Air Force beta-tests adaptive learning platform in basic military training
By Dan Hawkins, Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs
/ Published January 14, 2020
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Education and Training Command’s emphasis on the use of technology to aggressively and cost-effectively modernize education and training took another step forward at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland with the issuance of personal tablets to two in-processing flights at basic military training.
On Dec. 11, 2019, about 110 trainees with the 321st Training Squadron received the computers as part of a six-month Cooperative Research and Development Agreement beta test designed to test adaptive and personalized learning in the BMT setting.
“Our intent in conducting this pilot is to assess learning outcomes, value and return on investment to the overall BMT mission,” said Capt. Tyler Hoff, 321st TRS and project manager for the initiative. “This pilot really has the potential to be the future of BMT.”
The CRADA partnership with the 737th Training Group includes Cerego, an online adaptive learning platform, and Microsoft, which provided the computers being used in the beta test. Integration Technologies Group is on-site as well to provide information technology solutions needed as part of the trial run.
The adaptive learning platform instigates study time when it’s most beneficial, aimed at increasing knowledge retention and gives instructors real-time feedback data and analysis of student progress.
“The software is designed to help students learn material more efficiently and retain knowledge longer through an adaptive, personalized learning tool that provides real-time feedback to optimize the learning experience instead of the way we have always done it – through paper textbooks,” said Staff Sgt. Samudra Thio, BMT Pilot Project lead, who came up with the idea to introduce technology into BMT. “The technology being used will help focus instruction in academic areas identified as potentially weak for individual Airmen, really tailoring the experience in a learner-centric way where the knowledge gap is. This hopefully will help Airmen learn more efficiently.”
Another potential benefit is in terms of time savings for military training instructors.
"Looking at the amount of time that can potentially be given back to our MTI's is also going to be extremely valuable," Thio said. "Tasks that have been done previously in a manual manner, such as grading academic tests, can be graded electronically and in real time with the use of technology."
Changes to the BMT curriculum happen instantly so the students see the new material in their next review, instead of waiting months because of the need to reprint textbooks, Thio said.
A major piece of the effort to get the initiative up and running was done by the BMT content development team, who had to transfer all of the BMT curriculum to the tablets, Thio said.
“The content team finished up about four weeks ahead of schedule, which really allowed us to accelerate our timeline,” Thio said. “Every textbook, lecture and video currently in use in the BMT curriculum has been transferred to the computers, allowing trainees to digitally access the content at any time.”
The BMT trainees also have access to AETC’s Learning Wi-Fi service in the classroom and via wireless pucks in the dorms.
The two flights are scheduled to graduate in early February, at which time the AETC Studies and Analysis Squadron will analyze data from the class and recommend a way forward.
“Our Airmen join the Air Force already possessing tons of experience in using mobile technology in the learning environment,” said Chief Master Sgt. Julie Gudgel, AETC command chief. “The use of technology is going to transform the way we learn and how our Airmen experience BMT. Today's Airman learns differently, and we need to ensure we are doing everything we can to deliver that learning in ways that enable them to be excited about it."
The 737th Training Group, part of the 37th Training Wing, is headquartered at JB San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, is responsible for Air Force Basic Military Training and is the only enlisted basic training location in the Air Force. The 737th Training group turns more than 35,000 civilians into Airmen each year. Each Friday, with the exception of about three non-accession weeks, an average of 650 Airmen graduate from BMT.