E-learning covers people skills

Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine Web site

Food and Drug Administration officials have created a comprehensive e-learning program that highlights not only technical knowledge, but also people skills.

FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine adopted a high-performance organization approach to teach its scientists and other employees collaboration skills to complement their scientific know-how, said Melissa Starinsky, acting director of the CVM Staff College.

"This HPO theory helps an organization transition...to a more team-based, inclusive and what we like to call the 'network talent' model," Starinsky said. "We are now expecting folks to be competent in leadership and team-type competencies."

Starinsky spoke today at the E-Gov E-learning conference in Washington, D.C.

The Center for Veterinary Medicine is responsible for animal health and the safety of the food supply through the approval of animal drugs and feeds. About 90 percent of CVM's 375 employees are scientists. The Staff College oversees in-house training of CVM employees — e-learning and the learning management system are key parts of the program, Starinsky said.

A sound e-learning program starts with what Starinsky called a competency model — an outline of the necessary skills for each position in the agency. Officials conducted months of market research and spoke to contractors to define the requirements of the program. The competency model must also be linked to CVM's and FDA's strategic plans, Starinsky said.

The CVM knowledge center — the portal for the e-learning program — looks like a map for a college campus. Icons for each building and clear links to courses related to each job make the program user-friendly, Starinksy said. The portal was launched last June and now allows managers to track, register and collaborate on training courses.

"It has made our lives and our jobs so much easier," she said.

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