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Turning Government Learning Architecture Investments Into Commercial Wins

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

A recent development across the public sector is the realization that learning management systems (LMSs) are inefficient within large-scale enterprises. They tend to be closed and redundant, and they lack the ability to evolve with changing technology trends. Consequently, interoperability; efficiency; the ability to push, pull, and aggregate data; and the ability to change at the pace of need have become primary focuses of learning engineering. With the creation of a standardized and accessible data stream to data lake to worldwide data ocean, schools, universities, businesses, the military, and the government can gain the capability of supporting lifelong learning trajectories, personalized learning pathways, and optimized individual and collective performance.

The US government has launched a widescale digital modernization overhaul, and the work being conducted on the inside of the public sector will soon reach across the country as well as worldwide. Several key business practices and improvements have been made that are already reflected in US businesses, but the Department of Defense is spearheading a complementary effort that has yet to reach the private sector. During the past two decades, a distributed learning initiative has helped organize and invest in research regarding how to best train and educate our military personnel, regardless of location during training. Implications for the military are obvious, but the benefits to businesses may not be initially recognized. The goal was to first design a data backbone structure architected to provide extensive access to data about learners that could be used to optimize training decisions. The second goal was to determine the most impactful learning strategies that could be implemented based on these data.

Initial research made clear that independent, one-off research, projects, or programs would never allow for the level of seamless data interaction needed to support data mining techniques such as artificial intelligence (AI) in successfully identifying best patterns across the enterprise. The likelihood that a single entity outside the government or military space could, or would, solve this dilemma was small because it would mean working with a broad range of organizations at little to no direct financial benefit. In these instances, government coordination is necessary. Thus, what started in a research lab as the total learning architecture grew to a modernizing learning blueprint for the United States and allied nations and has been formally added to the digital modernization efforts happening across the US government. The Enterprise Digital Learning Modernization Initiative aims to create the pipeline of data flow and access that will change the way we view, measure, and support learning across the lifetime. It makes possible the ability to measure, capture, store, aggregate, and analyze enormous amounts of continuous data that can be translated into personal and company-wide interventions and planning.


But this is just the backbone; it’s equivalent to building the foundation and studs for walls in a house. It creates the structure but not the observable additions and choices one prefers or needs within a home. The real benefit of this setting is how learning strategies and new measurement or teaching modalities can be added and employed. Wearable devices that measure cognitive and physiological changes can provide real-time data while a long-term data stream will allow workers to provide past and present learning experiences from birth forward (after giving permission to their data, of course). AI will be able to mine this information and combine it with business and personal goals to design recommended learning, personal, and professional growth trajectories as well as team formation recommendations. Simulations, virtual reality, and augmented reality will provide near-real-world experiences for employees and customers to learn, plan, and act in more efficient and effective ways.

Taken together, the businesses investing in the future will not be focused today on the specific technologies. Rather, they will be asking their CLOs to become architects who will design the blueprints for frameworks that will allow for constantly evolving apps to flexibly promote life-long learning, growth, and worker retention.

About the Author

Dr. J.J. Walcutt is a scientist, innovator, and learning engineer that specializes in talent development and strategic reform across education, military, and government. She served in the U.S. government as the director of innovation at the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative under the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as a Human Innovation Fellow under the Office of Personnel Management. During her tenure in the government, she helped define the interoperable digital backbone required for training, education, and talent development across the military, intelligence, and greater security sector. She also designed an open innovation model for re-imagining the executive branch to promote talent development and retention. In her role at the Pentagon, Walcutt focused on promoting the science of learning through her service as a U.S. Delegate to NATO, Partnership for Peace, and as a national and international keynote speaker. In her role as a human innovation fellow, she used the science of human centered design to recommend improved governmental communication structures with the American people to promote innovative problem solving. In this role, she provided keynote speeches nationally regarding innovation across, and transformation of, the federal government. Walcutt has over 20 years of experience in research and development for training and education with specific interests in improving educational systems to promote talent development, knowledge management, and decision making under stress.

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