A 'Smart'er way to train
July 8, 2011
FORT LEE, Va. - Research shows that the millennial generation can text, surf the internet, chat with friends, watch television and listen to music all while doing their school work. This has prompted the Army’s implementation of new training pilot programs that capitalize on the unique learning styles and multi-tasking ability of today’s Soldier.
One of these programs is Smart Training, which uses these abilities in a constructive manner to increase knowledge retention and provide the Army with a better trained Soldier. According to Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Richards, course manager with the Transportation School’s Motor Transport Operator Course, the new training is characterized by shorter instruction blocks, peer-to-peer coaching and more engaging lessons.
"We are trying to get away from traditional PowerPoint training because it doesn’t work with this new generation of Soldiers," said Richards. "The way millennials learn today is a lot different than how Soldiers learned in the past. They are in a digital learning environment, so the old method of staying focused on one subject doesn’t hold their attention and we end up losing them."
The Transportation School, which is part of the Combined Arms Support Command, is the proponent for the course. The 58th Transportation Battalion, 3rd Chemical Brigade, located at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., volunteered to conduct the pilot program for the Training and Doctrine Command and has already graduated one class using this training method. The MTOC is responsible for training 75 percent of the Army’s drivers.
The MTOC pilot program is an example of how Army training commands are using new methods to reach the millennial generation of Soldiers. The model fits into the new training mentality that shifts from topic to topic to keep students engaged. The training integrates ideas from the Army Learning Concept, Army CAPSTONE Concept and the Army Training Concept 2012-2020.
The course introduces students to the basics of operating and maintaining the Family of Medium Tactical Truck 5-ton cargo truck, Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck load handling system, and the M915 tractor semi-trailer. The pilot program has taken students from the traditional seven-week training program that focused on one vehicle for a week, to a more comprehensive program.
"For the first week, it is still general knowledge, but weeks two and three are now called ground operations," said Richards. "This means instead of having only one vehicle per week, now we have all three vehicle systems. The advantage is that the students stay engaged and receive more driving time."
While packing more hands-on training into the same timeline might seem difficult, Richards contends the students are getting the same instruction. "We have the same information, we’ve just restructured the method of delivery to meet their learning style."
This concept is carried out for the remainder of training. Weeks four and five focus on convoy operations. Instead of convoying one vehicle type per week under the old training, they now use all three vehicles during the two week period.
"What we’re doing with Smart Training is spending no more than two hours on one task, then switching to another," said Richards. "All these tasks tie back to the same end goal of teaching."
Week six stays the same with tactical operations and weapon system familiarization. However, under the new program there is an eight hour scenario based tactical convoy operation built in to capture all of the tasks learned in the course. This allows the students to learn the most current techniques being used to support the warfighter.
This method of instruction has already produced positive results. The average miles a class drives has risen from 21,000 to 29,000 - an increase of more than 38 percent with the first group. Richards said the result is a better trained Soldier being sent to the field.
"The students are doing better under the new methods," said Richards. "We’ve already seen an increase in test scores and knowledge retention."
Plans for the future include implementing a peer-to-peer instructional program where students assist in training. The goal is to increase student comprehension by allowing select Soldiers to help instruct their classmates on practical exercises.
"We are going to start using peer instructors with the next group," said Richards. "These are student instructors that we identify as picking up the concepts and material quickly. Once identified, they will test out of a subject and then be allowed to help their fellow students grasp the concepts.
"These students can sometimes relate to their own generation better than an older instructor," Richard continued. "Peer instructors are always under the direct observation of a course instructor to ensure the safety of the Soldiers conducting the training."
Richards was pleased with the feedback following the first class and said his team of instructors is looking forward to implementing new changes to training as the pilot program progresses.