Lotus pushes ahead with distance learning line

Continuing its efforts to establish itself outside the groupware market, Lotus ships LearningSpace Anytime 3.0, a new addition to its distance learning product family.

Continuing its efforts to establish itself outside the groupware market, Lotus today began shipping a new addition to its distance learning product family.

Lotus LearningSpace Anytime 3.0, the newest version of the company's distributed learning software, which allows users to learn either through self-paced materials, live interaction with others in a virtual classroom, or collaboration with others independent of time and place.

Lotus has been in the distance learning market for some time, but as the messaging market becomes saturated, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based IBM subsidiary has turned to the distance learning market for alternative revenue.

In a study conducted for Lotus, International Data Corporation estimates that the worldwide market for software, services, and content for online learning will exceed $15 billion by 2002.

LearningSpace Anytime 3.0 is a server software application that delivers online courses that can be accessed either from a Web browser or the Lotus Notes client.

LearningSpace Anytime 3.0 enables the integration of real-time learning sessions with asynchronous collaboration in a single course. Students and trainees are able to work at their own pace on course material and to meet instructors and classmates online for a "live" virtual class at a specific time and date.

The self-paced learning mode of LearningSpace Anytime allows students to control the pace and volume of learning; while in the asynchronous collaboration mode of LearningSpace, collaborative learning occurs according to each student's schedule instead of a specific time; and while in live sessions, instructors and students use shared applications, whiteboards, and simultaneous Web "follow-me" capabilities to deliver class content.

"The key point of this release is integration," said Debbie Black, director of marketing for Lotus's distributed learning group.

In live sessions, instructors and students use shared applications, whiteboards, and simultaneous Web "follow-me" capabilities to deliver class content. This same content is also available for use in the self-paced and collaborative environments.

The new product also includes a broad range of course content and technical and educational services that allow organizations to quickly realize the productivity benefits and cost savings of distributed learning.

As previously reported, the IBM subsidiary has rolled out the Lotus CoursePak Provider Network, a course content distribution program that offers "one-stop" access to a portfolio of prepackaged and customizable online courseware.

The CoursePak Provider Network is part of Lotus's strategy to build a worldwide market around the company's distributed learning platform, Lotus LearningSpace, the company said.

The management and administrative component for LearningSpace--LearningSpace Campus--is currently in beta and will ship in the third quarter, according to Black.

The estimated retail price for LearningSpace 3.0 is $10,500 per server and $300 per enrolled user. Discounts apply to academic and volume purchases.

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