Veterans Benefits Administration tests Web-based training program

Veterans Benefits Administration tests Web-based training program

As the Veterans Benefits Administration fills 3,000 to 5,000 jobs left vacant by retirements in the next few years, the agency will face a monumental training predicament.

To deal with the problem, the Veterans Affairs Department agency has signed a one-year, $213,000 contract with Saba Software Inc. of Redwood Shores, Calif., to pilot an online training program.

When the pilot expires in August, the agency will decide whether to continue the effort and expand it to users agencywide, project manager Jeff Goetz said.

Saba Learning Network Solution, a Web-based program, can help define the knowledge a staff needs to do its job, said David Martin, Saba's vice president of marketing.

The online program provides a framework that helps users learn, Martin said. VBA officials will develop the curriculum.

Although Saba is designed primarily for online teaching, VBA plans to use a mix of classroom and Web programs, Martin said.

For online training, the agency bought Saba Learning Network Release 3. The agency will deploy the tool at 57 offices if the online pilot program is a success.

'We thought about our requirements and looked at what it provides, and it seems to be a comprehensive fit,' said George Wolohojian, the agency's director of employee development and training.

The host systems will be Pentium PCs. As database servers, VBA will use at minimum 400-MHz Pentium II PCs with 128M of RAM. The machines will run Unix, Oracle7 Release 7.3 and Microsoft Open Database Connectivity Driver 2.0.

As Web servers, the offices will use at minimum 166-MHz Pentiums with 128M of RAM. They will run Unix, Netscape Enterprise Server 3.0 and Microsoft Internet Information Server 3.x.

Users access Saba using Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher browsers.

'This helps us get ready for the staff leaving,' Wolohojian said. 'We can aggressively bring on new people and put them on the track of training, put them on a path and develop their skills and see how fast they are gaining knowledge.'

'Tony Lee Orr

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