Chan came to me with the ideas and I helped him organize the project in a way that it could get published in an article,” she said. The article “Cognitive Apprenticeship as an Instructional Strategy for Solving Corporate Training Challenges” has been published in TechTrends.

7 June 2010