Training, sharing fill info gaps

The Advanced Distributed Learning network

In the federal government, e-learning isn't about technology, it's about a cultural revolution, the senior Defense Department official responsible for military training says.

"We're entering an era where we're going to be bringing learning to people instead of bringing people to learning," Michael Parmentier, director of readiness and training policy and programs in the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, said in a recent interview. "There is a groundswell of recognition that [by doing that] we're going to change the way we do business and the way we lead our lives."

Parmentier will be one of two keynote speakers today to open "E-Learning: Investing in the Digital Workforce," a two-day conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.

Some of the widespread changes Parmentier foresees in what he terms the "new digital knowledge environment" include the spread of artificial intelligence to learning applications and an overhaul of federal acquisition processes to incorporate training as well as hardware.

The Navy, for example, is looking into transforming its training programs by making personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with educational software widely available, Parmentier said. "Artificial intelligence will clearly be worked into the game," he said. "In the future, software will sense what an individual knows and doesn't know and will tailor its information search to fill those gaps."

Parmentier leads DOD's Advanced Distributed Learning initiative, a public/private collaboration for e-learning, and he was chairman of the training subgroup for the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated, comprehensive review of DOD military strategy and force structure conducted every four years.

The introduction to the 71-page QDR released Oct. 1 said that even before the September terrorist attacks, senior DOD leaders were building "a new strategy for America's defense that would embrace uncertainty and contend with surprise." Being able to "drag and drop" blocks of information from one federal information technology system to another will make that possible, Parmentier said.

After a hijacked jet crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, for example, emergency personnel converging on the disaster had difficulty coordinating their efforts in part because they had been trained differently and had conflicting command structures.

By using software specifications that make Web-based training materials interoperable, such as the Sharable Content Object Reference Model, "we can call up information at a moment's notice," Parmentier said. "Let's face it, terrorists are going to hit us in ways that are unexpected, so we need to be able to go out to multiple databases and pull up this stuff at the time we need it, not days or weeks later."

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