SimsSir: Modeling and Simulation Are Leading the Assault of New Learning Technologies That Are Winning Favor with the U.S. Military. Meanwhile, Corporate Training Executives Should Keep an Eye out for New Techniques Suitable for the Workforce

Article excerpt

Simulations played a large part in training soldiers for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and they are starting to play a large part in employee learning The past decade has seen a proliferation of low-cost training systems throughout the U.S. military that will be replicated in the workplace.

Military-style training has these ramifications in both the private and public sectors:

* The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative. A collaborative effort between the public and private sectors is developing standards, tools, and learning-content software for future Web-based learning.

* Navy E-Learning. The Chief of Naval Education and Training (CNET) has created a Website to launch, track, and manage more than 2000 e-learning courses for more than 1.2 million sailors, Marines, retirees, reservists, and civilians.

* eArmyU. The Army has assembled a collection of 21 colleges and universities so that soldiers seeking higher learning can earn degrees and certificates via the Web.

* Joint Strike Fighter. Military use of the F-35 includes an unprecedented mandate for a common training system, as well as a requirement that training be embedded into the avionics of every aircraft.

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You've heard it said many times that Americans who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom last spring were the best-trained military force ever assembled. Just how much better? Consider that a large number of the American servicemen and women who participated in that action honed their skills and assignments with the latest in computer-based simulation. By contrast, in Operation Desert Storm 10 years earlier simulation training was comparatively primitive.

Surely the past decade has seen a proliferation of low-cost training systems throughout the military. No longer just a device for pilots, a wide range of inexpensive simulators is being used to train everyone from artillery troops to tank mechanics. By training in a virtual environment that replicates their assignments, soldiers arrive in theatre with skills that previously came only with actual tactical experience. Now imagine that the soldiers of the future will put current troops to shame from a training standpoint. They will carry with them all of the training materials they'll potentially ever need, say military planners. Training technology and systems will be embedded within vehicles and equipment that will accompany them everywhere.

It's not hard to figure. Relying primarily on COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components, the Pentagon is realizing the power of investing in the compounding effect of Moore's Law. By riding the waves of "cheaper, faster, better," the Pentagon can plot a path for future commercial development. If computing power doubles every 18 months, as Gordon Moore first pronounced back in 1965, the performance curve is even steeper in the computer graphics domain, achieving 2.8 performance gains per year and 10 times for every two years, say experts.

Simulation technologies are also hitting new strides as a training tool for the private sector. Just ask the George Washington University Medical Center, which recently contracted with Denver-based Medical Simulation Corporation to establish a medical simulation system at the facility. The interactive SimSuite training system combines tactile force-feel simulation technology with procedures performed on a simulated patient. Even before U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz announced a high-profile plan to transform military training last year, producing the current drive to integrate service capabilities into joint training activities, the military services were exploiting advances in simulations and other learning technologies. The Pentagon's "revolution in training" is well under way, with clear ramifications for private industry.

Examples:

Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative. This collaborative effort between the public and private sectors is developing standards, tools, and learning-content software for future Web-based learning. …