New Agreements Make ACT Centers `The Place to Be’ for Community College Distance/e-Learning

November 16, 2001

Agreements between ACT and two major companies involved in IT and ESL will provide new opportunities for community colleges participating in a nationwide network of ACT Centers. The agreements — with Computer Adaptive Technologies (CAT) and GlobalEnglish — further position colleges that host ACT Centers as “the place to be for distance and e-learning in the future,” according to ACT officials. The agreement with CAT also bolsters the leadership of community colleges in the IT training and certification field.

ACT also announces that it has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SmartForce. SmartForce, the world’s leading provider of e-Learning, is noted among other things for its strength in Information Technology (IT) programs. The company also provides e-Learning in many other areas, including business, personal, management and functional skills. SmartForce e-Learning content is linked with direct mentoring and other forms of collaborative support for the learner, to help answer questions and solve problems during learning.

The relationship between SmartForce and the ACT Centers, when concluded, will place the vast SmartForce training library within the reach of medium and small companies in each community. Employers will have the option of using the resource on a subscription basis, or they can develop tailored libraries designed for their specific business needs. SmartForce will also extend content availability to the host institutions for use with their own faculty and students.

The MoU with SmartForce, subject to execution of final definitive Agreement, will also make the REALskills! program available through community colleges. REALskills! is an information technology training program designed to help people earn their first IT certification, in A+ or Inet+. The program helps attract new people into the IT industry. Through collaboration with Manpower, students in certain metropolitan locations can take the first step towards a new career by being placed into summer internships after receiving certification.

Another agreement with Computer Adaptive Technologies (CAT), a leader in IT certification, will make 40 of the company’s certification tests available at ACT Centers. CAT offers certification for major technology providers such as Lotus, Compaq and Navision. The program will begin in January 2002.

The agreement with GlobalEnglish will bring that company’s courseware to ACT Centers. GlobalEnglish is the primary provider of English as a second language (ESL) Internet training. GlobalEnglish courses are designed to teach English to native speakers of 10 languages, including Spanish, Japanese, German, Chinese and Portuguese. Courses teach users through real-life situations and materials, repeated exposure to language patterns and a wide variety of language-related activities. The service provides 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access to experienced ESL teachers via voice or text chat.

“SmartForce, CAT and GlobalEnglish will dramatically expand the capability of ACT Centers to provide IT training and certification, and ESL training,” said Tom Saterfiel, senior vice president of workforce and professional services at ACT.

Institutions that are part of the ACT Center network will now have access to more than 3,000 training programs in hundreds of job skills, giving the colleges new capabilities to provide high-quality training opportunities to businesses and adult learners in their communities. In addition, many of the programs are Web-based, providing colleges with an important advantage in the distance-learning industry.

“The new agreements propel the ACT Centers to the forefront of e-learning by adding industry leaders SmartForce, CAT and GlobalEnglish to the courseware repository,” said Dr. Carole A. Cowan, president of Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, which manages an ACT Center. “The expansion in the areas of IT training and certification is especially timely, since the strongest demand from our customers continues to be courseware in the technology sector.”

ACT Centers are in operation across the nation, primarily at community colleges, with hundreds expected to be online within the next two years, delivering testing and training services to businesses and individuals.

“Employees are a company’s most important asset,” Saterfiel said. “ACT Centers offer the opportunity for companies to get customized, ‘anytime, anywhere’ training for their employees. In a time of economic recession, when cutbacks and layoffs are reducing the number of positions in companies across the nation, it’s a challenge for management to have workers performing at peak efficiency. ACT Centers can train employees for higher productivity.”

At the same time, Saterfiel noted that workers who had been laid-off during the current economic downturn might be considering a career change. ACT Centers can train them for career transitions. Starting in January with the delivery of assessment services through the ACT Centers, individuals will also have the opportunity to take their certification examinations through these same institutions.

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ACT Inc., Iowa City

Ken Gullette, 319/337-1028