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By Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, Student Computing Services Manager
Computer-based training at UNT has come to the end of an era. Actually, it has just come to the end of three-year initial contract with SmartForce/SkillSoft. And what a long era it was! The technology used to implement SmartForce Campus has come to the end of its usefulness. As anyone who has tried to login during the past couple of weeks has noticed, the server has been taken offline because the Campus application was not compatible with the necessary patches needed for a robust and secure Windows2000 server. Please note that all of the courses listed at the old SmartForce website are still available on CD-ROM for your use by contacting Claudia Lynch in Academic Computing Services.
With the beginning of a new (one-year) contract for computer-based training services with SkillSoft and the addition of a new company for online learning, the CBT administrator hopes to offer a much more flexible and reliable online service than in the past. In fact, she hopes to eliminate those confusing CD-ROMs forever with a faster, more current system and several cross-platform issues are nearing resolution. All of the changes in CBT at UNT will be documented and linked via a new website: www.unt.edu/CBT/ (not available until January 2004) but the following is an explanation of what will be online for your use beginning in the spring 2004 semester.
Come spring . . .
The SkillSoft site will be completely different in scope and appearance. Dubbed "Skillport" by the company, each user will be able to design their own curriculum from the courses available and track and report their progress much more easily. Additionally, users will be able to search for specific topics inside available courses. A search for "java" will not only pull up all of the Java courses we have purchased but will also reference other accessible courses that may have sections dealing with Java. Some of the old SmartForce courses have been dropped because they are out-of-date content-wise. The Skillport courses will still be available on CD-ROM but users are strongly encouraged to try out the new online system before making CD-ROM requests. The courses that will be available via Skillport include:
- also on the Adobe Products CD-ROM:
Adobe Acrobat 5.0
- also on the Adobe Acrobat CD-ROM:
- also on the Linux CD-ROM:
- also on the Macromedia Products CD-ROM:
- also on the Oracle 9i CD-ROM:
- also on the Solaris 9 CD-ROM :
- also on the UNIX CD-ROM:
Web Design and Tools
- also on the Web Power! CD-ROM:
The platform disadvantage will, unfortunately, still remain with Skillport: users will need to use Internet Explorer on a Windows machine to access all course contents.
Because of a desire to provide better service and flexibility and to include our many Linux and Macintosh users, we have also contracted with a new company, Knowledgenet and are experimenting with their products. Initially Knowledgenet will provide all training on Windows 2000 and Windows XP (eventually Windows 2003) products as well as all Microsoft Office products. Knowledgenet runs on a Linux server (running Apache Tomcat) and is designed to be used on multiple browser products on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux computers.
This much more flexible solution is currently being set up by the CBT administrator and she will let you know more about its interface in the future. If the cross-platform promise of Knowledgenet is, indeed, true - then expect more courses to be offered via the Knowledgenet solution and eliminated from the SkillSoft solution. The goal is to provide CBT to as many users as possible regardless of their operating system or browser type and Knowledgenet seems designed to fit the bill. This experimental year will determine its future on our campus. A more thorough Microsoft training table of contents from Knowledgenet will be available in a few weeks.
Stay tuned to Benchmarks Online for further developments in UNT CBT as final contracts get approved and new servers get setup and put online. As always, questions and feedback should be sent to Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner, UNT CBT Administrator. Make it your number one New Year's resolution (all right, number two behind the inevitable 'lose weight' one!) to check out these new CBT offerings in January 2004 and let us know what you think!