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Centra teaches intranet education

Start-up Centra Software thinks that it can teach corporations a thing or two.

Centra Software thinks that it can teach corporations a thing or two.

The Lexington, Massachusetts-based software maker has released Symposium 1.0, a client-server software package that allows real-time, instructor-led and self-paced training for corporate professionals.

Young entrepreneurs and mid-career professionals increasingly are turning to the Web for the continued training necessary in a rapidly changing digital world. The corporations they work for are beginning to do the same in an effort to train geographically dispersed employees without paying to fly them to costly training seminars, Centra says.

Market researcher International Data Corporation estimated that corporations spent $15 billion on IT training alone in 1996. Centra Software says that the entire market--including training for financial institutions and sales and marketing organizations--was $50 billion in 1996 and will almost double by 2000.

"We offer the delivery platform, the companies can deliver any kind of content they want," said Lisa LeBlanc, a Centra spokeswoman. LeBlanc says that Symposium will allow companies to leverage investments in their own content libraries and push professionally built courses over the Web.

Java-based Symposium 1.0 allows corporations to both build and deliver Web courses. It comes with a Body Language feature that allows online participants to raise their hands, respond yes or no, and provide anonymous feedback to the instructor; a Choreography feature that lets instructors pass a "microphone" indicating when students can speak to the class or write on a whiteboard; and a Quiz Designer lets companies quickly build tests that are automatically graded with instant results given to the instructor and students.

Symposium 1.0 has attracted a solid base of customers ranging from training companies to Fortune 1000 organizations to Internet service providers, claims Centra. Customers include AT&T, Bay Networks, Macromedia, and BBN Planet.

Introductory pricing for Symposium 1.0 is $35,000 per server for 50 concurrent users, and includes one Symposium Course Builder license, and unlimited free download of Symposium client Java applets. Additional Symposium Course Builder licenses are available at the introductory price of $3,000 each.