Guard, U.K. make e-learning pact

The National Guard Bureau and the Defense Department's Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative last week announced the first-ever e-learning partnership laboratory with an international partner.

Maureen Lischke, the Guard's chief information officer and program executive officer for information systems, said a working agreement has been reached between the United States and the United Kingdom to establish a co-laboratory at the University of Wolverhampton in England.

A co-lab is an open, collaborative test bed environment for sharing learning technology research, development and assessments.

U.S. officials first began discussing the co-lab agreement with their U.K. counterparts in August 2001, said Lischke, who also heads the bureau's Distributive Training and Technology Project. By the end of this month, she said officials will sign the formal memorandum of understanding, which will spell out the focus areas for the distance-learning research.

She added that the partnership is no cost to the National Guard. Lischke and Nancy Teich, ADL's program integrator, said one of the goals of the agreement is to promote the development and acceptance of global e-learning standards. With such standards, international groups will be able to share content, courseware modules and lessons learned on technology implementation.

The foundation of that collaboration will be the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM), a software specification that sets guidelines for developing online course material and makes Web-based training materials interoperable and easily shared.

SCORM is the basis for ADL's vision of reliable, affordable, Internet-accessible and reusable training courseware, Teich said, adding that it is gaining acceptance in the U.K. as well as other NATO Partnership for Peace nations.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense, which oversees the ADL program (www.adlnet.org), and the National Guard jointly established varied e-learning initiatives for the Wolverhampton lab to work on, including:

* Establishing a "plug fest" in the U.K. — similar to those at domestic ADL co-labs — that will enable vendors and European governments to test their products in a SCORM environment.

* Extending distance-learning offerings to the warfighter through wireless capabilities.

The National Guard has more than 450,000 personnel at 3,500 sites in 54 states and territories, making global, enhanced e-learning capabilities a critical addition to traditional training methods, Lischke said.

In 1999, the Office of the Secretary of Defense established the ADL co-laboratory and encouraged government agencies, industry and academia to collaborate in the research, development and testing of standards and guidelines to support distributive learning.

Later that year, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the University of Wisconsin established an agreement with DOD to establish an academic ADL co-lab in Madison, Wis., to tap the academic leadership and knowledge resources available in the nation's universities and colleges. The ADL co-lab has more than 250 partners, including Carnegie Mellon University, the University of California-Berkeley, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.

In addition to the Wisconsin facility, the National Guard Bureau, along with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Office of Naval Research and the Labor Department also support co-labs in Alexandria, Va., and Orlando, Fla., by providing staffing, equipment and other resources, Lischke said.

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