SkillSoft Enhances IT Skills and Certification Library to Meet Federal Requirements
NASHUA, N.H., Oct 29, 2003 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ — SkillSoft PLC (Nasdaq: SKIL), a leading provider of e-learning courseware and referenceware for business and IT professionals, today announced the enhancement of 310 IT skills courses to meet the technical and functional requirements for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. These courses, which are included in SkillSoft’s IT Skills and Certification Library, are accessible by employees with vision, hearing, or motor skill impairments. The company plans to make all current and future U.S. English courses in the SkillSoft IT library compliant with current Section 508 requirements; a total of 520 courses are scheduled to be upgraded by the end of 2003. Section 508 requires computer software applications purchased or developed by federal agencies to be designed for equal accessibility by disabled people.
SkillSoft was among the first e-learning courseware vendors to announce compliance with Section 508 in 2001, when all courses in its Business Skills Library were upgraded to meet compliance requirements. SmartForce, which merged with SkillSoft in September 2002, also announced initial accessibility enhancements for its IT courseware library in 2001.
The current upgrade is the result of an intensive development initiative that included adapting courses to work with screen readers such as JAWS and other assistive technologies, providing text descriptions for all meaningful graphics, and ensuring all audio components have text equivalents. All components of SkillSoft IT courses were incorporated into the development project to ensure employees with disabilities have learning experiences equivalent to those of non-disabled employees. Course components include mentored exercises, white papers, glossaries, simulations, drag-and-drop exercises, and quizzes.
“In order to deliver quality learning experiences to those learners with visual or functional impairments, we had to devise a process for efficiently and dynamically mass-producing multiple versions of courseware from a single content source. This gives us the ability to quickly create a version of any new course that’s immediately compliant with Section 508 requirements,” said Colm Darcy, executive vice president of content development for SkillSoft.
To ensure complete compliance, SkillSoft worked with The Paciello Group, a consulting organization specializing in the equal accessibility of software and Web-based information. The two organizations worked together to conduct an extensive technical and accessibility review of SkillSoft courses, supported by a series of usability studies, before making specific recommendations for development work. Mike Paciello, president of The Paciello Group and author of Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities, wrote upon the project’s conclusion:
“I am very happy to report that SkillSoft’s IT course player and courseware have achieved unprecedented levels of compliance to the Section 508 1194.22 (Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications) standard. …The Paciello Group recommends the SkillSoft player and the associated IT courseware to all U.S. federal and state government organizations that employ individuals with disabilities and require a highly accessible learning experience. Commendably, SkillSoft has established its role as the leader in the development and deployment of accessible e-learning technology. SkillSoft’s commitment to accessibility excellence is further exemplified by its implementation of accessibility product enhancements in design plans for future products.”
Paciello pointed out that the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 20 percent of the world population has physical limitations. The U.S. Census Bureau documents approximately 54 million people in the United States living with some type of functional or physical impairment, he said.
One of the largest in the industry, the SkillSoft IT Skills and Certification Library encompasses software development, operating systems and server technologies, Internet and network technologies, enterprise database systems, web design, and desktop computer skills. The library also supports 68 current certification exams. For those learners completing SkillSoft IT courses, Drexel University will award up to 20 credit hours at no cost toward the completion of undergraduate degrees in communications, applied technology, or general studies.
While Section 508 strictly applies only to federal agencies, SkillSoft will make 508-compliant courseware available to all SkillSoft clients in public and private sectors at no extra charge. SkillSoft’s IT Skills and Certification Library, along with its Business Skills Library, is also available for license by federal agencies and military branches through GoLearn, a learning portal for federal employees and one of the key human capital initiatives supporting the President’s Management Agenda.
“Ensuring that all employees have equal access to training and development opportunities has been very important to our federal clients and those companies doing business with the government. But we’re also seeing growing recognition of the importance of equal accessibility in the private sector,” said Chuck Moran, president and CEO of SkillSoft. “We believe Section 508 is in keeping with the overarching promise of e-learning — to help all organizations ‘democratize’ training and give all employees accessibility to training and development opportunities anywhere, anytime.”
SkillSoft will be hosting demonstrations of courseware compliance at the upcoming IDEAS Conference, held November 5-6 at the new Washington Convention Center. Demonstrations can also be arranged by contacting Kevin Duffer at firstname.lastname@example.org
SkillSoft is a leading global provider of comprehensive e-learning content and software products for business and IT professionals. Multi-modal learning (MML) solutions support and enhance the speed and effectiveness of both formal and informal learning processes and integrate SkillSoft’s in-depth courseware, learning management platform technology and support services.
SkillSoft focuses on a variety of IT, professional effectiveness and business topics that represent the critical skills required of employees in increasingly dynamic and complex work environments. SkillSoft partners with other technology leaders to develop sound, standardized content that delivers rich, comprehensive learning and performance support experiences.
Content offerings include SkillSoft’s Business Skills Library and IT Skills and Certification Library; Books24x7’s ITPro, BusinessPro, FinancePro, and OfficeEssentials Referenceware; and GoTrain’s health and safety compliance courseware. For more information, visit www.skillsoft.com
SkillSoft, SkillPort, RolePlay, Search-and-Learn, e-Learning for the Knowledge Economy, NetUniversity, and Accelerated Path are trademarks and/or servicemarks of SkillSoft PLC. Books24x7 and Referenceware are servicemarks of Books24x7, Inc. All other brand names, trademarks, or registered trademarks are the property of their respective holders.
This release includes information that constitutes forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provision of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Any such forward-looking statements involve risk and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from any future results encompassed within the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include difficulties in integrating the organizations of SmartForce and SkillSoft, competitive pressures, changes in customer demands or industry standards, adverse economic conditions, loss of key personnel, litigation and other matters disclosed under the heading “Risk Factors” in SkillSoft’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended July 31, 2003, as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The forward-looking financial information provided by the Company in this press release represents the Company’s estimates as of October 29, 2003. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company’s estimates to change. However, while the Company may elect to update this forward-looking financial information at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so. This forward-looking information should not be relied upon as representing the Company’s estimates of its future financial performance as of any date subsequent to the date of this release.
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