USDA awards CD-ROM-based training contract

Enterprise Training Solutions, a multimedia training integrator, late last month won a contract from the Agriculture Department to provide a CD-ROM-based training program to instruct up to 40,000 far-flung users on new software applications.

The program will provide training to support the USDA's Common Computing Environment. Through CCE, the department will field a common set of desktop computers, applications and other technologies to its service centers across the nation.

These service centers will provide farmers with one-stop shopping for services such as farm loan applications. Farmers traditionally had to visit three agencies for assistance.

Enterprise Training will provide CD-ROM training to thousands of USDA users who work at about 3,000 service center sites across the nation. The training materials cover Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Server, Office and Outlook and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator, which will be installed on PCs scheduled for delivery this month. The contract is worth just less than $1 million.

CD-ROM-based training is "highly conducive" for mobile or laptop users, said Ken Gellerman, vice president of business development at Enterprise Training. "It means they can train on their own time and at their own pace," he said.

Gellerman said the success of the training program depends on its acceptance by USDA employees. For the concept of nontraditional training to take off, personnel from all levels of an organization—especially management—must buy into the idea, he said.

Scott Snover, the USDA's CCE project manager, said the department considered other training options, such as face-to-face classroom training, but those options proved to be too expensive and time-consuming given the number of employees spread out across the country.

"This gave us a lot more flexibility, and we feel we saved considerable costs overall than [we would have] with a more traditional classroom-based training program," Snover said. "The CD-ROM approach also gives people something to use at their own discretion. When you try to bring people together, you have to [take] them out of their normal routine."

The CD-ROM materials will ship around the same time the USDA will receive 16,000 new machines that will have the new software applications already installed. The USDA has said it will buy 22,000 workstations through fiscal 1999 to support the CCE program.

This is the first time the USDA will provide computers to its employees that are capable of running computer-based training, Snover said. "The old equipment wasn't capable of running the latest CD-ROM-based training," he said.

Each of the estimated 500 information technology support staff members will receive a copy of the materials. About one in five service center staff members will receive a copy.

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AT A GLANCE

WHAT: CD-ROM-based training

WHERE: 3,000 USDA service centers nationwide

PRODUCTS COVERED: Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT Server, Office and Outlook; and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator

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