Back to school ? via the Internet

Defense Department officials charged with providing education assistance

programs to military personnel are hoping to improve the operations of base

education centers by linking them to special career assistance and academic

databases via the Internet.

Military personnel, civilian employees and dependents use the databases

for civilian school and college planning. By keying in their military career

experience, they can draw from the database a listing of schools — two-

and four-year colleges, professional schools and graduate schools — with

programs that parallel their experience.

The program, which has been around for about 10 years, relied on floppy

disks and CD-ROMs that were "pressed" once a year with information. That

meant any curriculum changes made after a CD-ROM or disk was created and

distributed would have to be updated only on paper, according to Vince Harmon,

program manager for guidance support at the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional

Education Support (DANTES).

But by accessing databases via the Web, Harmon said, any changes would

be known immediately.

Harmon said the existing contract for the program, called the computer

assisted guidance information system, is expiring. That makes it a good

time to look for additional services, he said.

"Maybe we'll get them, maybe we won't," he said. Even if DANTES does

get a contract that includes Internet access to the database, it will still

require that the database be available on CD-ROM for distribution, he said.

Given the military reductions, which include civilian as well as uniformed

personnel, the career assistance program is also of value to those who

staff base education offices.

Having the databases, and having them as up-to-date as possible, permits

better management of the counselors' time, Harmon said.

Today, "you've got fewer people working in operations because of downsizing.

Counselors have less time with people, so the more you can give [military

members] as a complete package, and allow them to pursue and look up things

before talking to a counselor, it's better for them," he said. "And it gives

them the opportunity to better motivate themselves to do the work," he added.

DANTES is looking for a system that is menu-driven and commercially

available off the shelf, according to its request for proposals. In addition

to the curriculum information on schools and colleges, it will also include

military and defense civilian occupation information.

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