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CHIPS Articles: Innovative IT Training Course Graduates First Digital Tutor Class

Innovative IT Training Course Graduates First Digital Tutor Class
By Center for Information Dominance Public Affairs - September 3, 2015
PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Eighteen information systems technician (IT) students graduated from the first Digital Tutor (DT) course at the Center for Information Dominance (CID) Unit Corry Station, Sept. 1.

Preparing new Navy Sailors to join the Information Dominance Corps as network system administrators (SYSADMIN), DT is an artificial intelligence-based training method designed for the next generation of cyber warriors, reducing training time from years to months.

The artificial intelligence DT program was developed by studying how the best instructors teach, tutor and adapt to individual students to achieve the most effective learning outcome, and then incorporating the information into the software. DT not only teaches each student one-on-one, but also monitors, processes and coaches student responses as an actual tutor would through a series of highly interactive, progressively challenging troubleshooting exercises. The system ensures each student comprehends the knowledge and demonstrates the desired outcome of the program's learning objectives.

"Teaching with intelligent tutoring is transforming our Sailors into IT professionals in a much shorter period of time than it has normally taken us with traditional teaching methods and on-the-job experience," said Capt. Maureen Fox, commanding officer, CID headquarters, which oversees training around the country. "Many aspects of IT training are comparable to civilian workforce training, so adapting Digital Tutor to our Navy IT training made for a good fit as we explore this kind of advanced teaching methodology. Digital Tutor is one of many initiatives we're pursuing throughout the CID domain as we deliver dynamic, relevant training for the Information Dominance Corps."

The DT course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills through a combination of interactive lesson plans, hands-on practical exercises and two separate capstone hardware lab events conducted in a compressed time frame.

The first DT class began in March, and since then, six more DT classes have convened. The goal is to train 800 students using DT over three years. In comparison, CID typically trains several hundred new Sailors every year through the traditional combination of IT "A" school and SYSADMIN "C" school over a 37-week period. The DT curriculum reduces that same training time to 27 weeks and is targeted specifically for Sailors coming straight from Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois.

"This new training is relevant and challenging, with a strong emphasis on the best practices of the IT field," said Lt. Sondra Longworth, CID Unit Corry Station IT schoolhouse department head. "With the challenging curriculum these digital students have experienced throughout their 27 weeks of training, there is no doubt in my mind they are the most prepared ITs and will be an instant asset to the fleet."

Most of the DT graduates will report to SYSADMIN billets in the fleet, with a couple from each class reporting to IT shore commands in the coming months. The idea is to help gauge the effectiveness of DT by assessing how DT graduates perform in both environments. Feedback from the fleet will be a key factor.

In 2007, the Navy partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to explore intelligent tutoring. This led to a contract in December 2014 to deliver DT as a commercial service at CID Unit Corry Station.

The DT class has three phases. First, students are introduced to basic computer and naval communications concepts through an integrated learning environment of computer-based modules interspersed with instructor-led sessions.

The second phase uses DT to teach a combination of "A" school basic computing and "C" school advanced concepts, ending with a capstone lab event and final exam. Using a chat-style interface, DT communicates with each student and teaches new facts, concepts and skills, often using Socratic questioning techniques to develop critical thinking skills. A live instructor is available if a student has questions.

"I felt like the capstone event was all-encompassing," said Information Systems Technician Seaman Mackenzie Smith, the honor graduate for the first DT course. "It was a great example of what we can all do working together as a team with the knowledge that we had learned."

The last leg of training teaches System Administrator Government-off-the-shelf Applications, where students gain greater exposure to the Navy's actual shipboard network and operating system. This allows students to be prepared for the actual computing environment they will work with at their first duty station and to apply the advanced troubleshooting techniques and critical thinking skills learned from the Digital Tutor.

"In the end, we're always looking for ways to leverage technology and aggressively explore new and better ways to train," said Cmdr. Dave Wojda, CID information professional and information technology training program manager. "It's exciting to see how our Sailors and ultimately the fleet can benefit from initiatives like Digital Tutor."

The Center for Information Dominance (CID) is the Navy's learning center that leads, manages and delivers Navy and joint forces training in information operations, information warfare, information technology, cryptology and intelligence.

With nearly 1,300 military, civilian and contracted staff members, CID provides training for approximately 24,000 members of the U.S. armed services and allied forces each year. CID oversees the development and administration of 226 courses at four commands, two detachments, and 10 learning sites throughout the United States and Japan.

For more news from Center for Information Dominance, visit www.navy.mil/local/cid/.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) An information systems technician student at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station learns with the artificial-intelligence-based Digital Tutor (DT).  Using a chat-style interface, DT communicates with each student one-on-one and also monitors, processes and coaches student responses as an actual tutor would through a series of highly interactive, progressively challenging troubleshooting exercises. The DT Course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith
PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) An information systems technician student at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station learns with the artificial-intelligence-based Digital Tutor (DT). Using a chat-style interface, DT communicates with each student one-on-one and also monitors, processes and coaches student responses as an actual tutor would through a series of highly interactive, progressively challenging troubleshooting exercises. The DT Course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith

005 PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station set up a mock shipboard network. These students are part of the first Digital Tutor course, which is taught using an artificial-intelligence-based training method designed for the next generation of cyber warriors. The course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith
005 PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station set up a mock shipboard network. These students are part of the first Digital Tutor course, which is taught using an artificial-intelligence-based training method designed for the next generation of cyber warriors. The course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith

PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station learn with the artificial-intelligence-based Digital Tutor (DT).  Using a chat-style interface, DT communicates with each student one-on-one and also monitors, processes and coaches student responses as an actual tutor would through a series of highly interactive, progressively challenging troubleshooting exercises. The DT Course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith
PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station learn with the artificial-intelligence-based Digital Tutor (DT). Using a chat-style interface, DT communicates with each student one-on-one and also monitors, processes and coaches student responses as an actual tutor would through a series of highly interactive, progressively challenging troubleshooting exercises. The DT Course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Thomas Seith

PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station set up a mock shipboard network. These students are part of the first Digital Tutor course, which is taught using an artificial-intelligence-based training method designed for the next generation of cyber warriors. The course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills.  U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
PENSACOLA, Fla. (July 31, 2015) Information systems technician students at the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station set up a mock shipboard network. These students are part of the first Digital Tutor course, which is taught using an artificial-intelligence-based training method designed for the next generation of cyber warriors. The course teaches network administration, database management, and computer hardware and software troubleshooting skills. U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy
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