The tenets of the University of Information Technology

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"Students for life"

Tenet 1: Assignment Oriented Training

Assignment Oriented Training (AOT), of particular interest to signal personnel at Fort Gordon, Ga., involves training soliders for work specifically required for their current jobs.

The technically intense nature of the signal community's work is well suited to the AOT methodology, said Col. William Wilson, director of training for the Army Signal Center.

"If skills are not constantly reinforced, they perish very quickly," Wilson said. "Some learning takes up to a year for a job specialty, but by week 26, weeks one to 10 are washed away. By training on only the equipment that's at the first site, we can get soldiers out in the field in about half the time."

Lt. Col. Edwin Kuster Jr., chief of the Initial Entry Training Division at the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said numerous occupational specialties are AOT-ready, such as an "automated logistics specialist," because they are very technical in nature.

Other career paths, though, may not fit as well.

"AOT does not lend itself to combat [specialties] like infantry and armor because those are team efforts," Kuster said. "It's not adaptable for combat arms, where you train and rehearse like a football team" with six to 12 members, as opposed to one or two in the technical careers.

Tenet 2: Simulations

Jobs in the signal community are equipment-intensive, and the Army Signal Center does not have all the gear it needs to train soldiers because the technology evolves so rapidly and requires frequent maintenance, said Col. William Wilson, director of training for the center.

If there were 20 soldiers in a class, ideally there would be 20 simulation boxes to train them on, "but the reality is we only have 10, and only three work, while the rest are in maintenance," Wilson said.

"But we can probably simulate that box through a Web-based simulation, and it's as if the soldiers are putting their hands on it," he said, adding that can be done for about one-tenth of actual equipment costs. "That has a huge impact for training and the Army in the field. Students can break that simulation all day long and just turn it off, and start over again."

Robert Helms II, director of strategic initiatives at the Research Triangle Institute, a nonprofit scientific research and technology development organization, is overseeing the technical support for implementing the Army's lifelong learning master plan. He said simulations are a key part of that strategy.

"Basically, simulations provide the opportunity to substitute software for hardware and have an interactive [way] to enable learning by doing, " Helms said. "You can train on equipment you don't have, and distribute software over the communications infrastructure available at many locations. For lifelong learning, that's very, very important. It's validating your knowledge."

The University of Information Technology is on schedule to make its first ready-for-training simulation available to students in August, Wilson said, adding that although the Army will need to pay for simulations of legacy equipment, all new procurements have simulations built into the requirements documents.

Tenet 3: Online resource center

The online resource center, which will include online courses and other materials, as well as experts available around the clock for questions from the field, is much like a large state university with satellite campuses.

Fort Gordon, Ga., is establishing a hub-and-spoke relationship with other outposts around the world for this effort, which will provide the best information available to soldiers, said Col. William Wilson, director of training for the Army Signal Center (ASC).

The reach-back capability can be used for classes, additional research or simply to get an answer to a single question, with the source of the information transparent to the user, he said.

ASC is on schedule to have the first Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) course — Information Systems Operator — available via the online resource center by the end of August.

The center, started from scratch a few months ago, averages more than 8,000 hits per day, Wilson said. He acknowledged that a limited number of people are aware of the tool, and the center still needs to add more valuable content. But the MOS course is a significant milestone, and "there is interest and word is spreading," Wilson said.

Tenet 4: Virtual campus

Using a virtual campus concept, the University of Information Technology's resources will be available to soldiers, whether in foxholes in Afghanistan or at their home computers.

The Army also will integrate the virtual campus concept with its enterprise distance-learning program, run by the Training and Doctrine Command, so the university will be available in physical classroom locations worldwide.

"The schoolhouse is wherever anyone is using the content," said Robert Helms II, director of strategic initiatives at the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina.

The virtual campus aspect of the university has received the least amount of attention so far, but that does not mean it's less important, said Col. William Wilson, director of training for the Army Signal Center. "We're just not as far down the road."

Virtual campus pilot programs are under way at Fort Gordon, Ga., and at Fort Hood's Battle Command Training Center in Texas. Those projects will help "work through the technical and education glitches," Wilson said.

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