USAC held their annual applicant and service provider trainings this week, leveraging an online platform due to COVID-19. We asked Funds For Learning E-rate Guides Rosalie Turpin and Jonathan Wilson to share their impressions and thoughts about the training sessions. While Jonathan has attended in-person USAC trainings in prior years, the online sessions were Rosalie’s first.
What’s something new you learned?
(Rosalie Turpin): I did not realize that you cannot have an endowment exceeding 50 million or be a for profit school to qualify for E-Rate money. The presenter was very thorough and, being a new E-Rate consultant, this was very useful information.
(Jonathan Wilson): Having experienced a few filing windows and USAC trainings, I have heard similar trainings quite a bit. That is because the E-rate program doesn’t have large changes every year. Which is all in all a good thing. With a large change in Category Two Budgets being implemented this last year, something new that I learned was how USAC is categorizing the seemingly fluid budget numbers (based on potential changing enrollment data) with three different categories: forecast, preliminary & confirmed. When I heard what those categories mean, this helped me figure out how to read the C2 budget information on USAC’s tool.
What was your overall impression of the trainings?
(Rosalie Turpin): My overall impression was that I think it is definitely a pandemic and although they did a wonderful job putting on the training there is nothing like in person learning. I thought it was a little short at times but overall, pretty good.
(Jonathan Wilson): My overall impression of these trainings was underwhelming. There is an inherent difference with webinars when compared against in person trainings and that is to be expected. The problem I found while listening to and watching the slide decks with these webinars is that it wasn’t very different from the already established training videos that USAC has online. In previous Fall Trainings that were held live, the trainings had more involvement from the participants throughout the presentation and not just during the Q&A time. This is the inherent difference: very impersonal presentations that feel like an online training video. The second- and third-day’s trainings did provide new information and the Q&A sections provided clarity to the prepared slides that were presented.
What training session was the most valuable to you and why?
(Rosalie Turpin): E-Rate Program Overview because the presenter was very helpful and prepared well.
(Jonathan Wilson): The Overview of Category Two Budgets and the Demo of the Category Two Budget Tool were the most valuable sessions to me because it took applicants through how to update their new Category Two budgets in EPC. This session’s pace was good – it wasn’t rushed, and each step of the process was explained very well. This topic was ideal for a webinar because we were able to see how EPC was built to handle the new budgets and the questions that were asked during Q&A gave the clarifications needed to understand how to best utilize this section in EPC.