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ADL iFest

iFEST 2022 focused on the value of working together to build the DoD’s future learning ecosystem. In today’s connected world, projects that achieve enterprise-level interoperability and widespread adoption depend on building partnerships.

Over 360 participants gathered at the Hilton Mark Center in Alexandria, VA from 16-18 August to learn about critical factors driving education and training modernization from policymakers, senior military officials, industry leaders, government, and academia.

The iFEST conference is sponsored annually by the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) in collaboration with the ADL Initiative. This signature event has become an important venue for tackling critical issues impacting how the DoD develops the workforce for the 21st century and prepares the warfighter to overcome adversaries now and into the future. The conference included keynote speakers, panels, sessions, technical presentations, and other activities organized around the theme New Paradigm of Learning: Partner and Prevail.

The three-day conference featured keynotes from Shawnna Hoffman, Chief Technology Leader, Legal Strategy & Operations, from Dell Technologies who provided the industry keynote on Day One, and The Hon. Beverly J. Seay, Southeast Regional Director, National Security Innovation Network, who provided the government keynote on Day Two.

Ms. Hoffman highlighted the benefits of using artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology in modernizing the learning ecosystem from provable, traceable badges to the execution of smart contracts. She also noted the importance of connecting with others and the impact of individuals giving back to their communities, “Generous people change the world,” said Hoffman.

Hon. Seay discussed the global strategic imperative of meeting the human capital challenge from the perspective of securing national security and how cultivating partnerships of problem solvers is a strategy of choice for all stakeholders from government to industry to academia.

“Our national security depends on highly skilled STEM talent and other exceptionally talented Americans in the Department of Defense and other government agencies. This is critical to preserving our competitive emerging technology advantage and having a force of resilient personnel trained for the global unpredictable operating environment,” The Hon. Beverly J. Seay, Southeast Regional Director, National Security Innovation Network.

Insights from the Experts – Government, Industry and Academia

iFEST featured a series of panel discussions with thought leaders providing their unique perspectives on how technology is being developed through partnerships as well as helping to strengthen partnerships based on enhanced learning experiences.

The Military Education and Training panel brought together defense leaders who oversee core components of the US and Allied military training and education systems to address the need to upskill and enhance the Total Force, and how they are taking advantage of the latest policies and technologies to enhance training and education.

The panelists included Brigadier-General Krista Brodie from the Canadian Armed Forces; Celeste Ward Gventer, Ph.D., President of Defense Security Cooperation University; William R. Mansell, SES, Director of the Defense Support Services Center, Defense Human Resources Activity; Kimberly Jackson, SES, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Readiness; Rear Admiral Peter Garvin from the Naval Education and Training Command; and Fred Engle, Director for Military Training for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. A major take away from this discussion was the importance of working with international partners and allies and addressing the technical and security challenges associated with training together and doing it successfully at the tactical level.

The panel New Paradigms of Learning: Partner and Prevail addressed the criticality of partnerships for meeting the demands of learners and employers alike. The panelists described innovative and cutting-edge learning partnership models and outlined how the new paradigms of learning need to evolve to meet the changing needs of the world of work. Nunzio Quacquarelli, QS, and Jerry Wind, Ph.D., Wharton, led the panel discussion which included executives from Amazon Web Services (Jason Strickland), Arizona State University (Heather Haseley); the University of Exeter (Tim Quine, Ph.D.) and Wharton Interactive (Levent Yarar). A key observation about partnerships shared by the panelists focused on empowering the student to inform industry and academic leaders on what is needed for optimized educational experiences and providing opportunities for students to teach other students for improved learning due to having a shared perspective.

