Mobile Learning Environment- enhancing the delivery of tools, training and education for the Military Health System


In response to shifting learning paradigms and diminishing resources for in-person training and other traditional training approaches, it is proposed that the Military Health System (MHS) undertake an innovation campaign in mobile learning (m-Learning). m-Learning can play a significant role in helping the MHS achieve its diverse training mandates at home and on a global basis.

Recent MHS investments in m-learning research have produced a government-owned mobile learning infrastructure, mobile medical content and lessons that are ready to be leveraged. The timing is right for a pilot project focused on addressing operational utility and scalability to further advance m-learning from a concept to a sustained capability for the MHS.

A focus on readiness, in support of global health engagements, could be a good starting point for the initial broad introduction of m-learning to the military medical community. It is believed that the MHS medical training and education continuum could immediately benefit from extension into environments not currently being sufficiently served by traditional training modalities.

m-Learning is the instantaneous delivery of relevant content, uniquely designed to render on mobile devices (Smartphones and Tablets)--in a way that quickly satisfies an individual’s need for targeted, interactive information to gather knowledge, learn a skill, solve a problem or seek help, from a remote location.

Over the past years, organizations throughout the USG and Department of Defense to include DOD Health Affairs have begun investing in m-Learning capabilities. This investment signals a strong desire to evolve learning concepts and systems towards a more robust contemporary capability, which reflects the needs and preferences of today’s DOD workforce.

Along with line commanders, military education and training centers throughout DOD are also finding traditional training systems constraining, and are increasingly seeking to adapt and enhance training, building on the current best practice of modernizing civilian university settings. Furthermore, many medical training centers are developing committees to look at the evolving use of mobile devices by their student body, and are open to experimenting with mobile learning techniques. Similar ideas are being explored by North American corporates, with 68% of those interviewed planning to invest in a capability to deliver work-related information and tools to employee owned smart-phones in the next year (Frost & Sullivan, 2012).

Training is critical to the success of a broad spectrum of military operations both in-garrison and during deployed operations. Increasingly common is the requirement for medical support to deployed operations such as counter-insurgency (COIN), humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) and other stability operations. However, as Combatant Commanders attempt to tailor trainings immediate and strategic long-term roles to their area of responsibility and requirements, they find current training methodologies, and related technologies, are not well-suited for addressing their needs. This gap is limiting their ability to meet the global learning needs of today’s US and Coalition forces operating overseas. The broad and rapidly changing field of medical support to non-combat operations offers an ideal use case for optimizing m-Learning and productivity tool development.

A recently completed DoD mobile learning technology infrastructure development project called the Mobile Learning Environment (MoLE) Project succeeded in trialling a prototype mobile learning capability, and developing an open source, cross-platform mobile App infrastructure that solves many of the technical barriers currently limiting widescale adoption, as well as enabling m-learning tools and content to be shared between multiple different smartphone platforms. This environment underwent international trials with 21 countries showcasing content designed for deploying medical personnel responding to a disaster, as a proof of concept via an App called GlobalMedAid. DOD Health Affairs co-funded this project.

The focus of the proposed MHS innovation pilot project would be to build on the preliminary findings (and technical investment) to address gaps in existing “just-in-time” capabilities for deploying medical personnel that are participating in a variety of overseas medical missions-- ranging from medical readiness and training missions to humanitarian assistance and disaster response. This would include dynamic, flexible, “just in time” mobile tools and content that could be leveraged to help support the learning needs of our international partners, such as Coalition Forces and NGOs during joint operations. The GlobalMedAid application is an example of the type of content that might be considered for use. See vision-setting video included in the submission.

The medical content options are extensive, and will need to be tailored to a specific mission set in the initial project; but once validated could easily be expanded by future stakeholders to meet additional missions and audiences. Although this pilot would be initially targeted at deployed operations, the infrastructure and mobile content could be transferred to support training and education at U.S-based medical training institutions such as the Medical Education and Training Center (METC) for further adaption and use.

The potential benefits of m-Learning tools and resources are significant, particularly in the efficiencies they can provide for our medics, both in training and productivity on the job, saving time and effort. It also is complimentary to traditional learning as an aid before, during and after training or e-Learning. The pilot project will help sort out a transition for the infrastructure and business process.

The costs and approach for this project are scalable. It is estimated that a pilot could range from $100,000 to $500,000 depending on the scope directed by MHS leaders and targeted end-users. Costs could cover further refinement of the mobile interface and navigation mobile content development to enhance utility, and program management, implementation evaluation support, as well as, a business plan for transition of the capability.

Partners: Army/Navy/AF Components within any COCOM AOR, using a permissive environment for the project . An m-Learning trial would overlay scheduled OCONUS humanitarian civic assistance (HCA) and/or Medical Readiness & Training Exercise missions such as Continuing Promise, Beyond the Horizons, or Pacific Angel. These missions offer a realistic pre-deployment/deployment scenario (use case) ideal for an operational field test to further assess military utility and scalability.

Depending on the timing of project start and cooperation of partners, a pilot could occur in Summer 2013.

POC: Cynthia R. Barrigan, MPH, (IPA), Portfolio Manager, Global Health Engagement, Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, US Army Medical Research & Materiel Command, Fort Detrick: Email: Cynthia.Barrigan@tatrc.org on behalf of LTC Deydre Teyhen, Acting Director, TATRC

Try it out