Research has documented the value of online learning as an education and training tool in the United States workforce development system. Studies have shown that delivery of training through technology is beneficial to both the learner and the delivering agency or institution. The benefits for learners include: flexibility in time and space, the cost savings in travel and childcare, and the ability to learn at one's own pace. Many learners with bad previous classroom experiences also value this type of learning, because it removes some of the stresses and fears of returning to the classroom. For the delivering agency, online learning offers cost-savings, access to a more diverse array of training, and often allows more people to be trained than would typically be achieved in a classroom setting. As a result of the numerous benefits of online training to the workforce development system, efforts to institutionalize this method of training and education have become a priority for government and the commercial sector. One of the ways that this effort has been pursued is through the creation of portals and clearing houses. These venues have been developed through the government and commercially and serve to provide users with information and options about potential education and training opportunities online. Portals can also serve to point people to quality training and can allow new institutions, pursuing the use of online training to get aa leg-up in the process of searching for providers and coursework. This panel will examine how a portal works within the workforce development system by looking closely at a government portal pilot project and a commercial portal. For the last year Rutgers University has conducted an evaluation of a United States Department of Labor funded, Collaborative Online Workforce Education and Training Portal pilot project. This pilot includes partners from The Pennsylvania State University, the Sloan Consortium, and the State Workforce Agencies of Maine, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. These states are piloting this online portal which serves to provide users with information on nationally available online certificate and degree programs that respond to identified workforce and training needs in individual states. The Collaborative Online Workforce Education and Training Portal focuses on ensuring that all potential workforce system clients in a state have access to online certificate and degree programs that are relevant to the state's workforce needs and opportunities. In each one of the four states this effort has been pursued in different ways. This panel will address the various approaches and findings to date from this study. Data for this project was gathered through close contact with the states, data collection through the state workforce systems and site visits to each of the states where participants and stakeholders were interviewed about their experiences. The panel will also discuss some of the many questions that emerged throughout this project such as: How is a portal developed and instituted within a state workforce system?, How should online learning be defined?, and What role does a portal have if any in a state workforce system? among others. Examining this project will highlight the many different interpretations of including online training in a state workforce development system and how and if a portal can serve to make that process easier and more replicable. This panel will then look at a commercial portal that was part of a previous study by Rutgers University. This portal serves many of the same functions as the government funded portal and the two will compared and contrasted critically. Finally, the panel will serve to explore ideas on the institutionalization of online learning into a workforce development system and provide some best practices on utilizing a portal as a tool to do this. This panel make include speakers such as: Mike Lawrence,Senior Policy Associate with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce Dr. Mary Muphree, Senior Advisor Sloan Center on Innovative Training and Workforce Development and former Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor, Region 2 Women's Bureau. Heather McKay, Director of the Sloan Center on Innovative Training and orkforce Development Helen MacDermott, e.Learners.com
This session was selected as Best-In-Track for the Professional Development & Workforce Training track.