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  November 20, 2000

Pilot Program Offers One-on-One Computer Training

About three dozen University faculty and staff are involved in an experiment in distance learning that could become a regular feature of UConn's Information Technology Services.

For a trial period of about two months, ITS is working with Visiocom of Danbury, an international distance learning provider, to evaluate the company's one-on-one technology-based learning system.

In a room on the first floor of the Homer Babbidge Library, participants use a PC and headset to connect with a Visiocom trainer at the Danbury homebase. Training sessions are scheduled by phone, with e-mail confirmations. Each training session is two hours, and training is available in a variety of Microsoft products (such as Windows, Office, and Word), as well as in HTML, Java, and other web development languages.

"Users get to see the trainer on-screen, and vice versa, the trainer sees the user via a small camera attached to the PC," says Rick Ellis of Information Technology Services.

A real advantage, says Ellis, is that the trainer can control the desktop from his or her PC, and the user can take back control at any time.

Courses are based on the users' needs and, through an evaluation made over the phone, the trainer may recommend an entry, intermediate, or advanced level course.

"They can adapt the course to whatever your needs are," says Ellis.

Lauren LeBlanc, a fiscal administrator in the bursar's office, says her experience with the program was excellent: "It was wonderful to be able to work at my own pace and navigate to whatever interested me."

LeBlanc adds that she recently spent two full days taking traditional classes on ACCESS (a MicroSoft product) that she could have accomplished in four hours through Visiocom.

Geoffrey Meigs, assistant computer manager in liberal arts and sciences, liked the one-on-one attention he received during a course on creating forms for webpages.

"It was possible to have more back-and-forth dialogue and questions as we went along than would have been possible in a group," he says.

"It would be great to have Visiocom available as part of an overall strategy for computer training at UConn," says Meigs, citing the need to continue offering training for groups as well.

Once the evaluation period is complete, Information Technology Services staff will consider whether to make a long-term commitment with Visiocom.

Mark J. Roy