The Defense Ammunition Center (DAC), which provides ammunition training, explosives safety instruction and logistics support to Department of Defense (DoD) military and civilian personnel, has students dispersed across the United States and overseas in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until recently, DAC had a growing problem to solve. By relying on instructor-led classes and CD-ROM-based instruction, DAC struggled to meet mission-critical training demands that were better suited for distance learning.
DAC developed each of its training courses independently and for a specific audience. Learning material became redundant, sometimes inconsistent. Each new training project involved starting over, often repeating past work. In many cases, military personnel took on-site training courses for several days or weeks, which required them to be away from their units and jobs. This was expensive and put a strain on units that needed personnel present for duty.
In January 2005, DAC chose an enterprise-learning suite in a hosted environment. The suite, made by SumTotal, enabled images, video, research studies and checklists to be handled as knowledge objects, incorporated within the suite’s LCMS/LMS system and provided to members of the ammunition community.
In addition to evaluating the DAC’s current training systems, military training specialists designed a methodology and plan for ongoing assessments of the DAC’s future training methods. This would determine the long-term effectiveness of DAC training by measuring how well students transfer skills, knowledge and attitudes presented during training.
“We used to spend a lot of time doing what the LMS does for us now,” said William S. Scott, distance-learning supervisor, DAC Training Directorate. “Now we can easily standardize everything. Developers can now focus their creative energies on content not creating tools from scratch.”
DAC determined the appropriate LMS and LCMS specifications within 90 days. It fully implemented the new SCORM-conformant DAC courseware within six months after the project kickoff—half of the industry-standard time for implementations of this size and scope.
Within the first year, more than 10,000 students received ammunition training through the LMS from a variety of locations that include Germany, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Kuwait and Iraq. DAC estimates that the number of students could easily exceed 50,000 in the next few years.
“Having instant access to DAC’s distance-learning products was a tremendous resource,” said Peggy Dean, quality assurance specialist, Ammunition Surveillance, Camp Ashraf, Iraq. “It always fit into our schedules and without ever having to leave the relative security of our compound.”
With the LMS in place, DAC significantly reduced the time and cost of readiness by rapidly producing, delivering, tracking and adapting critical training and information. Once it creates instructional materials, the only recurring cost is the hosting and licensing fees. This means that access to all of DAC’s training modules can be delivered at an annual cost of less than $20 per student.
The DAC can now train anyone with an Internet connection. This has a positive impact on students’ mission readiness and the effectiveness of their units, particularly for soldiers in remote locations. It also ensures all personnel acquire the knowledge they need to do their jobs, as well as increasing safety and security for themselves and for their teams. “If we did anything right, it was because we took a comprehensive view of what our audiences wanted our LMS to do for them,” Scott said. “We have military personnel in the field who need to know the latest shipping and handling procedures for ordnance. And pulling a soldier out of the line in Iraq to take this sort of training in Kuwait often isn’t the best use of the military’s resources. It makes us less effective in accomplishing the mission.”
With training modularized, students don’t need to take a full two-week course to get the 10 minutes of specific instruction they might need. The DAC also gains a real-time, 360-degree view of the skills, training records and performance of its personnel.
According to DAC, training is now easy to maintain, redundancies are eliminated, and time and energy are saved. Changes can be made real time. Updates are automatic. New learning modules no longer need to be created from scratch and new CD-ROMs never need to be burned and shipped. Also, an individual at a satellite facility can easily author information and upload it quickly for everyone’s use.
“The LMS can prepare students for face-to-face training and also provide a lifeline to their lessons after they get to the field,” Scott said. “This helps students stay connected to their newly acquired skills, and it increases retention. This is crucial to mission readiness and success.”
James Gill is director of government solutions for SumTotal Systems and is also a decorated U.S. Army veteran with more than 20 years service. Gill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.