Across the globe, digital technology and the ubiquitous nature of data are big change drivers, which are making it possible to take agile approaches to course design in the field of training and education. The Army is no different in its need to look to the future for innovative design approaches to learning. The Army needs to look at new ways to design our learning to make it more rigorous and relevant to Soldiers. At the Institute for Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development, we are looking to update and modernize and bring Army learning to the 21st century.
As part of the search to modernize Army learning, I visited an education technology company and met with some of the instructional designers there in order to get a sense of how cutting-edge learning management systems work. Having the latest innovations and identifying best practices in training and education technology outside of the military will be important as we develop the NCO Professional Development System and find ways to apply this to Army learning.
What a great opportunity this was!
While at the company, I learned about their use of the Learning Tools Interoperability framework, which is from a global learning initiative. More importantly, we engaged in a broader conversation around the table about design principles for content development and deployment of learning assets.
Using several commercial authoring tools, their design approach features a cognitive philosophy of interactivity and intelligent tutoring to provide individuals with tailored learning experiences. Of course, this is something we have wanted to explore with Army learning for the future. For example, each online course includes a “get ready” phase with learner collaboration and a diagnostic assessment. This upfront assessment of the student allows for the presentation of tailored content and a customized learning pathway for the individual student. That is typically followed by learning, practice and assessment phases of instruction within an online course.
What I enjoyed most about the visit was the opportunity to discuss data, tracking and assessment of learning. They used smart data capture features, which are remarkably scalable, allowing teachers and administrators to review data on student achievement from the district level down to the individual student level. Innovative technologies now allow instructional designers to build customized learning experiences and enterprising education companies like this one are establishing new benchmarks for scalable use, adaptation and management of learning content.
I also liked their approach to online courses, making purposeful use of media and video to support learning outcomes. They are not designed as flat page-turners on the screen. As the instructional designers explained their learning design approach and philosophy, I took copious notes and tried to think about how the Army might be able to take advantage of this and other companies’ best practices.
An example of something that could have practical application for the Army is their learning management system, which is configured with the goals of ease of access to learning content and empowerment of learners.
For example, the company’s e-learning platform provides learners with a personalized dashboard so the learner can track progress in single or multiple courses. So if I’m enrolled in three courses, I can quickly look at a card for each course and know that I’m 85 percent complete on this course, versus 92 percent on the other. That’s meaningful information for both learners and instructors who need to use their time efficiently.
It would be great to experiment with some of these design approaches to update our guided self-development courses and noncommissioned officer professional military education common core learning content! We are looking at making a digital campus that could provide a Soldier a more complete view of all of their learning requirements. That way, Soldiers can be more self-aware of where they are in their learning pathway and know which course needs to be completed by when.
Army training developers who create courses for Soldiers could benefit from learning about the cognitive design principles that learning companies like FuelEd employ. If the Army decided to incorporate similar types of innovative design features and economies of scale within online and blended learning programs, this would greatly benefit Soldiers and the Army learning enterprise.
After visiting the company, I drove away with a sense of optimism in knowing that through acquisition of the right technologies and adaptive solutions, the future of Army learning can be bright and dynamic.
I thank CSM Davenport for the opportunity to share this blog post. NCO 2020 is driving change for NCO professional development and training in the Army. We at INCOPD will stay relentless in our efforts to provide NCOs with the best professional development and training experiences they need to win in a complex world.