Training managers online
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- May 01, 2000
A new contract for Web-based training represents several firsts for NASA
employees: It's the first time a single contract delivers online training
agencywide, and it's NASA's first online offering that includes career development
as well as technical skills.
The multiple-award training services contract is the latest in an effort
to consolidate the requirements of NASA centers and minimize the number
of contracts throughout the agency.
The World Wide Web-based training is in-tended to supplement instructor-led
courses and reduce the space agency's training costs, said Jeff Brown, NASA
contracting officer for the training contract. Individual centers can place
delivery orders from any of the contract vendors they choose, much like
a blanket purchase agreement.
It is the first time NASA has offered Web-based training for "soft skills"
such as management and teamwork as well as information technology-related
topics, Brown said. Some NASA centers may have used online training in the
past, but this is the first agencywide effort, he said.
NASA awarded the training contracts in late March for Web-based training
solutions to SkillSoft Corp., DigitalThink Inc., MindLeaders.com Inc. (formerly
DPEC Inc.), Network Automation Technology Inc. and Knowlogy Corp. All the
contractors offer platform-independent courseware that can be used with
a 28.8 kilobits/sec modem.
NASA awarded the one-year pact through the Consolidated Contracting
Initiative (see related story), which is designed to streamline the procurement process
by preventing multiple NASA centers from competing the same or similar contracts.
The total value of the contract is estimated at $600,000.
NASA decided to move to a Web-based training contract because of the
success of the agency's own online training site, the Site for Online Learning
and Resources, said Joe McElwee, manager of distance learning at NASA headquarters.
The site, which has 90 NASA-specific training modules in six disciplines,
has been operating for about five years.
"We felt this is the direction a lot of training is going in," McElwee
said. The Web-based courses allow employees to train anytime, anywhere.
The agency also is experimenting with live Internet training, he said.
Some of the vendors on the contract, such as DigitalThink, will offer
training to the NASA field locations that includes desktop computing, IT
management, databases, programming, Web development, Microsoft certification,
Lotus, Unix and other IT-related topics. Others, including SkillSoft, will
offer courses aimed at financial and resource management, business management,
project management, leadership, stress management, communication and general
human resources training.
Following the recent Mars mission failures, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin
has put the spotlight on the need for better training at the agency, particularly
in the areas of management and communications. In addition, Executive Order
13111, signed by President Clinton Jan. 12, 1999, directs the government
to use technology to improve training opportunities for federal employees.
The NASA contract is another example of federal agencies taking advantage
of Web-based interactive training for their employees, said Chuck Moran,
president and chief executive officer of SkillSoft. The Internal Revenue
Service, Library of Congress and Defense Department are just a few that
have committed to online or CD-based training.
"The government has so many people they need to train, and it's usually
cost-prohibitive" to send employees away to attend classes, Moran said.
Web-based training does not discriminate against anyone just because they
are in the "wrong" place, he said.
"We host the courseware so the end user doesn't have to do any of the
heavy lifting," said Sally Turner, director of the government sector for
DigitalThink. The company provides interactive courseware that tracks when
a student logs on, where the student is in the course and how the student
performs on quizzes, which allows the training manager at the agency to
analyze the return on investment.