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About the ADL Initiative

The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative is a government program reporting to the Defense Human Resources Activity (DHRA), under the Director, DHRA and is one of eleven functional mission areas of the Defense Support Services Center (DSSC).


The ADL Initiative bridges across Defense and other Federal agencies to encourage collaboration, facilitate interoperability, and promote best practices for using distributed learning to provide the highest-quality education, training, informal learning, and just-in-time support; tailored to individual needs and delivered cost-effectively, anytime and anywhere, to increase readiness, save resources, and facilitate interorganizational collaboration.

The ADL Initiative originated as a DoD-wide program, and Defense personnel have been—and remain—its core constituents. However, with the policy documents published in the late 1990s, the ADL Initiative received direction to also serve the entire Federal workforce as well as global partners, industry, and academia. In short, the ADL Initiative’s stakeholders include the US Defense and security sector, Federal government, coalition military partners, and other distributed learning professionals from industry, professional societies, and academic institutions.

To meet its mission, the ADL Initiative serves as a “thought leader” for forward-looking distributed learning topics within the Department of Defense (DoD), other national and worldwide government agencies, and the greater professional community. This work involves the curation (i.e., collection, validation, synthesis, maintenance, and dissemination) of relevant requirements, analysis of emerging targets of opportunity (relevant to learning science and learning technologies), generation of corresponding strategic roadmaps, and stewardship of associated policy guidance. Effective thought leadership also includes the cultivation of stakeholder and leadership buy-in for the advocated strategies, plans, and policies.

This Program Element’s (PE# 0605803SE) work falls into three interrelated categories:

  • (1) Modernization
  • (2) Documentation
  • (3) Coordination

The “modernization” work involves Advanced Technology Development in technical areas such as e-learning, mobile learning, learner modeling and analytics, and software interoperability. These efforts inform the PE’s “documentation” work, including the authoring and upkeep of technical guidance and policy documents, such as DoD Instruction 1322.26 (“Distributed Learning”) and software interoperability specifications. Finally, the documentation work drives “coordination” efforts, which consist of implementation support and interagency/interorganizational coordination.

The ADL Initiative saves time and money for the DoD (and Federal government) by creating and implementing technology interoperability specifications and stewarding associated policy, by identifying and eliminating inter-Service and interagency duplications of effort, and by matching stakeholders with needs to those with solutions. The ADL Initiative improves DoD/Federal training and education effectiveness and efficiency by identifying, developing, and supporting the implementation of emerging learning science and technologies.


R&D for Distributed Learning Modernization - informs - Distributed Learning Policy and Technical Guidelines - guides - Implementation Support and Cross-Coordination

The ADL Initiative pursues three broad lines of effort (LOEs):

The ADL Initiative strives to develop the next-generation of distributed learning science techniques and technologies via research, development, and collaboration. In accordance with its original mandate, the ADL Initiative's R&D work seeks to develop and assess advanced distributed learning prototypes that enable more effective, efficient, and affordable learner-centric lifelong learning. These R&D activities span technical areas such as e-learning, mobile learning, learning analytics, and associated learner modeling, interoperability specifications for distributed learning systems, and associated learning theory.

The ADL Initiative's R&D efforts inform its policy work. That is, the program's emerging concept exploration, requirements engineering, and visioning work help it develop effective policy, software specifications, and other technical guidance for military, government, and other industry stakeholders. Notable ADL Initiative contributions to distributed learning policy and specifications include the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM®) , Experience API (xAPI) , and the Department of Defense Instruction (DoDI) 1322.26 "Distributed Learning." This document establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, prescribes procedures, and establishes information requirements for developing, managing, providing, and evaluating distributed learning for DoD military and civilian personnel.

The ADL Initiative aspires to serve as a thought leader for forward-looking distributed learning topics within the DoD, other national and coalition governmental agencies, and the greater professional community. For the ADL Initiative, thought leadership involves the curation (i.e., collection, validation, synthesis, maintenance, and dissemination) of relevant requirements, emerging targets of opportunity, corresponding strategic roadmaps, and associated policy guidance. The program works closely with stakeholders to help them implement effective, coordinated advanced distributed learning solutions. This includes coordination via the ADL Initiative professional working groups , the Defense ADL Advisory Committee (DADLAC), international governmental bodies (such as NATO).