The DNA of Training
More than Skin Deep: The New DNA of Training for Solving DoD’s Challenges
Developing more advanced skills more efficiently requires new and evolving approaches
Evolution may have shaped humans, but it’s our DNA that holds the keys to our most advanced traits. Similarly, with the rapid evolution of technology, we see training systems that are becoming more innovative and capable — even lifelike and real in some respects. But if we strip away the high fidelity interfaces and immersion, do we truly know what these systems are delivering? Are they producing more effective learning experiences? Are personnel measurably better prepared, or are they simply going through fancier exercises?
For our armed forces facing a realm of new training challenges, answering these questions is vital. From new and novel threats to more complex missions, 21st century Warfighters must be prepared to be more agile, more adaptive, and more capable. Individuals and teams require the advanced cognitive skills to thrive under conditions of ambiguity and chaos with minimal guidance.
So, it begs looking beneath the skin of the latest simulator or VR/AR technology to ensure that training experiences are not only more appealing to the senses, but also capable of developing advanced skills more efficiently and effectively.
Just as DNA defines our human physiology, the ‘DNA of training’ represents the Instructional Strategy, the ‘brain’ of the training system for developing higher-level skills. This blueprint includes the top-down instructional design, from the creation of scenarios and their sequencing, to the algorithms that measure and assess performance, to the interfaces and feedback that inform the learner and instructor. Together, all these components ensure that the training system produces the most prepared, highest performing Warfighters.
Let’s consider the DNA for an actual training requirement. Personnel from across the Department of Defense and other government agencies are challenged to work effectively with those from other cultures around the world. Not only must they be language proficient, but they need to overcome a variety of cross-cultural barriers. They require skills to navigate the human terrain, deciphering subtle social and cultural cues. Whereas the tactics of learning to fire a rifle or drive a tank are fairly straightforward, these advanced human competencies are squishier and harder to define. They require new approaches for developing complex reasoning and analytical skills.
The solution, CultureReady Basics, is a web-based training tool that gives personnel, many who’ve never been abroad, the problem-solving strategies to perform better in diverse cross-cultural interactions. Developed under the Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO), CultureReady Basics is built on a DNA of scientifically-proven instructional strategies. Its blended learning approach uses cross-cultural scenarios, direct instruction, and applied exercises to prepare individuals to operate across a variety of cultures, not just one.
The flexible platform accommodates a range of civilian and military personnel, from the novice who requires new skills, to the seasoned professional wanting a ‘deeper dive.’ Users can go at their own pace, gaining feedback from knowledge checks which can indicate where they need to refresh skills, or deepen their learning from available resources.
The original version of CultureReady Basics teaches generalizable cross-cultural skills. Over the past year, it has been extended to help build foreign language skills for Russian and Mandarin Chinese, incorporating country-specific scenarios. A new Arabic language version is currently under development as well. (http://cultureready.org/culture-language/culture-101/cultureready-basics)
Training tools like CultureReady Basics, pushed to the point of need and available on demand, are supporting more continuous learning, a departure from the limitations of sporadic or classroom-based training. Personnel can now access and engage in learning whenever and wherever they are.
The future is bright. By applying the latest in learning science and best practices, the right DNA of training can deliver optimized learning to military and government personnel whatever the need.
Acknowledgement. This article reflects work entitled, “CultureReady Basics Support,” under Contract H98210-16-C-0021, for Mr. Marc Hill and the Defense Language and National Security Education Office, whom the authors wish to thank.