Virtual Academy Issues and Update
Instructional Systems Specialist
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Application to Access
an Infrastructure for High Quality Courses.......Course
Transcripts, and the Login ID....... Technical
to Access the Agency Application
to Find the Login Page/Site
with the Automatic E-mails and Attachments
and/or Password Not Allowing Access
CenterAn Information Sharing
.Library's Link to
The FBI opened
the doors to the FBI Virtual Academy (FBIVA), a computer-based learning
system, in early December 2002 to an overwhelming response, both
good and bad. People are excited about using the Virtual Academy
and its resources, but differ in their expectations. To help alleviate
the frustration some people have been experiencing, this update
addresses some of the issues concerning the FBI Virtual Academy
and its currently available resources.
When the FBI
purchased the learning management system, now called the FBI Virtual
Academy, and started its customization, many initial decisions had
to be made without the benefit of feedback from potential users.
Regrettably, some of these decisions have affected the user-friendliness
of the Virtual Academy. Policy and other issues have arisen from
the need to accommodate a diverse audience while still offering
the best possible resource in the FBIVA.
involve the confusion agency heads experience when completing and
submitting applications: What constitutes an agency? Should employees
self-register or register by Training Manager?
an agency? Agency heads must make two decisions regarding how
they want their agency to appear in the FBI Virtual Academy: agency
type and the Training Mangager.
TypeAgency heads must decide which one, or more, of
the four Virtual Academy agency (agency) types most closely
defines the agency's mission or primary function:
- Law enforcement
- Other public
service (specifically emergency response services)
Academy agency type affects the courses and other resources
made available to the employees who register from that agency.
Thus, agency heads must register carefully by choosing from the
the agency only once under the type most compatible with the
agency's primary mission.
- Split the
agency into several FBI Virtual Academy agencies based
on functions within the agency. For example, a local police
agency with a forensic laboratory division should apply twiceonce
as a law enforcement agency and once as a forensic laboratory
a geographically diverse agency by location as well as type.
For example, a state police or federal agency having many locations
and functions will apply under all locations and functions.
This may seem time consuming, but the agency application
occurs only once but benefits all employees of that agency.
- Break a
large agency into smaller division- or department-sized agencies
based on function and/or geographical location. For example,
major city police departments may actually apply as separate
agencies based on their divisions, departments, or even
ManagerEach agency applying to the Virtual Academy
must assign a point of contact, called the Training Manager. This
person has complete control over which employees from that agency
will be allowed access to the Virtual Academy and what training,
if any, they will be allowed to take. Thus, the choice of a responsible
Training Manager is very important for FBI Virtual Academy security
as well as for agency control of employee training. The
Training Manager must have an e-mail address and must be able
to inform agency employees when they can register, then
validate each employee who does. The Training Manager must also
have the authority to assess each candidate's qualifications for
enrollment in the courses offered through the Course Catalog,
then approve or deny the request.
must decide what constitutes their agency based on their
understanding of both agency type and the role of the agency's
self-register or register by Training Manager? This question
on the agency application has caused confusion because of the use
of the term "register" to mean "request enrollment
in a course." The wording cannot be changed on the application
at this point because of the implications to the database structure.
Training Manager controls whether or not employees take the training
offered through the Course Catalog, no matter which choice the agency
head makes on the application. The difference between the two becomes
apparent on the user's end.
means that employees from an agency are able to view courses
in the Course Catalog and see the words "Request Enrollment"
at the end of the course description. Clicking "Request Enrollment"
triggers an automatic e-mail to the agency's Training Manager,
who must then go into the FBIVA to approve or deny that employee's
request. This option also allows Training Managers to take the
initiative to enroll any employee in their agency in any
of the courses.
by Training ManagerThis means that employees from an
agency are able to view courses in the Course Catalog,
but are not offered a way to enroll. They must ask their agency's
Training Manager to enroll them. This option requires the Training
Manager to take a few more steps in the FBIVA than the Self-register
Thus, the choice
to self-register or register by Training Manager makes no difference
in the agency's control over who takes what training through
the FBI Virtual Academy; it just makes a difference in how the employees
gain access to the courses and what steps the Training Manager must
Application to Access
to an application once "Submit" is clicked? If an error
message does not appear, the application is put on the Virtual Academy's
agencies pending list. Before an agency's employees
can gain access to the FBIVA, the FBI must approve the agency by
taking two steps:
First, FBI personnel
must validate the agency and verify the information on the application.
