Training site goes to head of the class

OPM e-government project manager Norm Enger says Transportation's success in working with the CIO Council led OPM to choose the department's site as the back end for an e-learning portal.

OPM looks to Transportation effort as a starting point

It's graduation time for the National Learning Center.

The Web site, at www.nlc.gov, began letting government IT employees take training courses online as a test, but the project now has the official imprimatur of the Office of Management and Budget's e-government program.

Office of Personnel Management officials will upgrade the training site, through which more than 5,000 federal, state and local workers have taken classes since July.

Norm Enger, OPM's e-government project manager, wants to expand the site to become the federal government's one-stop e-training portal.

'We want to give it a government look that is more global,' said Mike Fitzgerald, project manager for the initiative. 'A lot of agencies struggle to meet legislative and agency-mandated training requirements. This site will become the storefront for those courses.'

OPM has issued a purchase order to rebrand the National Learning Center site. Proposals were due May 29 from vendors on contracts for Value-Added Niche Information Technology Services and Specialized Technical and Technology User Services.

Fitzgerald said OPM will test the upgraded site later this month and completely relaunch the site by the end of next month.

Standardize courses

The purpose of the site is to reduce the number of similar courses agencies offer and to standardize the coursework, Fitzgerald said. For example, agencies offer 14 ethics courses; the NLC site would offer the best one.

The center began in July 2001 as a prototype developed by the CIO Council and Transportation Department. They planned to expand the site from only IT courses to a wider range of offerings. When OMB charged the personnel office with managing the e-training Quicksilver initiative, Transportation'an agency partner in the project'recommended using the NLC site.

'Since DOT did work with the CIO Council, we recognized this would help us move forward quickly,' Enger said. 'They had a good reputation, were backed by the CIO Council and had existing technology we could use.'

The back end of the NLC site is the Transportation Virtual University. Through TVU, government employees can pay to take courses in more than 50 subjects, including Java programming, client-server development, accounting and desktop databases.

NLC also offers through TVU 18 free courses in project management, Microsoft Office, sexual harassment prevention and personal development.

The new NLC site will offer free courses and eventually expand to charge agencies for certifications. It also may offer undergraduate and graduate degrees through colleges and universities. Fitzgerald said the new site will provide courses on ethics, computer security, sexual harassment prevention, diversity awareness and whistle-blower training.

Fitzgerald said the project team will put only the best-of-breed courses on the NLC site, chosen from all courses agencies currently offer.

A subcommittee made up of representatives working on the e-training initiative will determine the courses, he said.

The subcommittee will examine 'how the course interacts with the learner, how it launches, interoperability issues and whether it is broken down into reference modules,' Fitzgerald said. 'We will try to make sure the courses capture at least 80 percent of all agency needs.'

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