The DLA Training Center is being recognized for its efforts to provide high-quality distance learning opportunities for DLA employees, the military services and other Department of Defense agencies.
The DLA Training Center’s instructional design, multimedia and production support branch will receive the Federal Government Distance Learning Association’s Five-Star Award Aug. 14 at the Interactive Technologies Conference in Reston, Virginia. The award recognizes an organization for demonstrating excellence in providing enterprisewide distance learning solutions for the federal government.
Branch Chief John DiSalvo said the award recognizes the efforts of many DLA Training Center employees, including the instructors who deliver the courses, the multimedia specialists who make sure everything runs smoothly, and the instructional system designers who prepare materials for the courses.
“I have three teams here – multimedia, instructional designers and production support – who are responsible for all the materials,” DiSalvo said. “It takes a combination of all three teams to work with the course content, design it specifically for the medium that’s being used, and work with the instructors to practice and rehearse and make sure all the technical issues are worked out. It’s a large team effort not only with my team but with other members of DLA Training.”
DLA Training, part of DLA Human Resources Services, provides workforce development and essential training to more than 27,000 DLA civilian and military personnel, as well as numerous DoD agencies worldwide.
“It’s nice to be recognized by an entity that specializes in this area and it’s nice to see how we’ve evolved to where we’re at now, both people-wise and technology-wise,” said Tim O’Cain, chief of the multimedia branch. “I’ve got a great staff to work with. They’ve got a lot of new ideas and keep working to improve things.”
Kathleen Kinney, a multimedia specialist who submitted the award nomination, said the award highlights the positive benefits of the branch’s studios and their capabilities. DLA Training installed the state-of-the art broadcast studios in 2011 to maximize accessibility to quality training and to reduce costs.
“Since the installation of the studios, DLA Training has provided an increasing number of high-quality, interactive training sessions to personnel, saving millions of dollars in travel and training costs while delivering training when and where it is most needed,” she wrote.
The high-tech studios allow instructors to use the DoD Web conferencing platform Defense Connect Online, which includes capabilities like multiscreen live video conferencing. The studios have features like animated 3-D graphics, SmartBoards, document cameras, computer screen sharing, and the ability to place presenters in front of graphics or remote locations using green screens and the studio control room.
“It’s not just video teleconferences or DCO that we’re doing,” she said. “These studios are integral to delivering learning to an audience that is worldwide.”
Other factors besides the technical aspects help make well-produced distance learning sessions for students, O’Cain said, including the instructors and the materials used by the students.
“We can add a certain amount of entertainment to a course. With a well-planned out, scripted course, the distance learning course can feel to the students like they are sitting at home watching a show,” he said. “We try to make training as entertaining and informative as possible.”
O’Cain said the turn to virtual training has expanded the DLA Training Center’s training capabilities, and using the virtual environment enables DLA Training to quickly address competency gaps by delivering live training anywhere in the world.
“Our footprint has grown larger and larger as we’ve gone along,” O’Cain said, noting that his staff is sometimes on duty at all hours of the night or even weekends to meet the needs of students located around the world.
“We broadcast at all times of the day,” he said. “Whatever time the broadcast needs to start, we staff it.”
The quick turnaround time in setting up a distance learning session is another benefit, Kinney said, noting that it used to sometimes take a while to get everyone’s schedules aligned to conduct classroom training.
“The really cool aspect of these studios is that they allow us to provide training to our constituents at their location when it’s convenient for them,” she said. “The training sessions can be done at a moment’s notice if needed.”
Since 2011, DLA Training’s instructional systems designers have been working with subject matter experts to convert existing face-to-face training to distance learning.
Mary Reinhardt, an instructional system designer based in St. Louis, said several considerations come into play when developing training materials for distance learning, including the tools that are available to instructors.
“You have to be aware that the students are at a distance and the instructor is not able to read their faces to get feedback,” she said. “You have to keep the course and the content moving to keep the students engaged.
The expansion of distance learning has also paid off for DLA in cost savings. In fiscal 2012, distance learning courses delivered through the studios saved DLA $3.7 million in travel-related expenses alone. From October 2013 to May 2014, DLA Training delivered more than 130 distance learning courses and is on track to save even more.
“We see this effort aligning in a big way to the vision of DLA,” DiSalvo said. “We’re not only being efficient and pleasing the customer, but we’re also definitely experiencing a lot of cost avoidance or potential cost savings.”
Bret Williams, a multimedia specialist with the DLA Training Center’s instructional design, multimedia and production support branch, observes a bank of screens to make sure students can see and hear the instructor during a distance learning session. The DLA Training Center is being recognized for its distance learning capabilities. Photo courtesy of DLA Training
Instructor Troia Braxton stands in one of three DLA Training Center studios at the DLA Land and Maritime installation in Columbus, Ohio, that are available to conduct distance learning sessions with students from all over the world. In addition to the broadcast cameras, the room includes features like a SmartBoard, document cameras and computer screen sharing. Photo courtesy of DLA Training