Interview - April 2002
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Babel Buster Network Gateways: Big Features. Small Price.
Control Solutions, Inc. - Minnesota

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 Jack McGowanJack McGowan and Ken Sinclair 

John J. “Jack” McGowan, CEM is author and Vice President of Energy Control Inc., an Energy Service Company and System Integrator.  McGowan has worked on numerous multi-million dollar projects in every capacity from design through financing as an end user and ESCO. He has published 5 books including “Direct Digital Control” on Fairmont Press.  The Association of Energy Engineers named him 1997 “International Energy Professional of the Year”, and he is listed in Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Millenium edition, Marquis Press. McGowan sits on the Energy User News Technical Advisory Board and is a Contributing Editor with

Web-based Training

Sinclair - Why are professionals interested in Web-based training?

McGowan:  It will be years before it is truly understood how the tragic events of 911 have impacted every aspect of life in the United States. One major area of impact of course has been on travel, and the fact that both individuals and companies have cut back dramatically. This has affected many businesses including the professional training business, and perhaps accelerated the trend toward Web-based Training. There are a number of factors that have already created tremendous demand for professional development that is completely flexible and not dependent on a specific time or place. Enter the Web, and the concept of asynchronous learning environments. Given the current climate toward travel, the is an optimum way to offer professional development training without travel, and employees can be asked to do it on their own time.

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Sinclair - Is Web-based training a credible for of professional development?

McGowan:  Absolutely, in fact this approach is not only growing in popularity for professional courses, it has become common in Higher Education as well. According to a Newsweek Article last year, more than 75% of the Universities in the United States already have online degree programs. Web-based course are not only available for pursing a college degree, they are being offered by all sorts of organizations. Manufacturers offer product training in electronic forms, as do trade organizations offer this form of training on a wide range of topics. A 60 Minutes interview last year quoted the president of a major University who said any institution that does not offer online programs will probably not exist in the next decade. In my mind that same fate will befall any training organization that does not embrace Web-based training.

Sinclair -  What is an asynchronous learning environment?

McGowan:  The real benefit of Web-based training, as with other virtual offerings, is to create a virtual classroom that students can log in to anytime, anywhere. Think of the traditional classroom as synchronous, everyone must arrive at the same time and participate for learning to take place, and to pass the course!  Asynchronous environments rely on a virtual environment, like a chat room, that participants can log on to at any time. Lectures, messages and other posting information will be there from participants to read and respond to, and therefore it is possible to have an ongoing open-ended dialog. Even though the full group does not sign on simultaneously, they are able to create dialogs on topics and comment on both course materials and real world data.

Sinclair - How do professionals take an online seminar?

McGowan:  The first requirement of course is to identify an organization that offers a seminar topic that is of interest. The next step is to sign up and order materials. A Seminar Course book is typically made available to provide a reference document and the participant will be given assignments. This form of training is self-paced in terms of time, but the seminar materials provide a detailed outline of the reading and written assignments that must be completed along with the dates that these will be due. The participants will post a bio in a public venue and on a regular weekly basis will sign on to the public virtual environment. Participants will read and if desired download topics from the public classroom and interact with other seminar members. This is an excellent opportunity to share with some of the seminars greatest resources, other participants. As written assignments are due, participants will submit these to the instructor's personal email. The instructor will provide feedback or grading on written submittals, and at the end of the seminar issue a Certificate of Completion.

Reliable Controls Sinclair - What about Academic Integrity?

McGowan:  One of the most common questions that people ask deals with the potential for open-ended forums to be too open. Web-based training deals with this by having both "public" and "private" communication. Public communication takes place in the open forum and offers the opportunity for participants to share ideas and engage in debate. Private communication may be a write only forum or an email, in any case the instructor is able to request information from participants that is not in open forum. In this way, tests or papers can be submitted for credit toward seminar completion in a private venue that ensures academic integrity. A final comment of note is that academic integrity is typically more of a problem for higher education, professionals who seek to take ongoing training in this venue are motivated to learn and are not likely to violate the academic trust.

Sinclair - When will Building Automation Seminars be offered on line?

McGowan:  Very soon, the first seminar will be offered starting May 1, 2002. This exciting seminar "Open Systems for Building Automation" is the product of more than 15 years of intensive and ongoing research on Data Communications standards including BACnet™ and LON™. The predecessor to this seminar was been taught in the United States and Southeast Asia, and been attended by hundreds of energy professionals. This new version of the seminar has been completely updated and offers an objective overview of Open Systems for Building Automation with a pragmatic focus on educating professional to help them make better buying decisions. The seminar also integrates Web Communication for open systems.

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