by MAJ Heather Meeds
As other articles in this edition of Army Communicator have discussed, the Signal Center established the University of Information Technology this year to promote lifelong learning so the Regiment could meet its education-and-training requirements for its Signal and information-technology soldiers, leaders and units worldwide. Lifelong learning starts with entry into the Army, continues throughout active service and extends to alumni.
UIT and the IT lifelong-learning training master plan are being implemented at the Signal Center in stages. The master plan includes personal-computer-based simulations as optimal education-and-training materials to showcase the computer�s capabilities as a virtual tool. PC-based simulations allow students to enhance their abilities by using "learning by doing" materials. Simulations have the look and functionality of real equipment at a reduced cost and will assist in eliminating training bottlenecks. Simulations also increase hands-on training time and are exportable worldwide to support lifelong learning.
The first PC simulation developed was a pilot program for the military-occupation specialty 31R course, which started at Fort Gordon, Ga., Oct. 31. This simulation of the Army/Navy terminal radio communications (AN/TRC 173B) will enhance the assignment-oriented training concept that�s an initial focus of UIT. By using simulations and AOT, the Signal Center will train more soldiers at less cost.
Tasks performed by Signal and IT soldiers and leaders are well suited for PC-based simulations training. Most skills required to perform these tasks can best be acquired via the "learning by doing" technique. This technique will be used in the resident classroom as well as in a distance-learning setting.
Required Signal/IT skills include detailed technical subjects that can be supported with PC-based simulations. The tactics associated with planning, establishing, operating and maintaining these systems and networks are relatively simple in comparison to combined-arms tactics and don�t require complex tactical simulations. Indeed, there are a number of existing military databases and simulations, as well as commercial-off-the-shelf simulations, which either support or can be adapted to meet many of the university�s tactical-training needs.
These simulations are part of the education-and-training materials, instruction and management we�re preparing to support students at the Signal Center, remote campuses and other locations. The simulations support instruction in skills for accessing and using appropriate information at the "trainable moment." The university will continue to be responsible for developing and maintaining the common databases of instructional materials its student population will use. These materials will be developed as modules to allow reuse for just-in-time instruction at the trainable moment as well as for any unfulfilled competency training.
The training triangle illustrated in the figure below is recommended for technology-assisted lifelong learning. It uses a mixture of limited-use traditional methods that quickly give way to interactive, virtual and constructive environments, with validation happening in constructive and live field environments. Live training will always be necessary but may not be available until soldiers get to their units.
The site map shown in the following figure illustrates the common architecture being developed to support the digital-training master plan. The map indicates different pathways used to navigate through the simulation exercise. The pathways align themselves with tracks used in the AOT training model.
|The different pathways a soldier uses to navigate through the simulations exercise parallel the AOT tracks of EAC or ECB.|
When soldiers go through advanced individual training using the AOT process, they follow the track geared for their first unit of assignment. As soldiers� careers progress, inevitably they�ll be assigned to operate equipment for which they haven�t received AIT training. The common architecture and pieces of equipment being simulated is aligned for simple navigation through the training simulation exercise. Each level in the simulation becomes more specific to the training a soldier requires and makes it easier to keep pace with changes in equipment and technology.
The common architecture establishes standards to support reuse and dynamic reconfiguration of materials to match students� needs. This architecture is flexible to support a range of education-and-training needs. Since it is PC-based, it supports users who don�t have the benefit of instructors, and it�s consistent with student expectations and needs. This common architecture includes an instructor operating station, fault insertion, student tracking and recordkeeping, screen menu, man-machine interface and quantifiable requirements used as exit criteria. The standard training levels will include familiarizing, acquiring, practicing and/or validating skills required for performing the task.
Simulations for supporting Signal and IT education and training are grouped into two general categories: technical and tactical. The technical-simulation trainers support training in operating and maintaining systems and networks (science); the tactical simulations support training on planning and fighting systems and networks (art). Clustered within these two major categories are several notional trainers, each of which contain many simulations for specific pieces of equipment and systems within the category.
We�ve also determined there are significant levels of common use in technical and tactical simulations (see following figure) among the Signal Center�s schools.
