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Competency and Skills System (CaSS)

CaSS banner artwork

Learning methods and technology to enable interoperable, enterprise-wide competency-based learning throughout the DoD.

The Challenge

Traditionally a Service member’s readiness is estimated from a collection of credentials. These credentials tend to follow learners throughout their careers but specific data on how well they performed when earning the credentials are often not preserved. Their learning accomplishments also tend to be tracked across many disconnected education and training systems. Similarly, accredited certifications can therefore be conferred based on substantially different learning experiences. These differences across the DoD can prevent organizations from truly understanding the abilities and readiness of their personnel. In addition, DoD education and training systems often lack competency models, a fine-grained view into how credentials apply to the work environment, and the ability to correlate or coordinate key performance variables across individual careers.

The Solution

The open-source Competency and Skills System (CaSS) is designed to serve as a competency management resource for the DoD. It provides an infrastructure enabling competencies, competency frameworks, and competency-based learner models to be managed and accessed independent of any given learning management system, course, training program, or credential. CaSS will improve how credential data are managed and shared, allowing the DoD to better estimate individual learning experiences needed to provide and maintain mission-critical knowledge and skills.

About The Project

The ADL Initiative is focusing its research on multiple CaSS and competency-based learning solutions, including: 1) policies across DoD to move toward competency-based learning, initially with performance based assessments; 2) a common set of practices for documenting competency models, including tools for DoD personnel and industry partners; and 3) a data-driven DoD-wide system for tracking the competencies of servicemembers, equating the value of learning experiences, and predicting performance capabilities.

The CaSS project was initiated in 2015, and is now being evaluated and refined in multiple demonstrations under the ADL Initiative’s Total Learning Architecture (TLA). As a component of the TLA, CaSS generates rich and traceable data about learning experiences and how they relate to skill proficiency, ultimately resulting in a certified set of credentials. CaSS can be used to track learner performance across a system of systems through assertions and inferences derived from evidentiary xAPI data captured from learning activities, existing records of credentials, and operational data. CaSS enables the collection, processing, and assertions of competences, and it helps translate an individual’s competencies into an accessible, sharable profile.

The CaSS software provides a robust common language and translation method for competencies, evidence of attainment, and associated resources. Competencies stored in CaSS are automatically exposed as linked and open data to facilitate machine readability. CaSS can be configured as a lightweight open system or as a highly secure system with strong cryptography. Multiple instances of CaSS can communicate and work together through a federated architecture.

CaSS is designed to work with “competency frameworks,” which describe the specific competencies needed to perform successfully in a work setting, such as a job, occupation, or industry. Competency frameworks can be used to develop curriculum and select training materials, identify licensure and certification requirements, write job descriptions, recruit and hire workers, and evaluate employee performance. CaSS can ingest multiple different competency frameworks, and aligns the attributes of each competency to provide a common language and translation method for defining competencies. The current version of CaSS includes the capability to manage competency frameworks in an interoperable manner, from a range of standards, tools, and technologies to support the competency management lifecycle.

CaSS Authoring Tools

During 2019 the ADL Initiative collaborated with the Air Force on a digital system to efficiently author and manage competency frameworks, including the potential use of CaSS to supplement the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) talent management capabilities. The AFWERX organization for Air Force innovation is supporting a CaSS Authoring Tools project that leverages the proven technologies in CaSS, but will be capable of use as an independent software application that can export frameworks in a range of data formats.

CaSS Cybersecurity Hardening

In order to satisfy the requirements for all defense information systems to comply with DoD Risk Management Framework (RMF) requirements, the ADL Initiative funded the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command – Aviation and Missile Center to evaluate CaSS and ‘harden’ it to satisfy the RMF cybersecurity risk requirements. The effort is currently underway and working toward an “assess only” goal in order to simplify other DoD and Federal Government entities’ adoption of CaSS.

The ADL Initiative has collaborated with multiple DoD stakeholders to support their movement toward performance-based assessments and competency-based learning.

  • The AETC project has the potential to transform the Service’s learning culture. This includes an extensive technological transformation initiative called the Air Force Learning Services Ecosystem (AFLSE), which will benefit from ADL Initiative support for competency framework authoring. Based on CaSS, this open-source authoring tool for building competency frameworks will support a joint environment for demonstrating how the AFLSE can incorporate other prototype TLA capabilities. This AFLSE TLA Baseline project is expected to begin in 2020.
  • The ADL Initiative also consults with Navy and Army organizations on their efforts related to competency-based learning. There are efforts underway to evolve these discussions into prototyping capabilities that aim to advance the TLA research portfolio and benefit the respective military Services.

Publications

Competency Framework Development Process Report
Robson, R.; Havas, K.; Ray, R.; Robson, E.
2020

Competency-Based Learning
Smith, Brent; Gordon, Jerry; Hernandez, Mike
2019

Using Competencies to Map Performance across Multiple Activities
Robson, R.; Poltrack, J.
2017, IITSEC

Review and Assessment of Personnel Competencies and Job Description Models and Methods
Belanich, J.; Franklin, M.; Lall, P.
2016, Institute for Defense Analysis, IDA

Project Details

Period of Performance

Project launch: 2015
Current Project: FY19-FY20

Performer

Eduworks Corporation

Collaborators

U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center
U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command
U.S. Navy Naval Education and Training Command
U.S. Army Futures Command