Computer-based training and Web-based learning courses can help insurance companies recruit, retain and retrain IT employees. However, these courses need learning management systems to make them truly effective learning tools, IT executives say.There are two components to successful computer-based training courses: course content, and the administration function, says Beran Peters, CEO of Instruction Set Inc., a course content development company based in Natick, Mass.

"You must have high-quality content together with a learning management system to administer, test and track staff learning activity," Peters says.

GenAm Benefits, a St. Louis-based insurance company, uses learning management software that helps document the return on its computer-based training investment. "We save considerable time and money using CBT over classroom learning," says Karen R. Belk a GenAm trainer. "The management software allows us to prove this with detailed reports on staff time spent per course, post-test score analysis, and departmentwide skill level measurements."

These systems also can automatically administer course changes, updates, registration, and pre- and post-testing, as well as analyze and assess individual employee and department skill levels.

The regular testing and assessments help monitor skill levels to better gauge what other training curriculums may be necessary to fulfill skill gaps in the IT department, says Mark Cragan, vice president for insurance and financial services consulting at IBM Corp. in Armonk, N.Y.

"This type of empirical testing is critical," he says. "It's too risky to assume employees have certain knowledge just because they have completed a self-paced course. An organization must have a precise inventory of what skills employees have versus what skills they will need to fulfill future department goals."

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