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PC World

Learn software on the Web

December 16, 1999
Web posted at: 1:11 p.m. EST (1811 GMT)

by Cathy Kenny graphic

(IDG) -- You need to improve your spreadsheet skills, but what if you don't have time to attend a training class, or can't find a class in your area?

Computer-based training products have long solved this problem by enabling you to take training classes from the comfort of your own PC. But the disk-based products can be expensive, especially if you have to purchase courses for a number of different software titles.

Tech talk

Now the Web has produced new options. CompUSA's latest offering, CompUniversity Online Learning, provides unlimited access to over 30 training seminars for today's most popular software products, starting at $19.99.

Get your money's worth

CompUniversity Online Learning is a subscription-based service, with prices ranging from $19.99 for 30 days to $49.99 for six months. Once you subscribe to the service, you can take as many training seminars as you like, as often as you like. Corporate pricing varies according to the number of users subscribing to the service.

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CompUniversity offers more than 30 training seminars. Courses cover the usual software suspects, such as Windows 98 and Microsoft Office. WordPerfect seminars are offered, but Lotus SmartSuite users are out of luck. You'll also find courses on Lotus Notes as well as Internet classes on Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer.

For the most part, each application software title is available in three modules: Introduction, Intermediate, or Advanced. If you're not sure which course level is right for you, you can complete a skills assessment test to find the appropriate course. After you've completed a seminar, you can see how much information you've retained by taking yet another test. Based on your results, certain lessons will be flagged to alert you to pay special attention.

Each of the training seminars is straightforward and easy to use. A combination of informational text and simulated exercises advances you through each lesson. If you can't complete a session in a single sitting, you can bookmark the lesson and then quickly pick up where you left off. Corporate subscribers to the service receive tracking software that enables a training administrator to monitor subscriber usage and progress.

Some patience required

Unlike disk-based training solutions, which are installed and then accessed from your PC or network server, accessing a training program over the Web can be pretty slow.

CompUniversity acknowledges this, and recommends a 56K modem at the very least to get the most satisfaction out of the product. Still, on such a modem, it took close to 5 minutes just to load the training module. I also found that running through each seminar was somewhat sluggish.

To use CompUniversity Online Learning, you'll need the Authorware Web Player installed on your PC, which is available as a download from the Online Learning web site. It works with Netscape Navigator 3.x or higher and Internet Explorer 3.x or higher.

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