RCMP upgrades e-learning for 23,000 employees

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is rolling out a $1-million e-learning project to 23,000 employees across the country that allows it to consolidate all its courses on one platform and provide customized content to user groups.

In two weeks, the RCMP will switch over to a newer version of academic enterprise program WebCT Vista from what it is currently using, WebCT Campus Version 3. The RCMP sent out a request for proposal in 2004 and awarded the contract to WebCT in June 2005. WebCT brought in one of its partners, Bluedrop Performance Learning, which is based in St. John’s, Nfld., to help with software implementation and support.

One of the primary reasons the RCMP chose to work with WebCT was because it was the only vendor that was able to match all of its requirements, said Simon Pare, manager of RCMP’s technology-assisted learning unit.

“(WebCT) was chosen for their fit within our IT infrastructure,” said Pare. “We’ve standardized on BEA WebLogic for our app server and PeopleSoft for our HR system.” While the RCMP currently hasn’t standardized on a particular database, WebCT works with Oracle’s database product. The RCMP is integrating WebCT Vista with its PeopleSoft system, which will give senior RCMP officers up-to-the-minute access to all officer competencies at all times.

The RCMP’s security requirements, which do not allow any outside parties to access its servers, made it a bit challenging for WebCT and Bluedrop to implement the software. To meet these requirements, WebCT offers what it calls a “mentored install” in which its employees guide the RCMP’s IT department over the phone. WebCT is providing the same service for service follow-ups.

“Security was a very big focus,” said Michelle Peckham, Bluedrop’s project manager, who began working on the project in August 2005. “On numerous occasions there was no ability to access their servers directly. WebCT would have to work through a person at the RCMP because they didn’t have the security privileges to access their servers.”

WebCT Vista will enable the RCMP to centrally manage disparate platforms including interactive public Web pages, intranet pages, remotely managed courses and online exams from a central console, said Pare. This will save the RCMP a lot of administrative headaches that it experienced under the old system. For example, the RCMP has 3,000 licenses for Version 3, which means that the IT department was constantly administering licensing rights to officers.

“Whenever we gave somebody a license or a seat on the course, whenever they finished we took that license away from them to give it to somebody else,” said Pare. “Now they’ll have access 24-7 to the application.”

Prior to the implementation, the RCMP wasn’t using an individualized work portal for its courses.

“Everybody was getting the same information and accessing it in the same way,” said Pare. “With Vista, everybody has their own user ID and with the portal that comes with Vista everybody gets their own individualized portal and courses.”

Using the portal, Pare will be able to push information to users based on who they are. If a court, for example, made a decision on drug investigations, the next day he will be able to disperse that information to all the RCMP’s drug investigators.

Time and labour efficiencies are among the top reasons public and private sector organization are turning to e-learning as supplement to traditional forms of education.

“The RCMP needs to be able to deliver learning in some very remote places,” said Cathy Swope, WebCT’s engagement manager. “That’s one of the key advantages is the ability to deliver learning wherever somebody is, when they need it. It gives them greater flexibility in terms of how they deliver their e-learning.”

Following the launch later this month, the RCMP will research how it can install other features of WebCT Vista such as chat and instant message securely on its network.

“The only one that’s an issue is chat and instant messaging,” said Pare. “Vista is installed in an encrypted environment in a secure area of our Intranet. We use Entrust to get access to the application.”

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