E-learning center set to go live

E-gov strategy

Federal employees will soon have e-learning services at their fingertips. The first phase of an initiative to unify e-training services across federal agencies by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget will debut this month.

"We are in the process of establishing one-stop shopping for federal training, where a federal person can go to one Web site for a vast array of training services," said Norman Enger, e-government program manager at OPM.

Through the Gov Online Learning Center, e-training services will be only a mouse click away for federal workers, Enger said. As one of the 24 e-government initiatives that support the President's Management Agenda, the training site will reduce duplication and standardize coursework across agencies, he added.

During the first phase of the Gov Online effort, federal workers will be able to access more than 30 free online training courses on topics such as computer security, ethics, supervisory development, desktop computer skills and project management. NETg Inc. and SkillSoft Corp. will provide content.

The second phase of the project, scheduled to start in November, will include additional training courses, products and services, according to OPM. For instance, courses will be linked to individual development plans at agencies and managers will have access to more reporting tools, Enger noted.

Faced with tighter budgets, government agencies have turned to online training to cut costs. For instance, FastTrac, an e-learning initiative managed through the Defense Department, provides access to career development courses for more than 400,000 federal employees in the Commerce and Health and Human Services departments and the FBI, among other agencies.

The Gov Online initiative will interface with other e-training efforts under way at agencies, but the ultimate goal is to reduce duplication, OPM officials said.

OPM's interfaces will be based on federal architecture standards developed under an e-government initiative aimed at forging interoperability among federal systems, said Michael Fitzgerald, OPM's director of e-training projects. "As long as [e-learning systems] are built to the same standards," the systems should be able to communicate.

The GeoMaestro learning management system will drive the new site. Developed by GeoLearning Inc., which was awarded a four-year, multimillion- dollar contract to host the site, GeoMaestro enables users to launch, track and manage online training across an enterprise via a 3-D graphical user interface.

GeoLearning will provide the software, hosting services and security for the new site (www.golearn.gov), and a link to the site will be on the FirstGov portal, OPM officials said.

GeoMaestro will serve as the storefront for the site, said Frank Russell, president and chief executive officer of GeoLearning. "We created a site that has visual appeal and is also sticky" — that is, once a user visits the site, he or she will come back again. He noted that the site is Section 508-compliant to meet the needs of the visually challenged.

A central site for federal training makes a lot of sense, said Myra Shiplett, director of the Center for Human Resources Management at the National Academy of Public Administration.

"Many times, agencies are reinventing the same wheel.... The potential of a central site can eliminate" duplication, she said. The site has the potential to demonstrate the "transforming power of information technology."

It shouldn't negate other e-training initiatives at all, but having one site makes life a lot easier, she added. The challenge, however, will be for OPM to stay current with the latest e-training products and services. Also, OPM will have to effectively get the word out so the "people who should be using the site know about it and how to use it," she said.

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What is the Gov Online Learning Center?

The Gov Online Learning Center is based on the GeoMaestro learning management system developed by GeoLearning Inc., of Des Moines, Iowa. GeoMaestro enables users to launch, track and manage online training across an enterprise via a 3-D graphical user interface.

The first phase of the Gov Online effort, slated to go live July 23, will provide 1.8 million federal workers with access to more than 30 free online training courses including computer security, ethics, supervisory development, desktop computer skills and project management. Content for the site will be provided by NETg Inc. and SkillSoft Corp.

The second phase, scheduled to start in November, will include additional training courses, products and services.

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