FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Soldier Support Institute is in the process of converting dozens of training modules to digital formats that can be read on smart devices, an initiative that is expected to have a profound impact on Soldier training.

"We've done about 20 publications so far," said Steve Northrop, chief of the SSI's education technology branch. "Everything we are transforming is being used in one of the courses here or being published within the institute. Around 40 to 50 documents will be converted by the end of the year."

The ePub/Mobi initiative at the SSI was launched in conjunction with Connecting Soldiers To Digital Applications, a program established to explore the value of using smart devices to provide Soldiers with applications for select administrative, training and tactical functions. Northrop said a problem with previous approaches to putting Army regulations on smart devices was that stand alone applications were being built, forcing Soldiers to download a new app for every publication.

The ePub/Mobi initiative creates mobile documents that work with current e-readers that come with the Soldier's device. This approach allows the Soldier to have a library of documents in one central location and to take advantage of all the interactivity that the e-reader offers.

"Android and Apple smart devices already come with a free e-reader on them and you know (they) were coming from a credible source," Northrop said.

The ePub initiative makes three different formats available to Soldiers: ePub, which, among others, works on Apple smart devices; Mobi, which works on Blackberry and Kindle; and the traditional PDF file, which works on many platforms.

"As we were developing the (ePub and Mobi files) we saw that the PDFs that were being produced by Army Publishing Directorate weren't always hyperlinked. They were screen shots of pages. You couldn't search against them or anything," he said.

The device-friendly PDF files supplied through the ePub initiative will be interactive, he said.

The primary goals of the initiative are to provide additional training materials to Soldiers without personal cost, and to make training literature accessible from anyplace.

The ePub initative is also part of the larger U.S. Army Learning Concept for 2015, which is working to create a learner-centric environment for Soldiers.

"We will be using smart practical exercise which generates new practical exercises," Northrop said. "You never get the same practical exercise twice. Within the institute it's raised the learning level; outside it's done the same for refresher training. The practical exercise will take them through the simulation so they can get that muscle memory back."

There are currently two CSDA pilot programs for digital application initiatives at SSI. They are partnering with the Adjutant General School to pilot the Human Resource Plans and Operations residence course, and with the Financial Management School to produce a pilot geared toward Advanced Individual Training for financial management technicians. The program for Human Resource Plans and Operations launched in January while the second pilot program is set to begin in September.