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TLA Working Group Meets Face-to-Face at I/ITSEC 2019

December 27, 2019

The ADL Initiative’s Total Learning Architecture (TLA) Working Group held its first face-to-face meeting during the Interservice / Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) on 2 December 2019. This Working Group launched in the summer of 2019 with TLA adopters from around the world and has been meeting monthly via web conferencing. The I/ITSEC gathering served to strengthen the TLA community by allowing members to share knowledge and lessons learned, with insights on the practical application of the TLA within different operational contexts.

Dr. Sae Schatz speaking to the I/ITSEC 2019 TLA Working Group

The discussion focused on the role of data in realizing the benefits of the TLA and developing a secure data-sharing architecture. According to ADL Initiative Director Dr. Sae Schatz, “We are moving away from old school distance learning to a system that provides for safe, secure, and ethical use of data for lifelong personalized learning – we are building a future learning ecosystem.”

ADL Initiative R&D Principal Brent Smith gave an overview of the TLA and discussed how an enterprise-wide data strategy is key to its success. The TLA, at its core, serves as the technical layer and architecture for learner-related data and is focused on plug-and-play interoperability. Mr. Smith explained how the TLA data strategy is federated for all training and education data, and derived from internationally accepted technical specifications and standards. The strategy is organized around four pillars: a Learning Activity Registry, Learning Events Tracking, Enterprise Learner Record, and Competency Frameworks. These data streams can be leveraged to develop meaningful information about the learner and to provide an enterprise-wide view of learning for the overall competencies of a specific workforce.

Mr. Smith shared key TLA concepts such the TLA control loops. The TLA decomposes lifelong learning into a series of five control loops to optimize: 1) a learner’s current activity in a course; 2) progress through the curriculum toward a credential; 3) accumulation of credentials for a learner’s current job; 4) current career trajectory; and 5) transition to a new career.

Brent Smith speaking to the I/ITSEC 2019 TLA Working Group

He also highlighted the TLA Capability Maturity Model (CMM). The CMM outlines a migration path from current legacy systems to an optimized microservice-based infrastructure of core services that federates data across the Department of Defense (DoD) components.

Following Mr. Smith’s presentation, TLA Working Group Chairman Avron Barr moderated a panel discussion on TLA adoption with Mr. Smith; Erin Baker, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Development; Paul Jesukiewicz, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) - USALearning; and Jono Poltrack, Veracity Technology Consultants.

Ms. Baker shared insights based on the Defense Health Agency’s journey in adopting the TLA and how creating a new architecture with a focus on interoperability can “bring the TLA concept to life to track the learner’s entire lifecycle – from the cradle to the grave.” She stressed the importance of determining early in the adoption process what information about the learner is needed and which data are important to gather to optimize the learning experience.

Mr. Poltrack provided the private sector perspective, discussing the importance of collecting learner data using the Experience API (xAPI), which is targeted for ballot as an IEEE standard in March 2020. The xAPI Specification enables the collection of a wide range of performance data during an individual’s continuum of learning. He shared that a common challenge for Veracity’s customers is their desire for robust learner analytics but without a clear understanding how the analytics will be used to improve training outcomes. He described a case-study approach where an instructor requires information to understand where a learner falls behind in class and can act accordingly to get the learner in line with the rest of the class.

Panel Discussion on TLA adoption

Mr. Jesukiewicz explained the role of OPM’s USALearning in the acquisition of training systems and content across the entire government. Given this role, the OPM can ensure the harmonization of learning systems used government-wide. He discussed how USALearning has partnered with the ADL Initiative to host the TLA Sandbox and other R&D projects through the ADL Learning Warehouse. The ADL Learning Warehouse is a secure cloud hosting environment where Defense and Federal training and education managers can access and evaluate different platforms, systems, and tools.

After the panel, participants were invited to attend one of the four TLA Working Group subcommittee sessions. These subcommittees include Universal Learner Records, Competency Management, Content and Activity Metadata, and DoD xAPI Profiles. Each subcommittee discussed alternative approaches for addressing their implementation challenges. The subcommittee contributions will help to build a consensus around a detailed TLA vision.

Join the TLA Working Group

The TLA Working Group is a volunteer organization composed of government and civilian innovators who embrace the TLA’s standards-based approach for their learning organizations. The working group meets online on the third Thursday of each month from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Eastern) to share ideas, discuss problems, and prioritize issues for the ADL Initiative’s R&D team. Sign up now!

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