DOT e-learning ready to go

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"Learning to share"

Transportation Department officials will begin a staggered release of the Web-enabled portion of the agency's Learning Management System in two weeks, said Deb Hanlon, the learning services manager at the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The system is up, we have migrated all the data in," she said Oct. 20, during a panel at FCW Events' annual e-learning conference. "We could be using the system if we had the policies and the procedures and the internal infrastructure in place to support the system."

Transportation officials want to replace all 26 DOT automated training systems by July 2005.

"Having that phased implementation will give us the opportunity to be able to prepare ourselves with the polices, with the procedures, building the people piece around that," Hanlon said.

The system has technically been ready for use since April, Hanlon said. But technology constitutes only a fifth of the effort required in setting up an electronic learning management system, she added. The large remainder "is the people, the processes, your policies and the culture."

When the system was delivered on time in April, "people started to get the chills," said Marc Starzyk, a General Physics senior consultant and the contracted Learning Management System program manager. Agencies within the department "pushed back [and said] 'Our employees aren't ready," he said.

Part of the problem is that the Transportation Department was still using a 30-year-old mainframe application, Starzyk said.

"Here were are in 2004, almost 2005, and various parts of DOT including FAA have gone out on there own and built little mini applications," he said.

But the main lesson learned is that e-learning "is about process, it's about policy," Hanlon said. "You probably need to have a policy in place that says 'you will use the system,' because we are part of a bureaucracy. You know how bureaucracies work, you need to have that push."

Getting executives to support the program is also important, Hanlon said, adding that program managers should ask for dedicated resources. Projects fueled by volunteers often lose the energy of employees who deal every day with countervailing pressures by bosses directing them to other goals. "Frequently you will find that the energy of the people you have working internally will dissipate, because the focus is not there," Hanlon said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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