When learning executives talk about “mission-critical” training, they are generally referring to learning initiatives that build the bottom line and bring business results to their organizations. The phrase takes on a different meaning when applied to the armed forces, where even the smallest pieces of the learning puzzle can impact the success of combat operations. Support for those operations comes from all kinds of soldiers and professionals who have learned how to perform their duties effectively. Among the supporting cast for combat operations are the IT and network professionals who keep the communications and information systems secure and running smoothly.
Over the next five years, network field personnel in the United States Air Force will receive blended learning in various technologies. NETg, a part of The Thomson Corp., will implement its Open Learning Solution to provide training to 8,000 to 10,000 IT professionals in the Air Force each year. Topics covered by the training include Windows 2000, Exchange 2000, Network+ (a networking certification program provided by the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA), Internetworking With TCP/IP, CiscoWorks, HP OpenView and more.”
The challenges of training members of the Air Force are similar to challenges faced by other large, globally dispersed organizations. Joe Dougherty, president of NETg, said, “The classic challenge of a large organization is the distributed nature of the training that’s required in multiple locations.” The Air Force, he said, has its own heterogeneous technology platform to train to, “so they have multiple technologies that they need to address the training.”
Add to these common challenges the fact that all branches of the U.S. armed forces have traditionally maintained very high standards for their training, and the difficulty of finding the appropriate solutions becomes clear.”
In partnership with external researchers and other companies and academic organizations, NETg did a Job Impact Study, showing the value of blended learning over single-delivery methods. “Fundamentally, the study was designed to determine what impact blended learning would have relative to any individual mode of learning,” said Dougherty. “And the clear conclusion is that multiple learning opportunities are significantly better. There’s some variability from method to methods, but in all cases, when you combine methods one, two and three, you get significantly enhanced performance.”
Blended learning uses multiple training-delivery methods to teach learners. It might include such methods as instructor-led training, e-learning, simulations, text and mentoring. According to the Job Impact Study, blended learning groups were 27 percent to 32 percent more accurate in task performance and performed the measured tasks 41 percent to 51 percent faster than those who used e-learning alone.
The solution NETg will deliver to the Air Force, Dougherty said, “would be an example of a gourmet blend.”
“We identified 10 different off-the-shelf technologies that they need a large number of people trained to, and we developed a blended approach to getting them trained,” he added. This blended approach will include self-study, pre-instruction assessment, 24×7 mentoring, on-site instructor-led courses, post-instruction assessments and e-learning courseware.
“The approach is loosely modeled after our Wave Boot Camps,” said Dougherty. “There’s a very strong self-study, pre-training, pre-event program. The learner has access to online assessments where their skills are evaluated in advance of the class, and they’re given a prescribed self-study program that involves books and NETg library courses.”
Once the learner reaches the appropriate level of training, he or she can enter the classroom for the instructor-led, hands-on training. “The classroom is conducted in an accelerated format, and they are delivered the instructor-led training and then a post-assessment to determine whether they completed the mission or not,” said Dougherty.
The blended approach, Dougherty said, gives the learners a chance to get hands-on training, in addition to online components that help them prepare for the classroom experience, cutting down on valuable class time.
Upon completion of the training, learners will have the option of pursuing an external certification from vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco.
Dougherty said the key to a successful blended learning implementation is dedication to learning and the right vendor partners. “I have to credit the Air Force for their commitment to training and their commitment to quality,” Dougherty said. “I think if you start out with that and a very specific objective, then the key is to work with a partner that’s solutions-oriented.”
Emily Hollis is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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For more information, see https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=2353.
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For more information, see https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=2350.
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For more information, see https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=2347.
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For more information, see https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=2341.
Study Identifies Three Key Service Skills for Earning Customer Loyalty
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For more information, see https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=2338.
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