July 27, 2020

Business students tackle technology issues, from improving driver safety to streamlining databases

Experiential learning continues despite COVID-19 disruption
Instead of teaching in a classroom, Catherine Heggerud connects with students from her home office.
Instead of teaching in a classroom, Catherine Heggerud connects with students from her home office.

Students in Business Technology Management Field Project (BTMA 455) focus on effectively putting software and systems to work, providing competitive advantages for organizations. In March 2020 these students, who will be building careers solving technology problems, had to pivot quickly and use their computer expertise to finish off their winter semester classes.

BTMA 455 is a senior course that focuses on experiential learning, working with the business community to solve real-world issues. Students learn and overcome the challenges in finding and implementing the right solutions. Although in-person classes for BTMA 455 were suspended on Friday, March 13, 2020 due to precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the experiential learning experience continued. Having already met their organizations, students had to develop and deliver their plans online.

  • Photo above: Instead of teaching in a classroom, Catherine Heggerud connects with students from her home office. Photo by Collin Heggerud

“We were remote from our client anyways, so all information was transmitted over the internet,” says Tony Zhu, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce student majoring in business technology management. His team worked with Capital Pressure, a company specializing in the transportation of fluids for the oil and gas sector located in Sundre, Alta.

Being over an hour away from Calgary, connecting online for the final presentation saved time for the Capital Pressure contacts. “The online format functioned very well technically to present the information, both visually and with the narrative,” says Greg Campkin, general manager, Capital Pressure.

“There are still pieces of any interaction where personal contact functions better; we are still learning lessons about virtual communication during this pandemic.” Zhu highlighted the change in group dynamics in online meetings as opposed in-person as one of the obstacles he and his fellow students had to overcome.

Many of the community organizations attended the final online presentations for BTMA 455.

Collin Heggerud

The economic development officer for the town of Sundre forwarded the application for this experiential project through to Capital Pressure. The transportation company took advantage of the opportunity to find a new, safety-focused in-vehicle monitoring system (IVMS) to further enhance driving safety and training, and to prepare for new regulations expected in the next year.

“The students first captured the essence of why and how an in-vehicle monitoring system can improve the safety of our roadways followed by a prioritized recommendation of systems available in the marketplace,” says Campkin. “We would recommend other organizations get involved to make the connection between today’s business and future leaders, outside of the fact that you received a very valuable report.”

Not simply implementing technology

Students learned through the consulting projects that solving technology issues is not as simple as plugging in a new device or installing software.

“It is one thing to read the skills in a textbook, but to use concepts and strategies that they teach you in classes taken throughout your degree, is a unique learning experience I believe all students should have the opportunity of having,” says Mackenzie Kreutzer, a third-year Bachelor of Commerce student majoring in business technology management. Her group worked with MEG Energy to create a data migration implementation plan.

Two separate databases were the challenge for MEG Energy. Students worked to develop plans for data cleaning, analysis and transference. The research and report will form the basis of the implementation plan as MEG Energy streamlines the two databases.

“The best part about this experience was MEG's incredible support throughout our whole project,” says Kreutzer. “They were very invested in not only making the project a success but also making sure that we were able to grow and learn from this experience as well.”

Both technical and leadership skills are put into practice in this senior course. Many of the projects evolved over the duration of the semester as the students and organizations honed in on the most pressing problems and determined if technology would be the right solution. Then they created the plan for implementing the most suitable platform, software or strategy.

“This class may be challenging and quite time consuming, but it provides an excellent learning opportunity and experience with the local businesses, solving real-world problems,” says Zhu. “It is quite a different experience from regular in-class learning.”


UCalgary resources on COVID-19

For the most up-to-date information about the University of Calgary's response to the spread of COVID-19, visit the UCalgary COVID-19 Response website.