This validation ensures protection for all users. currently, only
one representative is available to make the required phone calls
- The head
of each agency to verify the information on the application.
(The FBI representative must speak to the head of the agency only).
- The FBI field
division assigned as the agency's point of contact to ensure
the existence of the agency and its standing in the community.
agency is assigned to an FBI field division or Legal Attaché.
triggers an e-mail to the Training Manager. This e-mail contains
his or her user ID and password, the Virtual Academy site address,
and two attachments: instructions for the Training Manager and instructions
that can be forwarded to employees to help them register. The agency's
approval ensures automatic registration for the Training Manager.
Thus, Training Managers do not need to register themselves with
the Virtual Academy. However, they do need to inform agency
employees when and how to register with the FBI Virtual Academy.
Some users of
the Virtual Academy have gone to the Course Catalog in the Learning
Center with high expectations, only to be disappointed with seeing
the usual classroom-based courses (now distinguished as TCI, or
traditional classroom instruction) and few, if any, virtual courses
(distance learning courses called IMI, or interactive multimedia
instruction) in the list. In the future, a full and diversified
Course Catalog, with a multitude of high-quality TCI and IMI courses
will be available through the FBI Virtual Academy. Now, however,
the Laboratory Division's Training Unit is creating the necessary
infrastructure for developing the consistently high-quality, educationally
reliable courses that will populate the Course Catalog.
an Infrastructure for High Quality Courses
The FBI's goal
of high quality and consistency for the user community means establishing
an infrastructure within both the FBI Virtual Academy and the forensic
AcademyThe infrastructure involves developing
and style guides to follow.
for use during each stage of course development.
templates for physically building the course.
for all members of the course development teams.
Science CommunityThe infrastructure involves a group
of Training Partners pooling resources for course development
who agree to and use:
consistent training taxonomy.
modular curriculum for examiners.
modular curriculum for technicians.
will benefit the community by saving time in course development
and ensuring consistency across the community.
for all traditional classroom instruction (formerly referred to
as specialized training) courses occurs through the FBI Virtual
Academy. The FBI Laboratory no longer publishes a listing of these
courses, nor assigns a specific number of enrollment slots to agencies
and laboratories. Anyone from an approved agency can request enrollment
in any open section of the courses listed in the Course Catalog.
For TCI courses, the enrollment request moves through three levels
Training ManagerClicking "Request Enrollment"
in a course triggers an e-mail to the agency's Training Manager,
who must enter the Virtual Academy to approve or deny the request.
Denial stops the process and prompts notification to the applicant.
Approval allows the process to continue to step 2.
AdministratorTraining Manager approval triggers the system
to send a qualification survey to the applicant. The applicant
faxes or otherwise sends the completed survey to the agency's
assigned FBI field division training technician, the FBIVA's Review
Administrator. The administrator reviews the applicant's qualifications.
Again, denial at this point stops the process and notifies the
applicant. Approval allows the process to continue to step 3.
(Selector)Within the system, the course instructor selects
the now ranked applicants. Those selected are notified by e-mail.
Any qualified applicants not selected are moved to a wait list
until the course starts. If a selected student cancels, the student
ranked number one on the wait list will be notified of his or
her selection to the course.
Once a course
has started, the wait list is deleted and the enrollment process
Transcripts, and the Login ID
registration process, during which a login ID is assigned, associates
a user to both an agency (the registrant's employer) and
the agency's Training Manager. Every move a user makes in
the FBIVA, including all courses requested, started, or completed,
is tracked through the login ID, and transcripts are created by
this tracking mechanism. Using someone else's login ID to request
enrollment in and take a course means that the other person's transcript
will show the course, not the transcipt of the person who actually
took the course. Thus, it is imperative that each user of the FBIVA
have only one login ID and that they use only that ID.
potential users, agency applicants, and registered Virtual Academy
users experience technical difficulties. If a problem occurs, contact
the Training Coordinator at the FBI Virtual Academy (email@example.com).
Include the following information in the e-mail:
user's full name
name, city, and state
- User's e-mail
address (which is not always apparent in the "From"
line of the e-mail)
- User's telephone
Recently a few
common patterns have appeared in the high volume of requests for
assistance. These involve the following situations.
to Access the Agency Application
It is not clear
why certain users cannot access the agency application (found on
the top tool bar of the login page at https://fbiva.fbiacademy.edu).
