Counties look to e-learning

Faced with increasing training costs and a limited budget, the Washington Counties Risk Pool, a self-funded liability insurance program for 25 counties in Washington, is looking at e-learning as an alternative.

"I'd attended national training programs for a number of years and foundthat the private sector was increasingly looking to e-learning for their organizations," said Jay Winter, programs manager for the WCRP (www.wacounties.org/wcrp). "At first I thought their interest was just because the subject was new, but then I saw it had some real value behind it, with the same issues of cost and accessibility [to training programs] that we in government faced."

After running pilots to see what the response from its members would be, the WCRP issued a request for proposals, finally choosing a solution from application service provider GeoLearning Inc. The WCRP's Web-based training is offered through its Online Workforce Learning site (www.wacounties.org/wcrp/owl.htm).

The site provides courseware for county managers and supervisors on leadership, management, customer care, and performance and time management. It also enables government agencies to write and post their own courseware.

Winter said GeoLearning's solution also contains a learning management system that tracks employees as they progress through the training courses, providing information on who has taken what course, and how well they had done compared to online tests and surveys that the counties can develop themselves.

"Documentation is a critical piece of the puzzle," Winter said. "If we have liability lawsuits to handle, there can be problems if we don't know who took what training."

Winter believes another advantage of the online learning program is that it gives the WCRP members a way to evaluate the value of e-learning for their own specific uses, outside of the programs offered through the organization. Members can then pursue e-learning individually, if they see it serves their needs.

But Winter also does not think the service will sell itself. Because it's a new idea, people in government — a notoriously conservative community— may be reluctant to take it up. So Winter expects he'll have to spend a considerable time on the road selling the idea of e-learning to WCRP members.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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