DAU and ADL Initiative Partner for Digital Learning Transformation
Since its inception, DAU has expertly trained and certified government acquisition professionals, and recently has embarked on transformative changes to its learning infrastructure and data systems. In support of these modernization efforts, DAU and the ADL Initiative have partnered around modernizing DAU (and other DoD) digital learning systems.
Together, the ADL Initiative and DAU are exploring upgrades designed to enhance learners’ experiences throughout DAU’s vast learning ecosystem. These efforts help mature and integrate initiatives already in place at DAU to expand remote instruction, roll out new microlearning assets, and offer elective credentialing programs. In addition, DAU and the ADL Initiative are evaluating the use of Total Learning Architecture (TLA) specifications within a development environment, dubbed the “DAU Sandbox.” Such developmental testing not only supports DAU’s own efforts, it also provides valuable feedback on the TLA interoperability framework that will subsequently inform digital learning modernization across the DoD enterprise.
DAU Sandbox and Developmental Testing
DAU and the ADL Initiative began collaborating in support of DAU’s modernization in 2020. Several different projects are underway, including efforts focused on IT and data standards, competency-based learning, microlearning, digital learning authoring tools, and improvements to the digital learning asset-creation pipeline. These projects (and their associated software and data systems) are integrated within the DAU Sandbox, a TLA-conformant cloud-based environment designed for testing and exploration.
Presently, the DAU Sandbox incorporates the USALearning Learning Management System (LMS) with an xAPI wrapper that converts data outputs from Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM®) courseware into xAPI statements. The Sandbox also includes multiple Learning Record Stores (LRSs), several data visualization dashboards, a standalone quiz application, the Competency and Skills System (CaSS), simulated learner profiles, and an experience index (essentially, a TLA-conformant course catalog). These components replicate existing DAU systems, such as its LMS and iCatalog.
The DAU Sandbox is a practical environment to explore data exchange among learning technologies across the four TLA data pillars. Those four pillars are runtime learning activity (xAPI), learning activity metadata, reusable competency definitions, and learner records. Initially, much of the data within the Sandbox has been manually emulated from existing DAU artifacts, such as competency frameworks built from DAU’s Contracting career field and course metadata derived from DAU courses listed in its iCatalog. However, learner interaction data is simulated using DATASIM, which eliminates the need for real personally identifiable information while also providing diverse, large-scale datasets for functional software testing.
In the near future, DAU and the ADL Initiative plan to use the Sandbox to evaluate new learning technologies, including recent ADL-sponsored projects such as the Personalized eBook for Learning (PeBL) and Pervasive Learning System (PERLS) for microlearning. Each of these tools adheres to TLA data policies and standards, making them ideal components for a learning ecosystem.
Ultimately, DAU and the ADL Initiative see the DAU Sandbox collaboration as a first step toward an enduring research, development, and engineering pipeline. Once methods or technologies are validated in the Sandbox, they can be transitioned into DAU’s operational systems—supporting upgrades across DAU’s immense portfolio of education and training products. These enhancements might include producing more user-tailored courses, shortening development cycles and broadening delivery mechanisms, honing assets with timely job-critical skills, and maximizing technology for customized virtual learning. This work is also consistent with DoD’s larger Enterprise Digital Learning Modernization (EDLM) effort, and it will assist ongoing transformation and continuous improvement—for both DAU and ADL Initiative projects.
DAU delivers over three million hours of instruction each year and records hundreds of thousands of course completions across its different delivery modalities (e.g., virtual instructor-led training and eLearning offerings). In addition, the DAU.edu platform hosts a vast library of acquisition knowledge and job support tools as well as over 50 interactive communities of practice, to foster knowledge sharing and professional development. As an accredited university, DAU supports DoD’s acquisition workforce of roughly 180,000 civilian and military personnel, ensuring that weapon system and services acquisitions are responsive and timely, well-managed and adaptive to war-fighters’ needs.