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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 67 · No. 2 > National Highway Institute

September/October 2003
Vol. 67 · No. 2

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The National Highway Institute (NHI)

901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 300

Arlington, VA 22203

www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov

Learning from a Distance

Due to busy schedules, many transportation professionals are demanding shorter, more conveniently located training sessions that will help them develop professionally, while reducing the time that they spend away from the office for training. To meet these requests, the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) National Highway Institute (NHI) is developing live, interactive training sessions that can be delivered via the Internet. Known as Web conferences, this cyber-training will enable geographically dispersed professionals to participate in short training sessions, generally less than 2 hours in length, without leaving their offices or work sites.

FHWA and NHI plan to use Web conferences to conduct both internal and external training (supplementing the classroom and self-paced online training already available to the division offices). Internally, FHWA plans to use the system to continue its growth of technical expertise within the agency and quickly disseminate information about new policies, technologies, and practices. Web conferences also offer opportunities to reach employees with information about such things as worker benefits and new ways to use the Internet to conduct library searches.

For external training, NHI plans to partner with FHWA's resource centers, division and program offices, and other transportation organizations and agencies to help it develop and deliver Web conferences for their training needs. In February 2003, for example, NHI partnered with the Office of Planning, Environment, and Realty at FHWA to hold a Web conference on the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Future Web conference topics may include everything from new developments in highway structures to the deployment of intelligent transportation systems. One advantage of the system is that it does not take a tremendous amount of lead time to schedule, develop, and deliver new sessions, so it enables users to be more responsive on new topics.

To conduct a Web conference, instructors present visuals—typically Microsoft ® PowerPoint ® slides—to registered students who have a phone and a computer with Internet access. Conveniently, this training thus is accessible to students in any location where they have access to these two basic services: whether at their workstation desk, at home, or while traveling. No complicated or expensive connection is needed since the technology requires only regular Internet access. The audio portion of the training is delivered simultaneously via teleconference over a standard phone line.

Screen shot of Web conferencing interface
The Web conferencing interface shows the presenter's slideshow (right) and an interactive toolbar (left) that enables participants to e-mail questions to the presenter and chat with other attendees during group discussions.

Due to the variety of collaborative features available in this special learning environment, students may find that these Internet-facilitated Web sessions have more in common with classroom-based training than they expected. The Web conferencing technology (provided by PlaceWare®) allows for real-time communication between participants to create an engaging, interactive environment. Participants can ask questions of the instructor either over the phone or through the Internet, while instructors can poll participants on any given topic and see the tallied results instantaneously using a real-time voting feature. A mood indicator feature enables participants to alert the instructor if he or she is moving too quickly or slowly. Participants can communicate with one another during the session using a chat function, which is a beneficial feature when instructors want to break up sessions into group discussions or projects.

For more information about Web conferences or to find out about hosting a Web conference with NHI, contact Deborah Gwaltney at 703-235-1199 or debbie.gwaltney@fhwa.dot.gov.

E-commerce Adds to Convenience

Registering for an NHI course has never been easier. Earlier this year, NHI became the first FHWA agency to take advantage of e-commerce by instituting an online course registration system enabling participants to submit payment by credit card. Online registration is now an option for all NHI courses. In the future, NHI plans to use the same mechanism for Web conferencing sessions.

To learn more about transportation-related training courses available from NHI, consult the course catalog at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov or contact NHI at 4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703-235-0500 (phone); or 703-235-0593 (fax). For scheduling, contact Danielle Mathis-Lee at 703-235-0528 or danielle.mathis-lee@fhwa.dot.gov.

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