The Leader College of Information Technology here at the Signal Center includes the School of Information Technology, Regimental Officer Academy and Regimental Noncommissioned Officers Academy. SIT�s focus is on using COTS simulations to train IT soldiers and leaders. SIT uses both technical and tactical simulations, but to a lesser extent than ROA and RNCOA. ROA and RNCOA teach leaders how to plan, establish, operate, protect and fight the systems and networks within the context of a tactical situation. SIT also provides limited technical training for its students to ensure they understand the operations-and-maintenance requirements of systems and networks.
The 15th Signal Brigade focuses instruction on using technical simulations for teaching soldiers/students how to operate and maintain systems.
Supplementary training locations away from Fort Gordon include remote campuses, units and individuals (either Active or Reserve Components, joint components and civilians in the Army or other military services). These locations use technical, tactical and COTS trainers and simulations.
We�re designing and developing these simulations for educating and training soldiers/students worldwide. The materials are being developed to support learning by doing and to meet the requirements of scientific discipline. These materials are:
|Developed to standards that support users who don�t have the benefit of instructors;|
|Consistent with student expectations and needs;|
|Usable with existing distribution capabilities, particularly the worldwide web;|
|Developed to established standards to support reuse and dynamic reconfiguration of materials to match students� needs; and|
|Scaleable and flexible to support a wide range of education-and-training needs.|
Common use of simulations among the Signal Center�s schools supports design and development for multiple users and is a significant advantage in terms of cost. Common use allows the university to accomplish its education-and-training requirements with fewer, more precisely defined simulations common to all its constituents (figure below).
|The "roadmap" to simulation establishes requirements for simulators among the Signal Center's schools.|
This approach includes developing and using families of technical and tactical trainers, as described in the following figure, to provide better education and more realistic training at a lower cost.
|UIT technical and tactical trainers. One tactical trainer isn't included in this illustration: visual terrain environment trainer, described below.|
Each of these trainers includes a family of simulations:
|The echelon-above-corps trainer and echelon-below-corps trainer are used to support operator, network and maintenance (science) training as well as leader (science) training;|
|The integrated-digital-systems trainer provides instruction for installing, operating and maintaining digital networks;|
|The common hardware and software Block 2 assembly-and-disassembly simulation trains operators and leaders on computer components and functions. This simulation would replace use of the "old" actual boxes currently being used for training;|
|The IT fundamentals-and-principles tactical trainer will be used to prepare our leaders in Signal and IT fundamental and principles;|
|The IT tactical-network trainer will train leaders to plan, establish, operate, protect and fight Signal and IT networks within the context of tactical scenarios;|
|The IT tactical adaptive-leader trainer will support leader training in a range of tactical scenarios and situations. It is, in effect, a computer-generated leadership-reaction course;|
|The reconfigurable tactical-operations center trainer will train leaders on different TOC configurations. Emphasis is placed on Signal and IT systems and networks operating in a range of tactical TOC configurations; and|
|The visual-terrain-environment trainer will have a wide range of education-and-training applications. One of these applications includes capstone exercises, which confirm a leader�s abilities to plan, establish, operate, protect and fight Signal and IT systems and networks supporting tactical operations.|
The significant levels of common use justify developing and fielding the trainers and simulations. Commonality is also an important consideration being included in developing simulations requirements. The Signal Center has formed task forces to develop requirements for these simulations. The task forces include representatives from each training department as well as users in the field and at extension centers to provide input for the requirements. The deliverables of these task forces are the university requirements for families of trainers and simulations.
These requirements are consistent with the complementary relationships among simulations, part-task trainers, hands-on trainers, computer-based training, interactive multimedia instruction and actual equipment illustrated in the training-triangle figure. In arriving at these requirements, the task forces are focusing on what�s required and/or needed. We understand it�s not possible to train for everything and that there�ll be a need to expect, and accept, the requirement for priorities and trade-offs. We�re also specifying the use of COTS hardware and software and avoiding using proprietary software.
