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Interoperability Is Focus Of New E-Learning Products, Services

Vendors launch products, services, and enhancements that serve as the interoperability glue between E-learning content and infrastructure.

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Nudging closer to offering more mature, end-to-end online training systems, several vendors Monday will launch products, services, and enhancements that serve as the interoperability glue between their E-learning content and infrastructure.

Interoperability woes continue to plague E-learning customers. Content vendors promise seamless integration with learning-management systems, but the reality for some is something different, says Don Duquette, chief operating officer of GP e-learning Technologies Inc. The New York consulting firm uses Docent Inc.'s learning-management systems technology as an infrastructure platform. With the latest version of Docent Enterprise LMS, enhanced with a content-delivery system, Docent wants to offer GP and others expanded flexibility to develop in-house content. Pricing isn't available.

As Docent enhances its system, a competitor in the crowded learning-management-systems market is broadening its product line. Content provider DigitalThink Inc. makes its first foray into learning-management-system technology with the introduction of its E-learning Platform product. The technology--acquired through last year's purchase of Arista Knowledge Systems--is a Web-based platform with integrated reporting and analysis software, online collaboration, and discussion tools. Pricing is about $100 per user annually.

With newcomer OutStart Inc.'s Evolution product, training departments should more easily create, update, and deliver online courses. The Web-based platform combines content development with a management and delivery infrastructure. Structured around learning objects--easy-to-access video, audio, text, and multimedia files--the combined offering gives OutStart a strong competitive advantage, says Jack Rochester, senior analyst at Delphi Group. Previously, the market gave very little consideration to developing, as well as managing, quality content, he says. Instead, the focus was on tracking E-learning usage. Pricing begins at $150,000.

Peg Maddocks, senior manager of Cisco Systems' Internet Learning Solutions Group, expects "at least a 500% return on investment" by shifting network-engineering courseware for more than 20,000 users from CD-ROMs to online learning objects with Evolution over the next year. Says Maddocks, "The product needs very little support, and we can update the information faster, reach more people, reuse content in a variety of formats, and enrich our courses with Web links and other informational help."

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