Embracing e-learning

Officials at the Defense Acquisition University are stepping up their efforts to make courses available online as part of the Defense Department's strategy to revitalize the acquisition workforce.

Based at Fort Belvoir, Va., DAU recently awarded one of the largest federal e-learning contracts — a three-year, $47 million task order to Computer Sciences Corp. to provide integrated e-learning, knowledge management and information technology support.

"When you're talking e-learning, there aren't a lot of big e-learning projects bigger than this one," said Marco Santini, director of the General Services Administration's Federal Learning Technology Program, which assisted DAU with the e-learning award.

But the effort is also significant because of its scope. CSC will be "taking over pretty much all of the university's online support," Santini said.

DAU provides acquisition education and training for more than 145,000 military and civilian personnel serving in acquisition positions worldwide. Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, has said he wants to revitalize the acquisition workforce by bringing in new people with new skills. E-training is one way to augment what DAU is doing, Aldridge said.

CSC will provide computer-based training support; operate and maintain DAU's learning management system; move the DOD Acquisition Deskbook, which provides acquisition information, to a new knowledge management system; modify interactive multimedia instruction courseware; and provide IT and network support.

"The Defense Acquisition University has been — and will continue — looking to take advantage of information technology...for coursework that supports the acquisition workforce and helps them do their job by providing education and training," said Col. William McNally, Air Force chairman for DAU, who has been spearheading the e-learning effort.

DAU currently has 18 online courses in addition to 31 continuous learning modules, which are not certification courses but instead provide continuous education in a variety of areas. Under the CSC contract, DAU officials hope to increase the number of courses offered online so that they eventually make up about half of DAU's 80 course offerings, McNally said.

CSC will provide a single system to produce immediate, high-impact improvements and long-term solutions to help the university meet its e-learning and knowledge management goals, said John Rose, CSC's director of Army programs and lead executive on the DAU project.

The contract has two parts. The first involves developing coursework for DAU, Rose said. The other half will involve integrating IT across the organization, including developing knowledge management processes.

"DAU has the foresight of wanting to go places that others have not," he said.

The CSC award covers contracts that were previously performed by about seven vendors. This puts a single vendor in charge of DAU's IT investments, from infrastructure to e-learning, officials said.

Len Osborn, DAU project manager at CSC, said that the first task will be creating a knowledge management and e-learning architecture.

"Their current architecture is so complex," accommodating many stand-alone systems, Osborn said. "Everyone may need access to resources that are controlled" by the people who own those individual systems. But because the systems are not connected across the organization, that data cannot be shared.

"By opening that up," he said, "it will make data available across the organization." DOD's overall goal is to create a network-centric architecture that makes the right information available to the right person at the right time.

After that architecture is created, CSC will begin integrating the various DAU help desks.

The award allows for an additional three-year, performance-based term with the value to be determined near the end of the base contract.

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The curriculum

The Defense Acquisition University's e-learning subjects span topics that the university covers in its regular classroom courses, including:

* Program management.

* Contracting.

* Logistics.

* Business and finance.

* Systems engineering.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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