State employees explore ‘e-learning’ opportunities

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Published: July 24,2000

Competition in the New Economy dictates not just a highly trained workforce, but a workforce whose skills are constantly upgraded to master new technological skills. That is true in government as much as in private industry, and that’s why both are turning to the Internet for technology training.

The Mississippi Department of Information Technology Services (ITS), which provides technology training to state employees, previously has offeredtraining the traditional way in a classroom with an instructor. During FY2000 more than 300 classes were offered with 2,770 state employees participating. But now state employees also have the option of “e-learning.” In June ITS signed a contract with MindLeaders.com to provide Web-based training to state employees.

“This training is available anywhere, anytime,” said ITS education services director Karen Newman. “Students can progress at their own speed, and can return to the courses or retake the courses to refresh knowledge on the subject matter.”

State employees won’t even have to leave their office to take courses to upgrade their skills. But, since some people won’t be able to get away from their regular work long enough to do skills training if they stay at the office, taking the Internet courses at the ITS lab will also be an option. Newman said Internet training is both time and cost effective. Hands-on training offered includes everything from how to use the Internet to mainframes to computer programming.

“We offer a very wide range of classes through the ITS Institute,” Newman said. “There has been a big increase in demand. It used to be just technical people who needed computer training. But now it is just about anyone in the workforce. No matter what profession you are in, chances are you are going to have a computer on your desk, and you are going to have to know how to use it. When an employee comes to work for the state, they will need continuing training in the area of technology. You have to stay up in your field and keep your training current, or you won’t be able to do your job.”

MindLeaders.com offers more than 400 courses ranging from general businesses classes to more technical areas. The state benefits by having more skilled employees, which should make government more efficient.

Initial interest in the e-learning programs offered has been strong. More than 200 state employees have signed up for the Internet courses.

“There is a ton of interest in it,” Newman said. “Online training will be one of the major applications of the Internet.”

Just as with traditional instruction, at the end of the course students must complete tests that show they understand the concepts and have gained the necessary skills.

E-learning companies like MindLeaders tout several advantages of Web-based learning. The programs can provide high levels of interactivity, inviting graphics that reinforce the content, simulations of actual applications, exercises for hands-on experience, questions to test what has been learned, and feedback that reinforces the concepts. The courses are self paced so that students with greater skill levels do not have to be slowed down by students with fewer skills. Conversely, students who take longer to catch on don’t have to feel embarrassed or pressured.

In addition to providing Web-based training to more than 700 organization, MindLeaders also partners with 1,300 Internet service provider partners who provide courses to more than 7.4 million subscribers, including over 900,000 businesses. Between 30 to 45 new courses are added every three months in order to keep up with changing technology.

For more information, visit the Web sites www.its.state.ms.us/educ/index.html and www.mindleaders.com.

ITS was created as the Central Data Processing Authority (CDPA) by the Legislature in 1970 to improve long-range planning coordination and establish a central point responsible for the fiscal management of data processing functions in state agencies, institutions of higher learning and community colleges.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

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