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Concordia Continuing Education collaborates on an artificial intelligence competency framework

Co-developed with local partners, the initiative addresses gaps in the burgeoning field’s education and training
November 25, 2021
The open hand of a robot made of white plastic.
Sherry Blok: “Through developing this framework, we’ve been introduced to the AI ecosystem in Montreal.” | Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

Concordia Continuing Education (CCE) has co-developed a competency framework in artificial intelligence (AI) for higher education, including for CEGEP, university and lifelong learning. The initiative is a collaboration with Montreal’s Dawson College and the Pôle Montréalais d’enseignement supérieur en intelligence artificielle (PIA).

Their goal is to encourage educators and program developers to address training and development gaps that exist in the field of AI to create a “pipeline of success” for a variety of learners. The framework will serve as a basis for educational program and professional training curricula that are aligned with industry needs and designed to balance technical, business and human skills with social and ethical factors.

“Our goal is making artificial intelligence more accessible to the public,” says Alicia Apostolakos (MA 20), an instructional designer for CCE who facilitated work on the framework.

“We have collaborated with our Montreal-based AI partners and leveraged our expertise in instructional design and education to create a comprehensive competency map that is easily digested by non-technical profiles.”

Apostolakos adds that their application-based approach to describing the competencies required by AI practitioners allows them to better serve their communities.

“It supports new development, integration and renewal of technical and non-technical programs to meet the needs of the workplace.”

‘Part of a movement’

With financial and moral support from PIA, the framework was developed by a team of members from the Concordia and Dawson College communities. Leading the charge are Sherry Blok, Joel Trudeau (BSc 00) and Robert Cassidy, who conducted extensive consultation with subject-matter experts, instructional designers and program-development professionals for the project.

They adhered to specific guidelines while developing the framework, including ensuring that their work was rigorous, integrated, accessible, community built and human-centred.

“Through developing this framework, we’ve been introduced to the AI ecosystem in Montreal and we’ve established ourselves as partners and crusaders,” says Blok, director of programs at CCE. “I feel like I’m part of a movement. It’s leading to other opportunities and collaborations because we’ve put ourselves on the map.”

The project is one of 14 different collaborative competency frameworks from partner educational institutions. PIA is a joint initiative of researchers, instructors, professors and academic program managers from 12 Montreal colleges and seven universities.

“In 2019, when PIA made a call for projects in order to reflect current and future needs in Montreal’s AI ecosystem, I was convinced the faculty members and professionals from CEGEPs and universities would come up with great ideas,” says PIA director Benoit Pagé.

“I’m very impressed by the outcome resulting from the collaboration between Dawson and Concordia. I’m anxious to follow the implementation of this success pipeline from college to university and beyond and hope it will inspire other initiatives.”

Trudeau, who teaches in the Dawson College physics department and is artificial intelligence lead for DawsonAI, says working on the framework was an extraordinary experience for his team.

“The outcomes are a clear demonstration of the immense potential and need of collaboration across institutions to tackle the shared challenges of education in the AI era,” he notes.

“Dawson will proudly use the framework in an ongoing AI curriculum development and program implementation plan and we look forward to an exciting new phase of collaboration with Concordia.”

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