U.K. experiments with luggable e-learning containers

Ministry of Defence ships portable e-learning centers wherever training is needed

To deliver training to its hard-to-reach and far-flung workforce, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence has gone mobile. Ministry officials now rely on portable Electronic Learning Centers, which are e-learning systems in a box. They can ship the units worldwide at a moment's notice.

The portable centers are so successful that they've become the primary way that some U.K. military services deliver training to workers in places where e-learning had been almost impossible to deliver.

The Royal Navy, for example, bought 11 units to use aboard ships. The Royal Air Force installed one in Basra, Iraq, to provide training.

"The rapid-reaction [centers] can go anywhere," said Paul Piper, assistant director of corporate services at the ministry's Defence Business Learning organization. "We couldn't envision using e-learning onboard ships before, but these allow us to do it anywhere."

The e-learning centers are a recent development. Several years ago, e-learning was restricted and low tech, and employees completed about 100,000 training days each year in classrooms. They spent only 20,000 training days using CD-ROMs and desktop computers at fixed locations.

With the e-learning centers, trainees spend about the same amount of time in classrooms, but they now spend more than 100,000 training days per year working on courses offered via the Web and the ministry's intranet.

The e-learning centers have also improved the quality of training, Piper said. "We can use e-learning to deliver certain parts of the training, bring people into face-to-face workshops to learn how to apply their knowledge and then provide updates as needed again through e-learning," he said.

In addition, the centers provide a continuous training experience for ministry workers who frequently relocate.

Each of the portable learning centers contains up to 12 rugged laptop computers. An additional laptop PC functions as a server for a wireless LAN, which is also part of the unit.

"All it needs is one semi-IT-literate person to set it up," said John Bruce, business development manager at LogicaCMG-Training, the ministry's corporate partner. "All anyone has to do to use the system is know how to use a mouse," he said.

The e-learning centers use learning management system software from Pathlore Software. It tracks the courses that people take and their performance. That information helps maintain trainees' status when they log into an e-learning center computer.

Once a group finishes its training, officials ship the unit back to its home base. Ministry officials can download information about completed courses and individual student performance and place it into a centralized system that tracks results.

E-learning is catching on as a training tool, said Bruce Duff, a senior vice president at Pathlore. Europe and the Far East are rapidly catching up to the United States in e-learning, he said, adding that it is still not part of the mainstream in the United Kingdom.

Benefits of e-learning centers

Officials in the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence cite advantages gained from the use of fixed and portable e-learning centers. They say the centers have:

  • Substantially increased the number of employees who can receive training.
  • Improved the quality of the training employees receive.
  • Extended e-learning to remote locations where the ministry had been unable to offer training.

— Brian Robinson

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

The Fed 100

Save the date for 28th annual Federal 100 Awards Gala.

Featured

  • computer network

    How Einstein changes the way government does business

    The Department of Commerce is revising its confidentiality agreement for statistical data survey respondents to reflect the fact that the Department of Homeland Security could see some of that data if it is captured by the Einstein system.

  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Army photo by Monica King. Jan. 26, 2017.

    Mattis mulls consolidation in IT, cyber

    In a Feb. 17 memo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told senior leadership to establish teams to look for duplication across the armed services in business operations, including in IT and cybersecurity.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DHS vague on rules for election aid, say states

    State election officials had more questions than answers after a Department of Homeland Security presentation on the designation of election systems as critical U.S. infrastructure.

  • Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock

    How the hiring freeze targets millennials

    The government desperately needs younger talent to replace an aging workforce, and experts say that a freeze on hiring doesn't help.

  • Shutterstock image: healthcare digital interface.

    VA moves ahead with homegrown scheduling IT

    The Department of Veterans Affairs will test an internally developed scheduling module at primary care sites nationwide to see if it's ready to service the entire agency.

  • Shutterstock images (honglouwawa & 0beron): Bitcoin image overlay replaced with a dollar sign on a hardware circuit.

    MGT Act poised for a comeback

    After missing in the last Congress, drafters of a bill to encourage cloud adoption are looking for a new plan.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group