Defence rolls out e-learning platform in double time

The Department of Defence has delivered a new $5 million e-learning platform to personnel to stop the trend towards outsourced training about 10 months ahead of schedule.

Military and civilian access to the Defence Online Management and Instructional Network (Domain) was originally slated for December this year, but a pilot last November became the catalyst to speed the rollout.

"Currently there's the situation in Defence where people are going outside for training," said Brett MacDonald, director, flexible learning solutions, Defence education and training and development branch.

"We had a small pilot in November of 9000 users, and thought rather than wait till December for everybody to have access, we'll give them access straight away, with reduced capability and generic access."

The platform will deliver a range of courses such as occupational health and safety, security, fraud and ethics, Microsoft desktop and IT specialisations. The system went live on March 19 to 90,000 personnel.

"By rolling the system out [earlier] we get immediate return-on-investment rather than waiting till the end of the year," MacDonald said.

Domain replaces previous disparate Web-interfaced and spreadsheet systems, providing a common platform for all e-learning across the organisation.

"Previously when one [defence] group needed its e-learning managed it would go out and get its system, and then later another group would do the same for its needs," MacDonald said.

"So we said rather than buy all these separately, let's buy one common system so [the groups] just have to devise their content and put it on the system."

Domain will also allow training to be standardized and delivered faster.

"With e-learning we can ensure that someone in a remote location or on operational deployment is getting the same training as others, and it will let us deliver training on time without a travelling roadshow," MacDonald said.

MacDonald said he expected Defence to significantly increase e-learning programs, as any new assets purchased usually required training of personnel. For example, the recently-acquired Air 87 helicopters would come with an e-learning component.

However, the trade-offs in launching the system ahead of schedule mean customised workflow capabilities for different groups within Defence are still to be developed. As an example, Defence would be working to let Navy ships access Domain so sailors can train on-board, MacDonald said.

Currently part of the department's intranet, Domain will eventually be portal-based alongside other Defence applications.

Over the next six to nine months, Defence will also scope the impact of functionality of high-bandwidth applications such as videoconferencing and virtual classrooms on the network.

"The learning management system runs on the Defence Restricted Network, so there's some restrictions on multimedia. It's not high-end at this stage," MacDonald said.

These restrictions are physical, due to the Network being widely distributed throughout the country, as well as security controls.

"Over the next five years we're not going to have the budget or infrastructure for audio and video streaming over this network," MacDonald said.

"So we'll be looking at the business requirements and getting the ball rolling to get the bandwidth for, say, virtual classrooms.

"For instance, at the moment we can only support Flash 5. So until the SOE (standard operating environment) is upgraded you can only develop in Flash 5."

Defence will also work on giving Domain access to about 500 "locally engaged" people working in Australian embassies overseas.

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