Last year was a decisive year for Defense Acquisition University. To maintain its edge, the organization overhauled its learning strategy and unrolled the Acquisition Learning Model, or ALM.
“DAU’s primary challenge, now and in the future, is to help the next generation of learners succeed on the job,” DAU president Jim Woolsey said. “They have fewer programs — career opportunities — on which to lean and gain experience, fewer mentors to help them learn and fewer resources, yet they still must succeed.”
Created to improve the business results for DAU’s clients, the ALM integrates and repurposes learning assets across a range of modalities. The ALM is delivered through three domains: foundational learning, workflow learning and performance learning. These areas were incorporated into DAU’s strategic plan to ensure the new method aligns to the company’s overall business strategy.
Chris Hardy, DAU’s director of strategic planning and learning analytics, said that because the strategic planning process is the company’s engine for change and transformation, it makes sense that the performance-based plan be the vehicle to drive ALM implementation.
The domains work together so that employees fluidly gain new insight at work or on-the-go with access to myriad learning resources. They can collaborate with experts, mentors and peers through communities and blogs, improve their workforce performance through a variety of job support tools, and receive recommendations about additional relevant learning assets based on their needs and interests. “The lines between the types of learning will blur,” Woolsey said. “The student doesn’t notice or care, but does know that DAU is helping every day.”
Defense Acquisition workforce members are required to be certified for their positions. Through the ALM’s foundational learning domain, clients across career fields have access to a range of DAU certification training course offerings to help fulfill their requirements. That on-the-job learning is augmented by DAU’s performance learning/mission assistance program, where seasoned faculty provide face-to-face support on-site at client organizations.
To ensure ALM’s acceptance, DAU launched an aggressive communications campaign targeting senior leaders in the U.S. Defense Department, internal staff, the learning and development community, and the defense acquisition workforce. The ALM implementation was executed and managed by an annual performance plan that includes more than 100 performance tasks to be completed this year that cascade through DAU’s leadership team to individual faculty through their incentive plans.
The new strategy created a robust online knowledge-sharing enterprise with searchable regulations, performance-support tools and communities of practice, Hardy said. DAU clients see the results. They report greater efficiency, flexibility and innovation. For example, DAU’s recommendations enabled a major aircraft program to significantly reduce the unit price of 25 surveillance aircraft and deliver more capability for less money, ultimately saving the program office $630 million. The office was reallocated for additional aircraft critical mission capabilities.
DAU’s learning assets touch Defense Acquisition workforce members in 112 countries through a mix of classroom, Web-based and hybrid delivery methods. Offering certification, development and executive/leadership support courses spanning 15 career fields, last year it provided 4.5 million combined hours in classroom and online learning, according to the company. It also increased continuous learning module completions to more than 700,000 and provided 369 mission assistance efforts totaling more 52,000 hours. Last year, DAU graduated roughly 174,000 students.
Despite these accomplishments, Hardy said there will always be a distance to go. “There is no ‘there.’ You have to just keep climbing the mountain if you’re going to stay ahead of the curve.” For example, DAU has its electronic performance tool Consolidated Learning Asset Standards and Processes site that was also introduced in 2015. CLASP is a one-stop resource shop to support DAU faculty and vendors in the new learning solutions development. Hardy said the site has improved DAU’s process to develop and deliver learning assets to clients.
DAU is operating with an anytime, anyplace mentality, continuously creating and refining ways to rapidly deploy an increasing number of learning products to a growing learning audience.
This, Woolsey said, is the future of learning, “and it’s well within our reach. There will be more changes, new technology and new possibilities. We are well positioned to see these, adapt, and remain a world-class learning leader.”
Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.