Here’s How the DoD is Connecting Warfighters to Learn Faster From Each Other in 2019

by Yasir Saleem

posted on 06-11-2019

Online learning technology makes it easier to share knowledge faster, keep content up to date, track progress with ease, personalize content based on individual needs, and makes it much more convenient to learn from anywhere, anytime. The problem is, traditional Learning Management Solutions (LMS) don’t provide these benefits. Organizations are now moving toward investing in creating richer, personalized, and more measurable learning experience online.

Traditional LMS’s are so 2018.

Now, the talk in the DoD — and across the private sector — is about “experience-driven learning,” or EDL.

EDL is a new, blank canvas approach to building a modern, interactive learning experience that’s beyond what traditional online learning systems offer.

In a nutshell: It brings together the best of ‘real world’ in-person learning and online learning into one — making it much easier to manage knowledge transfer from trainings, courses, to connecting daily via Intranets.

The problem today:

We’re thinking too small when it comes to online learning

Technology shouldn’t limit us to stick to its parameters.

Technology should serve us in thinking bigger and better about our processes today, and allow us to give even more to our users, faster. It also gives a flexible foundation to build upon and evolve over time.

Yet we’ve taken traditional learning systems at face value, and most systems haven’t updated their features in years. We haven’t been thinking and creating ahead enough based on the technology we have in front of us, to ensure the sharing of information is effective, enjoyable, and seamless online.

Some people argue that online learning doesn’t “stick” like live, in-person learning does.

But the truth is, one of the reasons real-world learning works so well is because it allows for free-flowing conversation.

A lot of learning happens outside of a rigid step-by-step curriculum.

People converse at water coolers, chats, or break rooms. It’s the open and personal dialogue that happens between two peers, where things click, and you learn. It’s an important instance that happens and is often not recorded.

Conversing is the point of learning.

And an informal community encourages conversation — and learning — to happen naturally.

But today’s LMS’s are often static, with no easy way of conversation

It also requires learning managers to figure out their own ways to set everything up — slowing them down as they figure out the details of different tech. For instance, they need to know how to:

  1. Manage all the course content and transcripts (post it, track it).
  2. Deliver it to end users and be able to assign content to them.
  3. Download and share reporting, to see progress, who’s complying and completing the courses, and who needs reminders.

Unfortunately, many organizations today hobble together these features to make it work the way they want. OR they stick with a limited approach that their LMS provides, due to restricted time or funds.

People want more flexibility to make their own vision of learning. This is confirmed by our conversations with customers, psychologists, and learning experts for years.

EDL makes it all easier — from trainings to community-building on public-facing websites and Intranets

Experience-driven learning gives learning managers one beautiful, intuitive platform to not only manage all trainings — but to also manage and transform Intranets to be a community where people are actively connecting and sharing information.

The approach is experience-first. Then build. Not the other way around.

By taking a blank canvas approach, you can freely think about what that experience could look like — and true design thinking can take place. How should the information flow in real life, and how can that be translated online to give even more value? What should we track for afterwards to constantly understand what’s working and what’s not—so we can adapt to each individual learner’s needs?

This allows the learning manager to imagine what’s ideal for your current workforce to learn — from the organization and from each other. And personalize the journey for each group involved.

How the U.S. Marine Corps made it easier for their people to learn from each other — to better serve and protect

The U.S. Marine Corps leveraged new learning technology that’s:

  1. Built on an open source platform.
  2. Cloud-ready. Fed-ramp approved.
  3. Flexible in the back-end and front-end — to shape how training is completed, delivered, and managed.
  4. Able to personalize each training and keep it engaging with a social component so people can connect (and learn from each other).
  5. Allows each user to personalize their own experiences of what they want to be notified on and how. From there, they get only the content they’re interested in.

Below are some screenshots of their updated online learning experience.

It includes collaborative elements such as forums where you can have threaded discussions, blogs, and Q&As where you can post a question and crowd-source answers. Commenting is also available to keep people connected and talking.

The back-end process of setting up content also became more straightforward and easier to build on without a developer — including reporting capabilities.

More examples of EDL in practice — in the field

Maybe, today, your workforce is scattered around the world with different roles. And people want to connect with people like them. With EDL, like-minded people can connect and build their own private sub-communities.

This helps them find each other. To let people with different mindsets informally learn from each other and share ideas — contributing to design thinking and answering each other’s’ questions online. The community allows people to create a private space, or keep it open, and to share information that’s much more focused and relevant to their jobs or focus.

In the Marine Corps, they’re leveraging the same function, with sub-communities being created by different groups such as snipers or bombing specialists, so each Marine can connect, learn about other groups, and even explore new career paths.

Another example is Navy EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). They are out in the field disarming IEDs and various types of bombs. While in the school house, they may have learned to not cut the red wire and cut the yellow instead. However, out in the field, they do not see red or yellow, and it’s just a green wire. What do you do? This is an example where classroom learning, or instructional and formal learning, may not have fully equipped a person to deal with a real-life situation.

EDL allows for a more natural, less formal way of learning to take place — allowing for an EOD tech to take a picture or make a video, submit that easily to the system, where peers can see as the content is uploaded and submitted. The tech gets near real-time feedback from the community of EOD techs, and the instructor sees this activity and updates their curriculum and courses accordingly.

Take the Army or Air Force. If you look at the maintenance crew and their workflow, that’s another place where informal content allows for deeper learning to take place.

A maintenance tech could be working on a F-16 has to replace a part, where he’s not entirely sure what to do. With EDL, he can quickly search using a tablet or handheld device for “F-16 maintenance,” and the system pulls up forums, discussions and various posts around that subject matter. In the forum, people have posted reference material, comments and feedback — so he can quickly see this data and learn from it and be able to come to a conclusion to his own problem.

In the DoD, like many government organizations — learning environments need to be dynamic and adaptive, as new learning can take place anytime, and mission-critical decisions depend on it.

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Topics: Industry, Government