The simulations� designs will:
|Support training for different MOSs (for example, officer advanced, warrant officer, advanced NCO course, AIT) as well as individuals and units located at other locations;|
|Include integration of growth such as adding tasks, functions or other features as more funding becomes available and/or new applications are identified;|
|Support use of PC-based platform(s) available at the university and other locations as a design criterion. Every option is being explored, especially those necessary to keep applications on more widely available, lower-cost platforms;|
|Include simulation software residing on the user�s PC platform and allow use of multiple simulation applications on the same platform. The platform screen would display icons from different simulations. The user would select the appropriate icon, load the program and use the simulation for training;|
|Establish and include reusing a common architecture across the trainers and the associated families of simulations; and|
|Establish and include quantifiable requirements to be used as "exit criteria" for simulation development to avoid requirement "creep."|
UIT is adding to the current set of Signal Center simulations as it develops trainers and simulations. The result is an increase in requirements for establishing, maintaining and managing software databases. Software for the suite of trainers and simulations resides mostly on local PCs and is available on-demand from a central database. The central database maintains configuration management and updates the software as we make changes. UIT is establishing a resource center for performing these services.
|Simulation technology management.|
The resource center also maintains:
|Government-provided documentation and a reference library on the assigned simulation components;|
|Network versions of application software, as well as a record of all copies of software disks and documentation.;|
|Continuity of operations (disaster recovery) capabilities, including file-server back up and restoring damaged/lost files/data as well as training-system troubleshooting.|
The resource center also operates the university�s help desk, providing 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week callback services for simulation support. This support includes:
|Responding to trouble calls, evaluating and analyzing compatibility with supported computer configurations, and providing solutions to reported and discerned problems;|
|Referring technical questions about Army telecommunications and information systems to appropriate subject-matter experts, staff and faculty; and|
|Assisting with questions on student-record management.|
Reliable access to learning materials that include simulation software is critical to the university�s success and is one of the university resource center�s main functions. In the near term, the university is adopting the Internet as its distribution backbone for materials, with networked distribution gaining prominence in the longer term; the compact disc with read-only memory can also be used as a convenient interim measure.
UIT and the resource center will primarily be accessed through one�s Army Knowledge On-line account. Since an AKO account is mandatory for soldiers (and "highly encouraged" for civilian employees unless local policy requires civilians to have an AKO account as well), one�s AKO account and one�s Internet service provider will open the doors to the Signal Center�s on-line resources. Soldiers/civilians without an ISP may get into the Internet with a Terminal Server Access Card account and the modem in their computer; TSACS is a dial-up network.
The university is also exploring opportunities for partnerships with existing networks such as those operated by academia, industry, states and nation-wide organizations to distribute materials. As described earlier, a design criterion for simulations is consistency within available distribution capabilities; these materials can be made more complex as the distribution means� capabilities increase.
UIT isn�t delaying implementation of technology-assisted learning programs even if high-tech classrooms may not be available at all training locations. The university�s goal is to develop content for education and training and to make this content accessible and available to the student on-demand. This goal includes access in an individual�s home if necessary.
Priorities for simulations to support lifelong learning are:
|Develop and make available materials required to support this approach;|
|Adopt the Internet as the university�s communications backbone; and|
|Provide every Signal and IT soldier and leader access to the worldwide web.|
The university is using the Army�s Reimer Digital Library as well as the resource center�s simulation databases for storing and distributing its education-and-training products and materials. The colleges have responsibility for managing data at their local sites, but access to the material will be provided through the university�s resource center.
The Signal Center is adopting and developing a family of technical and tactical trainers and simulations as a key component of lifelong learning for Signal and IT soldiers, leaders and units worldwide. These simulations leverage the capabilities of computer hardware, software and virtual tools, emerging IT networks and the ability of Information Age students, soldiers and leaders to accept and use "learning by doing" materials.
The simulations support "learning by doing" for acquiring the skills required for tasks performed by Signal and IT soldiers, leaders and units located at the Signal Center, remote campuses and other locations. As the Army transforms, the Signal Center is leading the way for Information Age education and training.
MAJ Meeds is chief of Systems Integration Division, Directorate of Training, at the Signal Center. She�s been an Army officer for 16 years, 11 of those with the South Carolina Army National Guard. Previous assignments include S-1, S-3 and S-4 with 151st Signal Battalion; commander of Company A, 151st Signal Battalion; systems engineer, 151st Signal Battalion; network officer, 228th Signal Brigade; and emergency-response plans and operations officer with the National Guard Bureau. She holds a bachelor�s degree in physical education from Erskine College in Due West, S.C., and a master�s degree in education from Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C. Her most recent military education was Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. While with the National Guard, she taught high school in South Carolina for 11 years and coached basketball, softball and volleyball.
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