CBT Systems unveils IT-support training

CBT Systems last week announced a new computer-based training package aimed at information technology support personnel.

The new Technical Support "curriculum," which is focused on the A+ certification program of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), covers PC hardware configuration, diagnostics and repair as well as operating system configuration and trouble-shooting.

"The government is not interested in certification per se, but they do need to provide certification-level training," said Tom Kahl, CBT's public-sector sales manager in Menlo Park, Calif. Several federal "enterprise clients" are waiting for the new release, he said, because it promises to "solve a lot of their base-level help-desk needs."

In the military, for example, the courseware can be used to ensure that support personnel attain a core competency of IT skills, Kahl said, and it would help to identify which students should proceed to more technical training. The software also provides pre-tests, unit tests and post-tests so that supervisors can monitor students' progress short of taking the actual test for certification.

The idea of establishing and maintaining baseline IT skill sets is becoming more important across industry, said Elliott Masie, president of the Masie Center, a research organization in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

"There's an increasing desire by buyers to make sure that, at the end of the day, they have a certified level of skills" in their support personnel, Masie said. With the federal government's emphasis on commercial hardware and software and efforts such as the administration's Federal Training Initiative, the federal market is likely to welcome software that meets these needs, he said. CBT's products typically offer "more practice and more simulation," he said.

CBT is one of the major computer-based training companies in the IT area, said Ellen Julian, a senior analyst at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass. IDC estimated the U.S. market for such products at about $1 billion last year and predicted that market would increase to $1.7 billion by 2002. The A+ certification program is highly regarded, Julian said, and it is "unusual because it is not tied to a specific vendor's product."

CBT's installed base in the federal market includes such organizations as the Air Force, the Navy, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Treasury and State departments.

According to the company, the new Technical Support package includes 17 four-hour units and has topics such as PC configuration, diagnostics and repair; safety and preventive maintenance; customer interaction; DOS 6.2 and Microsoft Corp. Windows 3.1 installation and configuration; Windows 95 installation, deployment, configuration and trouble-shooting; and Windows NT 4.0 installation, configuration and trouble-shooting.

As part of its courseware, CBT uses a "task-based simulation methodology," replicating software interfaces to make exercises such as setting up a user as realistic as possible, said Colm Darcy, the company's director of curriculum design in Menlo Park. Simulation also means that training proceeds without impact on the buyer's IT environment. The package covers hardware as well as software and adds elements not currently found on the A+ exam, such as Microsoft's Windows NT operating system.

Darcy said the product aims at a "comprehensive training experience," rather than "the phenomenon of a paper certificate," where a worker can pass a test but has no real knowledge of the subject. "Certification is a byproduct," Darcy said.

Training can be delivered by local-area network, wide-area network, Internet, intranet or CD, according to CBT.

-- Adams is a free-lance writer based in Alexandria, Va. She can be reached at cbadams@erols.com.

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