FORT LEE, Va. — Today’s Soldier is tech savvy, uses state-of-the-art equipment to quickly and safely accomplish a mission, and can multitask with efficiency. To capitalize on these talents, the Army is conducting a pilot program that could potentially change the training environment.
Instructors and advanced students of the Unit Supply Specialist (92Y) course are using mobile devices, with tailored applications, to give students a platform where they can continue learning even after leaving the classroom.
“By providing the Soldiers with iPhones, they can review lesson plans anywhere and anytime,” Ron Spence, Automated Logistics Supply & Subsistence Branch chief, Quartermaster Division, Combined Arms Support Command, said. “They can be on their way to sick call and still stay up with the course work.”
The 92Y pilot program at the Quartermaster School is one of the first of its kind and was initiated in July. A new group of students received the devices in January and became the second class to test the iPhones.
“We’re in the second of four phases right now,” Spence said. The program will run through July of this year and has been designed to determine the feasibility of using the devices for training purposes.
Another benefit of the program is cost effectiveness. By using digital media for class materials, paper reproduction costs are virtually eliminated. That equates to savings for tax payers, Spence added.
This pilot program is in line with Army Learning Concept, ALC 2015. The ALC’s goal is to not only provide students with more relevant, tailored and engaging learning experiences through a career-long continuum, but also to make learning not location-dependent.
That is exactly what is taking place at Combined Arms Support Command, or CASCOM.
“The Army has multiple efforts currently taking place involving applications,” Matthew MacLaughlin, Technology Integration Branch chief, CASCOM, said. “We were able to partner with the Army Capabilities Integration Center for the pilot program to develop the first technology integrated course.”
Using mobile devices is quickly spreading to other occupational specialties, and Soldiers attending training at the Ordnance School’s Explosive Ordnance Course have also received similar devices and will begin using them soon.With the start of the new class of unit supply specialists, the devices will include three of the four modules (lesson plans) that make up the course, as well as 22 checks on learning (quizzes), eight manuals and a podcast library consisting of all the small arms inventory the students will encounter, MacLaughlin added.
Creating the mobile curriculum for the 92Y course took approximately 30 days, but the course complexity determines how long it takes to create the apps needed to provide students with the necessary materials.
Although the digital application is not intended to replace instructors, the mobile devices will provide an additional resource for students if more occupational information is needed.
“We do not let the students use the devices in class,” said Master Sgt. Travis Crawley, 92Y Division non-commissioned officer in charge. “We use it as a study tool so the students can review the next day’s lessons back in their rooms. This allows them to become familiar with what will be taught and gives them an opportunity to learn the material faster.”To date, the pilot program has allowed 116 students to benefit from using the devices and they agree it is a useful tool in the learning process.
As the program progresses, new devices will be supported and additional apps will be written and tailored for the Soldiers so it can expand as they advance through their careers. This could be especially useful in a field environment where access to textbooks and Internet usage would be limited.
“We can custom build apps as needs arise or change,” MacLaughlin said. “That will allow us to deliver the information wherever it is needed.”