“There seems to be a general agreement of the importance of partnership. But again, partnerships come in many forms and the question is, do we get the most out of them? And my suggestion would be to try to challenge the fundamental premise of partnership and how can you really improve the results or just continue with the current approach at hand,” Jerry Wind, Lauder Professor Emeritus and Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania

The final featured panel, Software and Data for Learning, examined how our learning ecosystem has been driven to new heights in the last two years with the adoption of the virtual workforce, advancements in technology and methodologies, and new ways to capture and leverage data. Panelists shared their insights on where we’re headed as well as best practices for creating impactful learning and development programs. The panel included executives from Moodle (Martin Dougiamas), General Assembly (David Porcaro, Ph.D.), EdSAFE AI Alliance (Russ Shilling), and Epic Games (Danny Williams).  A common observation by the panelists was that COVID caused a reactive response to using technology, and that now is an important time to reflect and leverage what was learned during the past few years to better design software, data collection and analysis, and to address equity issues associated with technology access.

Forming the Force: Learning in the Era of Great Power Competition…On the Rocks

Special guest Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, USMC (Ret.), Former Director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, joined conference attendees for the latest installment of the War on the Rocks reception at iFEST. War On The Rocks CEO Ryan Evans moderated the discussion.

Lt. Gen. Groen explained how artificial intelligence (AI) and related technologies are going to make a meaningful difference in all aspects of war fighting. To get to a point where AI is truly being utilized as a transformative technology, the DoD needs to lay the foundation for AI which requires the right data environment, the right infrastructure, the right platform stacks, and the right training.

ADLFEST War on the Rocks

LtGen Michael Groen, USMC (Ret.), Former Director, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, and War On The Rocks CEO Ryan Evans.

Full interview with LtGen Groen will be available at a future date via the War on the Rocks podcast series.

“I put a lot of emphasis on imagination. We haven’t yet imagined the implications of this digital transformation. And what that means for artificial intelligence and for data and how we use data,” Lt. Gen Groen

UKRAINE – A Report from the Frontline

Col. Maksym Tyshchenko, Ph.D., ADL Partnership Director, National Defence University of Ukraine brought the battlefield perspective to iFEST by sharing first-hand accounts of how advanced distributed learning is being leveraged by the Ukraine military in a time of war.

Col. Tyshchenko described the various tools being used to train soldiers which includes an eLibrary, providing manuals and documents connecting to a Moodle learning management system, as well as a video sharing platform to reinforce skills acquisition through microlearning in the field.

He emphasized the importance of sharing information to optimize learning opportunities. The Ukraine military is creating a clearinghouse of resources from multiple sources through interconnecting learning systems. Through this effort, the Ukraine military can conserve time, optimize resources, and ultimately save lives.

Col. Maksym Tyshchenko described how the Ukraine military is leveraging best practices from the ADL Initiative. He explained that the military has learned much from US counterparts, especially with the implementation of the Total Learning Architecture (TLA), which the Ukraine military is leveraging as it adapts its learning infrastructure to provide for readiness at the proper level under the limits and requirements of war with Russia.

Poster Winners

Every year during iFEST, participants are asked to pick their favorite posters, with People’s Choice awards presented to those with the best design and best narrative. For iFEST 2022, the People’s Choice Award for Best Design went to Learning Engineering At A Glance (by Jim Goodell, QIP, Sae Schatz, Ph.D., ADL Initiative, and Aaron Kessler, Ph.D., MIT) and the People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative went to xAPI Profiles and Business Logic (Shelly Blake-Plock, Yet Analytics).

Online access to iFEST 2022’s recorded speeches, panel sessions, technical presentations, and posters are available on the conference website. Slide decks are available for non-recorded presentations. The ADL Initiative is also preparing a video that summarizes the conference highlights to be made available on ADLnet.gov.

Become Involved in Next Year’s iFEST

Annual iFEST planning and implementation is supported by a committee of stakeholders representing DoD and other agencies, industry, and academic institutions. If you or your organization are interested in participating on the program committee for 2023, contact Julie Lowndes (SETA contractor) of the ADL Initiative at julie.lowndes.ctr@adlnet.gov by October 7, 2022.

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