By T. Anthony BellJune 6, 2014
FORT LEE, Va. (June 6, 2014) -- The Army's schoolhouse learning model is evolving.
Fading are images of instructors standing at podiums and distributing information via computer slideshows; practices that emphasize muscle memory as the chief means to learning; and classrooms bound by walls.
Emerging is a new learning environment that's dynamic and interactive. Called the Army Learning Model 2015, known as ALM 2015, it leverages technology, defines a learning continuum and describes a shared responsibility for learning amongst the individual Soldier and the institutional and operational components.
ALM 2015 is scheduled to be in full effect by October, but has rapidly taken shape at the Ordnance School's Armament and Electronics Maintenance Training Department. Its Land Combat Division, or LCD, is one of several within the schoolhouse that has implemented changes to its curriculum and training processes to satisfy the requirements of ALM 2015.
Benjamin Lugo, chief of LCD, said ALM is more suited to how Soldiers learn today, and is far removed from the times when instructor-centric lectures dominated the learning environment.
"I think the Army Learning Model 2015 addresses the need to modify the Army's outdated learning systems, which were instructor-centered and throughput-oriented, to one that focuses on the individual student and is relevant to this generation of learners," he said.
LCD is responsible for training Soldiers in the military occupational specialties of land combat and electronics missile systems repair (20 weeks); Avenger systems repair (17 weeks); and Multiple Launch Rocket System repair (24 weeks). The courses are measurably technical, involving electronics to a large degree, and the operation of various pieces of equipment. Lugo said ALM was the appropriate means to unlock LCD's potential in using scenario-based, hands-on training as a primary teaching tool.
"ALM is a learner-centric methodology requiring students to engage with the equipment," he said. "The learning is relevant and students learn through process of discovery. So much of our equipment in terms of diagnosis and fault isolation lends itself to ALM 2015 and skills-based training."
Skills-based training is a learning strategy that emphasizes critical thinking skills. It supports several ALM tenets.
From the beginning of the courses to the end, LCD students are exposed to the equipment they will use in the field, said Staff Sgt. John Truss, the LCD non-commissioned officer in charge. That exposure at some point moves to problem-solving scenarios that puts the learning impetus on students.
"We give them a piece of equipment and tell them it's broken; now go out there, figure out what wrong with it and fix it," said Truss, noting students were not previously provided a considerable level of access to equipment during the courses. He said he has seen their competency level increase within the past year due to the changes.
"The students have a more comprehensive understanding of the instruction," he said. "Before it was a picture -- here's the association; now it's hands-on. A Soldier can now operate, function and troubleshoot better as it relates to the equipment."
In addition to the use of scenario-based instructional methods that empower the students to learn, LCD also has tackled the ALM tenets of lifelong learning, technology integration and trade certification. Most notable are their efforts in technology. In that area, it has had a hand in developing the Interactive Multimedia Instruction system.
"We had our higher headquarters build an interactive system on the computers," said Truss. "The students use laptops equipped with software that breaks down the individual components using exploded views."
LCD also uses simulation systems and Blackboard, a computer-based student assessment.
In the credentialing arena, students undergoing training in LCD are offered trade certifications even though the military occupational specialties taught there have no civilian equivalents. The certifications, related to the basic electronics portion of the course, can be completed prior to graduation. They are administered by the Electronic Technicians Association.
While LCD has undergone many changes under ALM, Lugo said the implementation has been a varied experience.
"Change has come quickly in some areas and is more subtle in other areas," he said. "We eliminated all paper-based assessments and converted to computer-based assessments through the use of Blackboard (an online classroom portal). IMI conversion is a process, and we have been back and forth to the 'drawing board' more than once."
Are the changes producing better students? Truss said the training has come a long way since he was a young Soldier and ALM is a major enhancement that will improve how Soldiers learn.
"It's a really good thing because I think we're sending Soldiers out to the units better prepared, no matter what type of units to which they are assigned," he said, noting LCD Soldiers are often sent to units with varied pieces of equipment.
Looking to the future, Lugo said LCD will continue its efforts to implement ALM. They include YouTube videos that provide Soldiers the "opportunity to learn at their point of need and not be bound by a brick and mortar institution."