The U.S. Army is saving considerable money while meeting increasing demands through centralized e-learning.
gov.Few organizations face challenges on a scale like the U.S. Army, which is undergoing a significant change: Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN). Its goal is to support soldiers who endure uncommon hardships and provide real-time resources to enhance learning opportunities — all in a cost-effective manner.
By centralizing education content, consolidating costs and delivering Internet-based courses to all Army personnel, the cost savings have been significant.
“An Army audit agency report determined that the Army saved approximately $86 million in education cost avoidance over three fiscal years by using Army e-Learning,” says Stan Davis, Army e-learning project officer.
The United States Army is engaged on many fronts. While the War on Terror receives news coverage daily, the ongoing pursuit for efficiencies and cost savings for personnel, recruiting and retention, and force readiness is sometimes buried in the headlines.
How It’s Set Up
The Army’s Distributed Learning System (DLS) places emphasis on enabling soldier readiness by providing on-demand training. DLS, the infrastructure that delivers distributed learning (DL), is breaking old training paradigms by providing training to the soldier anywhere at anytime. Using state-of-the-art technology, DLS streamlines training processes; automates training management functions; delivers training using electronic means; and enables military and civilian personnel, training developers, training managers, unit commanders and training non-commissioned officers (NCOs) to access training using the Web.
The newest component of DLS is the Army e-learning program, which provides free training for every active Army, National Guard, reservist, ROTC cadet and Department of the Army civilian with access to more than 2,600 commercial Web-based information technology, foreign language, business, leadership and personal development courses. Remote locations (including those in-theater in Iraq and Afghanistan) are supported with separate CD libraries as necessary. When requested by the Army contracting officer representative, individual soldiers are authorized courseware on CDs. The emphasis upon training availability is paramount to the success of Army e-learning endeavors.
The other four DLS components are:
(1) digital training facilities (DTF), located at 115 installations worldwide with video tele-training, computers, faxes, printers and high-speed Internet connections;
(2) deployed digital training campuses (DDTCs), which are mobile, networked systems of computers, servers and ancillary equipment to transfer information from satellites, generally utilized in remote or foreign soil locations when DTFs are not accessible;
(3) the Army learning management system (ALMS), which delivers training, manages training information, provides collaboration, scheduling and career planning opportunities; and
(4) an enterprise management center (EMC), which provides connectivity and technical support to all DFT managers and users, and houses the ALMS.
Managing the Training
Although not a formal portion of DLS, an integral part of the Army education system is the Army Training Requirements and Resources System (ATRRS). It is the Army management information system of record for managing student input to training. Army e-learning links directly to ATRRS. Soldiers are able to access e-learning only after ATRRS registration is concluded. ATRRS automatically updates soldier training transcripts whenever any training is completed, which includes e-learning courses, ensuring that training and education records (of completions) remain with a soldier throughout his or her career. The online system integrates manpower requirements for individual training with the process by which training is resourced and training programs are executed. ATRRS supports the Training Requirements Division of the Office of the Army G-1 in its Army-wide mission of integrating all phases of input to training management, during peacetime and mobilization. Additionally, ATTRS provides critical support in meeting three primary objectives: centralization of training requirements and resources data; management of input to training; and evaluation of program execution.
Additionally, the Army’s enterprise portal, Army Knowledge Online (AKO), is a primary component of its knowledge management (AKM) strategy and the Army Transformation. It is also one of two points of registration for Army e-learning (the other is the ATRRS home page).
AKO is the single point of entry into a robust and scalable knowledge management system; it is strategically changing the way the Army does business. By enabling greater knowledge sharing among Army communities, AKM fosters improved decision dominance by commanders and business stewards in the battlespace, organizations and mission processes. Following on the success and acceptance of AKO, a current initiative is already under way to create a unified Department of Defense (DOD) enterprise portal, which is known as Defense Knowledge Online (DKO).
The Army Command structure (G-1, G-3, CIO/G-6), Training Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and individual Major Commands (MACOMs) — when coupled with ATRRS and DLS — resource and effectively support Army-wide learning endeavors. The Army e-learning program, as a key portion of those efforts, represents an agile and highly capable portion of the education and training system and effectively satisfies both individual and organization needs on a global basis.
The Army e-learning program is subject to strict measures of performance and substance. As such, a quality-assurance surveillance plan (QASP) has been created that measures performance against program goals. Davis says that, “Providing our diverse personnel with timely training relevant to their job function is an ongoing challenge.”
The U.S. Army e-learning program provides invaluable educational and skill enhancing content and services to 1.4 million Army-affiliated personnel who are deployed globally, making it an essential portion of the Army DLS. The Army-hosted content offering has expanded from 800 courses in the 1990s to almost 3,000 today. The Army is focused very strongly on pushing every solider, every service member and most civilians to Army Knowledge Online for things that are important to them, from their career development, to their benefits. Even their family and learning resources are seen as part of that, and their are no restrictions on the use for authorized users of the content.
In a wartime environment, the DLS has continued to provide this valuable resource to soldiers and civilians around the world. It has proven to be a valuable resource that management has embraced because of cost savings and, more importantly, the cost avoidance that is attributed to the program.