ADL Initiative Co-Labs


The vision of the ADL Initiative is to provide access to the highest quality learning and performance aiding that can be tailored to individual needs, and delivered cost effectively at the right time and at the right place.


The ADL Initiative has laboratories in two locations: Alexandria, VA and Orlando, FL. These Collaborative Laboratories (Co-Labs) provide the opportunity to prototype and test the latest learning technologies and innovations for the development and delivery of ADL technologies for the DoD. Research and prototyping at the two Co-Labs is primarily focused on various efforts to enhance the next-generation learning environment for the next-generation learner under the umbrella of a comprehensive Training and Learning Architecture. Products and services provided at these facilities include

  • Next Generation Learning Environment
  • Learning Registry
  • Games for Training
  • Instructional Design
  • Intelligent Tutors
  • Mobile Learning
  • Adaptive Training Research
  • SCORM® - Learning Standards
  • SCORM® Testing
  • Virtual Worlds
  • 3D Repository


The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative was a result of Presidential Executive Order 13111. Executive Order 13111 was signed on January 12, 1999 by President William J. Clinton, to ensure that DoD and other federal employees take full advantage of technological advances in order to acquire the skills and learning needed to succeed in an ever-changing workplace. The intent of the Executive Order was to provide flexible training opportunities to employees and to explore how federal training programs, initiatives, and policies can better support lifelong learning through the use of learning technology. The ADL Initiative is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Readiness).

The specific goals were to:

  • Identify and recommend standards for training software and associated services purchased by Federal agencies and contractors.
  • Facilitate and accelerate the development of key technical training standards in industry and in standards-development organizations.
  • Establish guidelines on the use of standards and provide a mechanism to assist DoD and other Federal agencies in the large-scale development, implementation, and assessment of interoperable and reusable learning systems.

The ADL Initiative was developed to harness the power of learning and information technologies and to standardize and modernize education and training. To accomplish that, the DoD established the first ADL Co-Lab in Alexandria, Virginia to provide an open forum for collaborative development and assessment of technical standards, prototypes, and associated tools in support of DoD needs. Since its inception, the ADL Initiative has fostered the development, dissemination, and maintenance of guidelines, tools, methodologies, and policies for the cost-effective use of advanced distributed learning resource sharing across DoD, other Federal agencies, and the private sector. It has also supported research and documentation of the capabilities, limitations, costs, benefits, and effectiveness of advanced distributed learning.

In May 2000, ADL participated in the development of the Department of Defense Implementation Plan for Advanced Distributed Learning. The Implementation Plan “describes the DoD Defense’s approach to carrying out the Department of Defense Strategic Plan for Advanced Distributed Learning (a report submitted to the 106th Congress on April 30, 1999), and includes information about specific ADL prototypes, program milestones, and associated resources.” To read the complete plan, visit this page.

ADL Co-Lab Network

Since 1999, the ADL Initiative has developed into a network of Co-Labs that includes the ADL Co-Labs in Alexandria, Virginia and Orlando, Florida; the Academic ADL Co-Lab at the University of Wisconsin; and the ADL Center for Intelligent Tutoring Systems Research & Development at the University of Memphis (Tennessee). The goals and capabilities of the ADL Initiative extend internationally via relationships with 10 ADL Partnership Labs that have been established in Canada, Latin America and Caribbean Regions, NATO ACT (in Virginia), New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, South Korea and the United Kingdom.


The Deputy Secretary of Defense directed the development of a department-wide strategy to harness the power of learning and information technologies to standardize and modernize education and training.

Although there was ample evidence that significant savings were possible with current technology, the ever-quickening pace of technological change, with its continuous evolution of proprietary platforms, makes it difficult to implement technologies on a large-scale. Conversely, these newer technologies have the potential to provide a more efficient and effective means of improving military readiness, achieving significant savings, reducing travel, and improving quality of life. The ADL Initiative’s strategy is to leverage the power of newer technologies by:

  • Exploiting existing network-based technologies
  • Creating platform-neutral, reusable courseware and content to lower costs
  • Promoting widespread collaboration to satisfy common needs
  • Enhancing performance with emerging and next-generation learning technologies
  • Developing a common framework that drives COTS product cycles
  • Establishing a coordinated implementation process.
  • Developing common standards and guidelines.
  • Releasing ADL specifications (e.g. SCORM)

The ADL Initiative can only fulfill its mission by partnering with the Services, Defense agencies, and Federal agencies in collaboration with the private sector and academia.

The ADL Initiative provides leadership to the learning community by:

  • Implementing guidance for designing and developing efficient, cost-effective, and global distributed learning.
  • Encouraging collaboration by demonstrating the practical application and success of learning technologies and methodologies.
  • Advancing the state-of-the-art in the science and technology associated with individual and collective education, training, performance-support, and assessment.
  • Promoting a coordinated implementation process with incentives for organizational and cultural change.

Research & Development Focus

Utilizing technology to deliver information when, where, and for whom it is needed to enhance performance has long been the goal of ADL. The Personal Assistant for Learning (PAL) is a long-term focus of ADL's R&D endeavors over the next 10-15 years. The goal of this research is to create a capability that anticipates learner needs, seamlessly integrates yet-to-be available information, and provides ubiquitous access to effective, personalized learning content and/or job performance aids that can be accessed from multiple non-invasive devices and platforms. Research projects funded under this topic area will include exploratory and advanced research related to this vision, as well as, prototype development and technology demonstrations.

Strategy: The PAL environment must allow the learner to seamlessly access a network of capable peers and/or mentors; train in multiple environments that include virtual worlds, mobile learning, serious games, and simulation; and assess and track performance throughout the learning process from multiple platforms/devices. The PAL's interface attributes must enhance the user experience for every learner in an easy-to-use and effective manner. Knowledge and information must be capable of being shared across the environment and must be available anytime/anywhere. Intelligent agents embedded in the PAL must ensure the user is known and the content provided to each user is adapted to each person's competency and profile. Related to the PAL is research required on a virtual world framework that facilitates plug-and-play capability for realistic training. The Strategy is encompassed in these two areas:

Next Generation Learner. Future learner research will focus on exploring ways learners can enhance learning skills and acquire greater cognitive adaptability through personalized, non-linear, technology-mediated experiences. Our research is particularly interested in understanding how we can best situate learners at the center of next generation learning environments. This research encompasses learners within military, public/private education, technical or trade schools, and even self-taught learners. ADL is teaming with several partners in this effort.

Next Generation Learning Environment. Learning environment research will focus on the access to individualized and relevant learning material that is provided where it is needed and delivered on a learning platform that best suits the learner’s needs. This will require greater communication between and among systems and content types. It is also critical that the learner is “tracked,” i.e., the learner is assessed and the scores (if applicable) are provided and accessed via the learning environment. The environment must incorporate social media (peer-to-peer communications), non-linear learning experiences, and include the integration of emerging technologies.