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PlaceWare sets table for Web-based training

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PlaceWare Inc., Mountain View, Calif., introduced last Monday a specialized line of Web conferencing software and services that costs about $100 to $200 per connected desktop and delivers live and replayable employee and customer training at multiple locations.

The eLearning release includes software that allows people to design Web audio-video interactive media, network services that ensure the programming is available as a live event and on a replay basis, and integration with monitoring applications from leading vendors in that field. In addition, PlaceWare provides staffing support for first-time moderators of eLearning training sessions.

A key market for PlaceWare’s eLearning platform is sales managers. BASF Corp. says it saved $75,000 in sales-force costs by using PlaceWare’s pre-existing training software and services. Nearly a third of PlaceWare’s 2,200 customers use its software and services to connect sales forces and marketing departments.

The goal of the eLearning program will be to convert additional existing customers to the new software and services, while also growing business in the public and private sectors, PlaceWare’s President-CEO Barry James Folsom said.

The release of the eLearning brand is three-pronged, Folsom said, and includes:

•Desktop software designed to make it easy for people to build browser-based learning programs;

•Ongoing network services and professional consulting services to ensure the programs are effectively programmed and available all the time;

•Training management software to allow managers to monitor how trainees are progressing through courses.

PlaceWare’s introduction of eLearning comes on the heels of another effort—distributing software and donating network time to relief workers involved in the World Trade Center, Pentagon and biological mail attacks.

"The morning of Sept. 11, we decided to offer our services for emergency government agencies for free, and with the anthrax scare we are extending that offer," said Folsom, who confirmed extensive work with at least 10 government agencies. "The use is identical to the way our customers use PlaceWare in business, but the content is often more poignant,’’ he said.

The main direct competitor of PlaceWare is WebEx Communications Inc., San Jose, whose products and services have also been widely used during Sept. 11 relief efforts.

Steve Rezac, manager-sales training with the agricultural products division of BASF Corp., Research Triangle Park, N.C., saved his company $75,000 in travel costs and lost employee time by shifting a planned national meeting from a physical event to a PlaceWare eLearning program after Sept. 11’s events.

The development platform allowed for quick creation of event programming, Rezac said. Because air travel takes longer since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said his company will use this virtual conferencing in lieu of selected travel in the future.

"This is probably one of the best ways we’ve used conferencing software for competitive advantage," Rezac said.

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