A system from Iron Bow helped the Defense Acquisition University upgrade its training capacity
The Defense Acquisition University needed to reduce travel costs, increase training opportunities and improve the effectiveness of certain courses that require intensive participant interaction.
DAU provides practitioner training, career management and related services that enable the Department of Defense’s acquisition, technology and logistics community to make smart business decisions and deliver timely and affordable capabilities to warfighters.
University officials decided the best way to address the challenges was to invest in telepresence, a form of videoconferencing that would simulate an in-person experience for students and meet the university’s need to deliver more services while simultaneously reducing costs.
DAU’s program management career track features a program manager course at the core of its curriculum. PMT 401 is a mandatory 10-week course for senior executives that is designed to strengthen their skills through detailed discussions, analysis of case studies, media training and leadership simulations.
The course’s success is dependent on intensive interaction, mentoring and coaching among participants and from the instructor. Clear observation of body language and facial expressions is required to create meaningful exchanges, successful discussions and simulations. Instructors rely on physical observation to determine if students are listening and engaged. DAU’s existing video teleconferencing system worked well for most courses, but it wasn’t optimal for PMT 401, which requires fully engaged participants and observation of subtle body language. Varying video quality and monitor sizes made it challenging for students to participate fully in discussions and simulations.
Officials decided a state-of-the-art solution was needed to increase the course’s effectiveness by allowing clear face-to-face communications and presentation of content in a way that simulated an in-person experience. Also, they wanted a solution that would interoperate with video teleconferencing systems already in use.The Implementation
DAU turned to Iron Bow Technologies, of Chantilly, Va., to upgrade its video teleconferencing system with a standards-based, open-architecture, high-definition solution. University officials selected the RealPresence Experience (RPX) HD 418M immersive telepresence suite from Polycom Inc., of Pleasanton, Calif., because it would interoperate with DAU’s existing systems, was DOD-compliant and offered the high-definition technology the university required. Iron Bow managed the implementation of the technology. Polycom’s RPX suite provided a scalable, standards-based solution and included:
- Four life-size high-definition plasma displays.
- High-definition audio with surround sound.
- “Separate screen” content delivery.
- Support for 18 participants per site, spread across 10 locations.
- Point-to-point and multipoint call capability.
- Certified compliance with Joint Interoperability Test Command requirements.
The Polycom suite provides the high-definition audio, video and life-size projection DAU needed to allow students to easily interact with one another. All participants at connected sites can see one another simultaneously with large-as-life displays. High-definition audio is supported by a combination of surround sound and directional microphones. Facilitators can productively lead courses, observing expressions and eye contact.
Existing video teleconferencing systems can still be used for other courses and were easily integrated into the RPX solution. Travel costs have been reduced through the use of 10 class locations instead of only one. DAU can now host distance-learning courses, business meetings and courses for larger groups.
Installation at each of the 10 locations was completed in about two weeks per site. The Iron Bow and Polycom teams provided technical training on-site at Fort Belvoir, Va., for all technical personnel and hands-on telepresence training for facility personnel at each site. The team provides technical support through Polycom’s Video Network Operations Center, which also controls scheduling, remote monitoring, fault management and monthly reporting.
Telepresence is now truly immersive, with all instructors and participants appearing life-size on large plasma screens for an in-person, face-to-face experience. Aside from the PMT 401 course, DAU uses the 10 sites to host a variety of distance-learning courses and business meetings. The technology allows DAU instructors to teach larger groups and dramatically reduces the travel costs for students.