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MADLx Supports Field Testing for Distributed Learning Technologies

December 22, 2020

This month, the Maturing ADL in Exercises (MADLx) project supported the Joint Headquarters exercise, conducted at the Ivan Cherniakhovskyi National Defence University of Ukraine. MADLx is using this exercise and others to validate digital learning tools and techniques, and the application of learning analytics. The digital learning elements added to this most recent exercise include pre-event online courses and e-books (i.e., the Personalized eBook for Learning, or PeBL) along with cross-platform analytics and performance visualization dashboards built from Experience Application Programming Interface (xAPI) data produced by the different training technologies.

“As a member of the ADL Global Partnership Network, we were pleased to host MADLx testing as part of the Joint HQ exercise,” said Lieutenant Colonel Maksym Tyschenko, Chief of the Scientific ADL Center of the Ivan Cherniakhovskyi National Defence University of Ukraine. “Our shared testing of new learning technologies during this event will improve the university’s student training, and our readiness for joint operations.”

Ukrainian military advisors prepare for a joint exercise
Ukrainian military advisors prepare for a joint exercise in October 2020. Source: DVIDS

This Ukrainian joint exercise integrated multiple data streams, including the first military field test of xAPI-driven analytics from PeBL e-books. The 130 military participants’ digital learning performance data will be correlated with their skill assessments from the exercise. The resulting data set can be explored with an interactive dashboard, to include visualizations that illuminate the relationships between the online learning and exercise performance outcomes.

Six exercises have been supported thus far under the MADLx project, with five others planned through 2022 including a non-military exercise focused on disaster response. This year, in addition to the Ukraine-led Brigade 20.1 and Joint HQ exercises, MADLx supported October’s Bold Quest 20.2 at Camp Atterbury, Indiana.

The Bold Quest sponsor, Joint Staff J6, asked participants to complete pre-event online training focused on the Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK), a suite of geospatial software for warfighter collaboration. A control group received traditional ATAK training. After the exercise, performance outcomes were shared with the MADLx team for analysis. A report on the results will be provided to the ADL Initiative in January.

Marines in classroom auditorium
Marines training to use ATAK for Bold Quest 20.2. Source: ATAK Program

“Digital learning applications can make training faster, easier, and less costly, but we need data to determine whether they are as effective as real-world training,” said Dr. Aaron Presnall of the Jefferson Institute, the lead performers on the MADLx project. “With DoD, readiness and competency are paramount, so these new approaches need to be proven, and repeatable with sound data analytics, before they are widely adopted.”

The next confirmed exercise is CJSE21, short for Combined Joint Staff Exercise 2021, to be held in Sweden in April 2021. This fully distributed 2,000-participant computer-assisted exercise will involve field testing and validation of a MADLx-provided dashboard prototype. The dashboard will take in xAPI learner data from online (mobile and desktop) courses and e-book content, as well as skills performance data from the exercise itself, to create improved visualizations and performance analyses.

Marines using device in wooded area
Marines in training during the Bold Quest 20.2 exercise. Source: DVIDS

xAPI makes it possible to collect and aggregate performance outcomes from across platforms. For the MADLx-supported exercises, the xAPI-based data are also fused with data from other standard formats, such as outputs from computer-aided exercise simulators. Collectively, these data sets inform a real-time performance dashboard that commanders, exercise organizers, and individual trainees can review. The MADLx team also uses the data to measure the training efficacy of the supplementary distributed learning elements, and to assess overall return on investment for these technologies.

All of the multinational exercises supported by the MADLx project have been conducted in close collaboration with ADL Global Partnership Network members, including the Swedish, Ukrainian, and NATO Allied Command Transformation ADL partnership centers. Participation in the US-led exercises has been executed in collaboration with Joint Knowledge Online, a core member of the US Defense ADL Advisory Committee.

For more information on MADLx click here.

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