Should Agencies Spend Money on Trainings If There's a Free Virtual Version?


Amid fewer conference and travel dollars, GovLoop stands up a virtual government training division.

Federal agencies saved hundreds of millions of dollars through reduced conference spending over the past three years, and social networking website GovLoop wants to help agencies save even more through virtual conferences, career fairs and training.

GovLoop this year will stand up a virtual government training division that will work with agencies to convert in-person events and training to an online format. Agencies could move online a number of training and development programs, including two-day in-person courses, conferences, career fairs, mentoring programs or leadership development programs, Andrew Krzmarzick, director of community engagement of GovLoop, told Wired Workplace on Thursday.

“Anything that is done in person and pertains to training or events, we want to help agencies move that online and keep it engaging and effective,” he said.

GovLoop also will stand up a Coursera-like website likely called GovLoop Academy that will provide on-demand, free training to government employees in areas like career advancement, social media, citizen engagement, workforce planning, information technology and APIs. The goal is to have a beta version of the training platform by mid-2014, Krzmarzick said.

“If you think about the trends right now, government employees need on-demand, free training,” he said. “We are creating an online library of that content in the form of shorter courses that are easy for folks to get the information they need in real time and at no cost to them.”

Aside from content including podcasts and blog posts already available on GovLoop, the academy training platform will take free public content currently available at federal agencies and package it in an effective way, Kzmarzick said. Volunteer-driven government associations like Young Government Leaders also would help drive content and provide subject matter experts, he added. “One of the hallmarks of this training is that it’s really for government by government,” he said.

The vision for GovLoop Academy is that participants, after taking a combination of 15- to 50-minute courses, reading or listening to podcasts, would be eligible to receive a digital badge or certificate, with the hope of eventually offering continuing professional education (CPE) credits, Krzmarzick said.

“It’s not the equivalent of attending a weeklong, in-person training, but would enable employees to get just enough information to have conversations with others within their agency,” he said. “Or an employee who is not involved in the budgeting process, for example, could get a better sense of how it impacts them on the programs side.”

Last spring, GovLoop and the Office of Personnel Management launched a social learning pilot project that involved converting a two-day classroom-based course for federal human resources professionals into an online platform that included social learning tools like social networks and online discussion forums. Post-course surveys showed that nearly all (96 percent) of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they had improved their knowledge or skills as a result of the course.

GovLoop also conducts roughly two online training sessions per month, covering topics like capitalizing on the cloud to navigating the federal application process. A course this month on creating an individual development plan had more than 2,000 registrants, Krzmarzick said.

“The time is now and the time is right to be able to provide more of this free and on-demand training for government employees,” he said. 

(Image via arka38/