DOT becomes courseware carrier

Federal users have less reason every day to build their own World Wide Web-based

training sites. Options such as the Transportation Department's Transportation

Virtual University (TVU) are hard to resist.

As a fee-for-service agency with no appropriated money, TVU had to

build economies of scale by partnering with the National Security Agency

and the Navy to create its Web-based solution.

"The more users you have, the less the cost per user. You spread out

your fixed costs," said Larry Mercier, cyberdean of TVU.

Launched in March, the site (www. tvu.dot.gov) contains 850 courses,

all of which are accredited and degree- granting. TVU is adding 40 courses

a month, Mercier said, and the average cost for 6,500 hours of college-

accredited training is $120.

"If you buy the courseware, put it up on your own servers and host it

yourself, it's eight times more expensive," he said. "We will create and

host your Web site, and we handle all the administration. We make it easy

for government agencies to use our services. All they have to do is complete

the standard SF 182 form or a simple interagency service agreement or a

Memo of Understanding."

TVU's key partners include courseware providers National Education Training

Group Inc. (NETg) and SkillSoft Corp., as well as TrainingServer Inc., which

provides learning management systems.

Using a function called Precision Learning in the NETg courses or Accelerated

Path with the SkillSoft courses, users take tests to determine what they

don't know. The feature then customizes the course according to the gaps

in knowledge, Mercier said.

Government organizations are still reluctant to embrace e-learning.

"Having the Department of Transportation — someone they know and trust — sponsor it helps to affirm that e-learning can be successful for them,"

said Chris Moore, chief technology officer and vice president of TrainingServer.

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