Dual approach

In tandem with its Virtual Academy, the FBI has developed another internal learning management system, which is nestled behind the agency's firewall.

Accessed only by authorized FBI staff, the internal learning management system is also envisioned as a central repository for training and research information and as a platform for distance learning and information exchange.

The FBI had to take a parallel approach to electronic training, because it is bound by stringent security requirements but serves large internal and external constituencies.

"Because we have a national security requirement, people without top-secret clearances cannot use our internal system," said Larry Walker, the FBI's training program manager for technical, professional and scientific job families. " That kind of forces you into a mode of having two systems and merging the data on the back end."

Other agencies have faced similar dilemmas, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and others in the homeland security and intelligence arenas, said Malcolm Patel, vice president of Meridian Knowledge Solutions Inc., an FBI contractor.

"Many agencies have a need to reach their internal audience, but they also have a need to reach folks who can't get inside the firewall," he said. "There is now a real emphasis on a dual approach to e-learning."

In the FBI's case, however, officials will marry data from the two systems to maximize communication among all levels of law enforcement. "So when the [FBI] director asks how many people we have trained in counterterrorism, we will be able to tell by counting all those in the state and local criminal justice system as well as those internationally," Walker said.

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