LeapIt.com Set to Jump Into Web World

LeapIt.com Set to Jump Into Web World

Online Certification Bypasses Time-Consuming and Costly Classes, Training

By Jennifer Freer, Staff Writer

A new Web site, LeapIt.com, debuts May 22 with free online information technology certification training for businesses and government employees.

"With LeapIt, the leading obstacles that prevent certification ? time and cost ? are removed from the equation," said Allen Tait, chief executive officer of LeapIt. "Access to online training is delivered to members at their convenience, on their schedule, and it's free."

LeapIt.com LLC of Baltimore was founded in May 1999 to address the shortage of IT professionals among commercial and government organizations, said company officials. According to LeapIt estimates, there are about 7 million IT professionals in the United States and more than 750,000 job openings. Of those openings, anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 positions will not be filled because there are not enough trained professionals.

That is where LeapIt saw its opportunity, Tait said. LeapIt.com is a member-based virtual campus that brings together support services, such as online certification training, job opportunities, a career center, a bookstore and interaction with peers.

The company, which has about 25 employees, will offer free training to at least the first 25,000 members, with plans to continue offering free training as part of its business strategy. To take part, one needs to get online and register via an e-mail address, free of charge.

"We are [distinctive] from other online training programs, because we are offering training for free and a structure to support the training, such as collections of resources, certification advisers and career counseling," said Ed Tittle, vice president of IT certification for LeapIt.

LeapIt offers Microsoft Certified System Engineer courses, Microsoft Office User Specialist courses, A, Network, Cisco Certified Network Associate and Java programming. LeapIt plans to expand its course offerings, making 200 training areas available for all skill levels, and upgrade courses when needed.

Revenue for the site will be generated from Web advertising and the sale of the products needed to participate in courses, company officials said. The materials will be provided to members at a competitive, discounted rate compared with outside vendors, they said.

The company also partnered with a content provider Course Technology, a division of Thompson Learning of Cambridge, Mass., to produce an IT curriculum. Course Technology will benefit from selling its published materials through the LeapIt site.

The Chauncey Group International Ltd., Princeton, N.J., a subsidiary of Educational Testing Services, also is an investor and strategic partner that specializes in certification exam development.

And bringing extra expertise to the group is Christopher Hoehn-Saric, founder of Sylvan Learning Systems, who will be chairman of the board at LeapIt.


The site got off the ground not only with strategic partners but also some required financial assistance. LeapIt received $2 million in initial funding from Sterling Capital Ltd., a private investment firm in Chicago, in October 1999.

The company subsequently received a second round of funding totaling $14 million. Of that amount, the Chauncey Group contributed $6 million, and other traditional venture funding accounted for the rest.

LeapIt is targeting several audiences, including government employees, junior IT professionals (those IT workers with just a few years' experience under their belts) future IT professionals, community college students, military personnel and people seeking a career change.

At present, the federal government spends tens of millions of dollars a year to provide training programs to its employees, and even more on desktop application training, such as Microsoft Office, Word and PowerPoint, said Jack Lee, LeapIt's chief technology officer.

LeapIt plans to address the IT training dilemma in three ways, Lee said:

?LeapIt will address work-force retraining issues within government agencies. For example, federal facilities are shutting down at Oak Ridge National Laboratories in Tennessee, the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina and assorted military bases. The government would benefit if employees affected by closings or downsizings had access to low-cost IT training in new job areas, Lee said.


?By partnering with large IT companies that support government agencies, LeapIt can help professionals in future training. The contracts are signed with agency requirements based on today's needs, but over time, the requirements might increase and the contractor may need added expertise. Systems integrators could use LeapIt to train its own employees and keep them up to date with the latest technology to better serve their government customers, Lee said.


?Finally, LeapIt could partner with the agencies on training programs, Lee said, citing examples such as the Department of Agriculture's Graduate School program, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense.

Using such types of partnership, agencies such as the Agriculture Department could take advantage of online training, since many times the agencies lack adequate facilities to meet government demand, especially in cases of using Microsoft Office software, according to Lee.

Agencies would be better able to keep workers up to speed on computer and IT programs, Lee said.

If government employees had access to training at their desks, it would save agencies money, Lee said, although he provided no specifics. LeapIt would augment existing services at agencies such as the Agriculture Department and reach a larger population as well, he added.

The Agriculture Department offers training for many IT programs for both day and evening classes, but not online yet, said Marisa Olszewski, a marketing specialist with Agriculture. That could change within the next six months, she said.

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