Department Of The Interior Streams To Its Employees

On his days off, Bob Veltkamp’s hobbies include exploring the far reaches of the country’s national parks and enjoying the natural bounty managed by the United States Department of the Interior. On the job, as Director of Online Learning for the Department of the Interior University, he searches for better ways to communicate consistently and effectively to over 70,000 people who work for the Department’s eight bureaus and other Departmental offices.

The challenge of providing easy access to courseware aimed at the professional development of such a large and distributed population is daunting by any scale. All told, the Department of the Interior employees manage one out of every five acres of land in the US, provide resources for nearly 28% of the nation’s energy, work with 562 federally recognized Indian Tribes, administer US responsibilities to four overseas territories, and provide water to 31 million citizens through over 800 dams and reservoirs. While access to Internet-connected personal computers is virtually ubiquitous, bandwidth is not evenly distributed.

"We provide content for those on high speed research networks as well as those on the top of volcanoes connecting over wireless connections," explains Veltkamp. (Click here to see PowerPoint slides about DOI University programs) "We know that multimedia training is much more engaging, but we don’t assume that everyone will be getting their experience over a network." Through its Internet-accessible portal, the "DOI University" offers employees over 2,000 off-the-shelf text, graphics, and audio courses licensed from Thompson Netg, Karta, and SkillSoft. These courses run the gamut from basic application training to a variety of technical and management topics such as how to build effective teams.

In addition to off-the-shelf courseware, DOI University develops some custom text, graphics and audio training content and, when streaming is deemed beneficial to the content or to more effectively communicate a strong message, DOI University also produces complete interactive multimedia events and resources. "One of the justifications for using streaming media is to have the bureau leadership or the department level leadership communicate directly to all employees about an important program. Seeing and hearing the authority figures and leaders talk about the importance of something they care about is much more compelling than reading a memo."

In 2003, DOI University produced two programs with the assistance of Vodium's professional services group. One of these was associated with the Department of the Interior’s implementation of a new activity-based cost management system. About a month prior to the completion of the implementation, there was a satellite broadcast describing the rationale for this new management system. The purpose of ABCM is to track all the costs of goods and services that the Department’s employees provide to the American people. When an employee puts in the time required to perform a specific task towards a larger project, the system tabulates all inputs and the results help the public understand the real cost to do a certain activity or project.

To make good on the ABCM investment, every employee needs to participate in the entry of data in the management system on a daily basis. The leadership recognized that this change in business process would not be consistent or rapid without significant investment.

The results of that investment are now available to all employees, and the general public, on the Internet and on CD-ROM.

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