If this happens, contact the Training Coordinator to request a fax
of the application. The returned application will be added to those
to Find the Login Page/Site
Academy is housed on a secure server, which means that an http
address, used for many web sites, will not work. Generally, secure
servers use https (be sure to include the "s").
Also as a security
that the user's browser version be Internet Explorer® 5.0 (or
higher) or Netscape Communicator® 4.75 (or higher). Lower-version
browsers cannot get through this security programming.
with the Automatic E-mails and Attachments
Many of the
automatic e-mails sent by the Virtual Academy's system contain either
dynamically added information (such as an individual's login ID
and password) or Microsoft Word® documents as attachments (which
may contain minor programming, such as a link to the Virtual Academy's
web site). Browser programming or firewalls on receiving servers
may strip either the dynamic e-mail text, the attachments, or both.
If this happens, e-mail the Training Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The missing information can be faxed.
and/or Password Not Allowing Access
Both the login
ID and the password are case- and alpha/numeric-sensitive. If the
system does not recognize a login ID, before contacting the Training
Coordinator, try the following:
- Type both
login ID and password in all uppercase (capitals) or all lowercase.
- Switch the
login ID and passwordtype
what you remember as the password in the login ID field and what
you remember as the login ID in the password field.
- Ensure that
numbers are typed as numbers and letters are typed as letters
where appropriate (i.e., the number 0 verses the letter O, or
the number 1 verses the letter l).
The login page
has system links that can help if either the login ID or password
has been forgotten, but if both have been forgotten or are incorrect,
the Training Coordinator must reset them. Use the "Contact
Us" link on the top tool bar of the login page to ask for the
Training Coordinator's assistance.
Most other technical
problems have occurred because of the migration of the FBIVA functions
and data from the initial server to the secure server behind a firewall.
Necessary information or functionality may not have transferred
as expected. If an error message appears while using the Virtual
Academy, contact the Training Coordinator. Problems are addressed
as soon as possible.
Though the Training
Unit and Training Partners continue to create the infrastructure
and develop the courses that support the FBI Virtual Academy and
forensic science community, FBIVA is already a valuable tool. Registered
users can set up a team in the Teaming Center or search databases
of respected publications through the Library.
CenterAn Information Sharing Tool
can set up a private team room for small groups to correspond, coordinate
meetings, hold a threaded discussion, chat, or share presentations,
documentations, and appropriate web links.
Teams can be
public (viewable by all) or private (viewable by only team members).
They consist of members, contributors, and owners, all of whom have
varying degrees of functionality within the team room. A team can
comprise two people to all users in the FBIVA, and one user in the
FBIVA can be a member of many teams.
and contributors can share information or PowerPoint® presentations
with others in their team without giving them the ability to download
or edit the material. Team members can share a calendar for meetings
and events. They can collaborate with other team members, inform
them of an upcoming event or a new web site, share the knowledge
of experts on the team, or troubleshoot problems by asking their
experts for assistance. Team rooms allow users to share stories,
examples, best practices, and lessons learned with only the people
they believe should be privy to such information.
possibilties of the Teaming Center will continue to improve as its
functions are customized and expanded.
Link to DialogSelectSM
Web Links function in the Library building, FBI Virtual Academy
users have access to the DialogSelectSM
Open Access information service. This service combines Dialog's
vast database collection and searching capabilities with the accessibility
of the Web through a user-friendly interface. The easy-to-use point-and-click
interface guides users to over 50,000 of the most objective and
respected online publications and resources in the following eight
- General forensic
science (including medical, scientific, technical, social, and
behavioral science information)
and engineering (including international research and software
(including research reports and regulations)
and business news
Users can be
assured they are accessing a comprehensive and authoritative collection
of documents written by scientists, journalists, analysts, auditors,
and industry experts. Both bibliographic and full-text records are
available. Searching is free and includes a sample record and links
to database descriptions.
At this writing,
the FBI Virtual Academy has been open officially for one month,
but not without problems. As the developers learn and grow through
experience, as the databases are customized for more functionality,
as the users understand more of the processes and infrastructure
supporting the Virtual Academy, and as technical difficulties are
resolved, the resources, capabilities, and benefits of tracking
training and sharing resources through this collaboration and learning
portal will become increasingly apparent.
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