NEW YORK—Hill & Knowlton has launched a new Virtual Academy, an online educational system for employees featuring courses in public relations and agency management skills.

“With the Virtual Academy, we’ve bolstered our knowledge culture with a powerful e-learning engine that offers comprehensive and ever-expanding training for all levels of staff, regardless of location,” said Rick Zwern, worldwide training director. “We are a global firm with a tremendous depth of knowledge and resources. Training helps differentiate us from competitors, delivers on our promise of continuing professional education for employees and, most importantly, enhances client service.”

The Virtual Academy offers 10 courses, with 15 more to be added in 2003. The courses fall into three categories:
· Public relations “craft” courses, which are basic introductory classes on the fundamentals of public relations in the areas of research, planning, implementation, budgeting, etc.
· Technology Toolkit, which features modules explaining the firm’s internal information technology systems and tools
· People skills courses, which are generated by the firm’s human resources department and offers guidance in areas such as providing feedback, teambuilding skills, etc.

The web-based system allows users to work anywhere and at their own pace. Employees can design their coursework around a choice of courses including account planning, branding, budgeting basics, corporate communications, creativity, and crisis management, and research. The training platform combines traditional formats such as presentation slides with interactive features such as streaming video and audio clips, and other online resources to communicate and enliven key points.