Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

ADL-DAU Sandbox: TLA and Competency-Based Learning Demonstration

February 17, 2021

Phil Abi-Najm, Rob Chadwick, Jonathan Poltrack, Brent Smith, Juli Tompkins

Video screenshot of diagram

Overview: This webinar will provide a project update and live demonstration of the “DAU Sandbox,” a cloud-based developmental environment that the ADL Initiative and the Defense Acquisition University (DAU) developed, in collaboration with USALearning (and vendors PowerTrain and Veracity), to support testing and evaluation of new digital learning technologies. The Sandbox incorporates Total Learning Architecture (TLA) specifications, so the applications within it can share data and function as an interconnected learning ecosystem.

Currently the Sandbox is built using a 10-server environment and includes a learning management system (LMS), assessment (quiz) tool, multiple learning records stores (LRS), several LRS data visualization dashboards, an instance of the Competency and Skills System (CaSS) application, an e-catalog of courses, and simulated learner records. The system also incorporates DATASIM, an xAPI data simulator, to support functional testing of the systems. Together, DAU, the ADL Initiative, and USALearning are evaluating the flow of data across the component systems to evaluate data-driven competency-based learning. Progress on these efforts will be shared during the webinar along with back- and front-end walkthroughs of the Sandbox.

Diagram for DAU

Audience: The webinar is intended for learning professionals, training specialists, IT professionals involved in knowledge management of learning content and social learning, and executive decision- makers looking for modern learning and performance ecosystem approaches that go beyond traditional training and tracking methods. It should also be useful to those interested in competency-based learning, TLA and learning ecosystems, and data-driven learning.

Speaker Biographies

Phil Abi-Najm
Phil has amassed over 20 years of combined public and private sector experience supporting the design and implementation of educational systems within the DoD. Currently serving as the Learning Solutions Center Director in the Defense Acquisition University’s (DAU) User Experience (UX) Directorate, he is the product owner for DAU’s public website. With a semi-overt nerdy passion for tinkering and making systems work better together, he and his team are on a journey to transform the DAU website into an elegant knowledge portal and informal learning environment that speaks “the love language” of the Total Learning Architecture.

Rob Chadwick
Currently a Partner at Veracity Technology Consultants, Rob is a software developer and data scientist who has been working in the distance learning field for more than 15 years. Rob spent 7 years with the ADL Initiative where he worked to foster interoperability of 3D assets, bring immersive simulation to the web, and contribute to the creation the Experience Application Programming Interface (xAPI). He leads development of the Veracity Learning Record Store software system and specializes in the scalability of learning analytics.

Jonathan Poltrack
Jonathan worked in the learning industry as a software engineer and project manager for over 20 years. He has many unique experiences including co-founding two learning technology companies and leading technical efforts at the ADL Initiative for over 13 years. Jonathan was an early contributor to the SCORM, a globally adopted e-learning standard. During this time, he led and participated in software projects including the SCORM Conformance Test Suite, the Sample Run-Time Environment, and a wide variety of content examples. Later, Jonathan shepherded efforts aimed at transitioning SCORM while specifying a new standards-based learning ecosystem including the xAPI.

Brent Smith
Brent is a SETA Contractor for the ADL Initiative and is a Software Systems Architect with over 25 years of experience in designing and developing learning technologies for government stakeholders, defining R&D roadmaps to meet organizational objectives, and establishing chains of research that align with strategic goals. As the ADL Initiative Research, Development, and Engineering (RD&E) Principal, Mr. Smith helps ensure the ADL Initiative research agenda is aligned with its overall strategy.

Juli Tompkins
Juli is the Director of Performance Consulting at PowerTrain, Inc. She has over 20 years of experience aligning technology with training and human resources to meet business needs. She has broad domain knowledge in designing and developing software tools to enhance training and human capital enterprises at all staffing levels. Juli successfully managed the development and delivery of agency-wide On-Line Career Mapping Systems as well as other systems to enhance professional growth through competency and skills development.

Contact: If you have any questions about the webinar, please contact the Technical Webinar Coordinator, Liz Bradley, at

Download the PDF One PagerDownload the SlidesWatch the Video

Related Projects