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CHIPS Articles: Information Development Institute: Moving Learning Forward for Civilian Marines

Information Development Institute: Moving Learning Forward for Civilian Marines
By Alfredo Rodriguez III, U.S. Marine Corps, IT/Cybersecurity Civilian Community Manager - January-March 2021
Reimagining the future of learning revolves around a deliberate focus on work roles and skills that are data-powered and ultimately integrated into the day-to-day flow of work, according to an article titled, “Superlearning,” written by Deloitte analyst Luc Lutin. There is a clear expectation that learning can and will be available anywhere, anytime and on any device. Changing the learning culture, focusing on skill-based growth, will benefit organizations, individuals, and teams with whom they interact. To get there, the United States Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Information (DC I) set forth a strategy building a continuously evolving learning infrastructure that frequently adapts as the future unfolds.

Drivers for Change. The 2019 Secretary of the Navy Cybersecurity Readiness Review and Department of Navy Civilian Human Capital strategy for developing talent point us to a new paradigm that seeks to balance traditional career paths of cyber/IT civilians while evolving the expertise in an ever-changing environment. Additionally, Marine Corps network modernization emphasizes the critical human-capital element required to improve the network and supporting enterprise.

Another critical factor is implementing the Department of Defense (DoD) Directive 8140.01, “Cyber Workforce Management,” the Department’s program establishing qualification standards for military, civilian and contracted personnel assigned to cyber work roles. This is a shift from an information-assurance centered force to a holistic cyberspace workforce, was described in a recent CHIPS article titled “What is the Cyberspace Workforce?” which lays out the transition to the new framework and qualification standards.

The cyber workforce expands to 54 work roles across five categories: IT, cybersecurity, cyber effects, cyber intelligence and enablers. Qualification will also be a condition of employment for civilians based on three levels of mastery of both foundational and component-specific residential qualifications and continuing education. Of issue for the Corps is the implementation of such standards for the civilian workforce.

Marine Corps Current Model. The Marine Corps established community of interest (COI) programs in 2014 to enhance civilian careers detailed in Marine Corps Order 12410.25, issued July 25, 2014. Each community provides the framework for organizing and delivering developmental programs that enhance workforce capabilities and skills. Communities consist of individuals performing similar work and the same job series, facilitating understanding of each community’s needs. The Marine Corps Information Technology and Cybersecurity (IT/CS) COI is responsible for managing a workforce that spans over 2,000 civilians, representing more than 14 occupational specialties.

Despite our recent success with virtual courses, some limitations exist in the current training support model. It still relies on a “buffet line” of free resources. COI managers purchase courses based on finite survey data and metrics are limited to attendance and certification test voucher totals. There is simply too much learning content available to try to manage. In the immediate future, we need to implement an ecosystem that provides holistic development support for COI members, which prepares us to meet and exceed the forthcoming DoD 8140 standards.

New Approach. The way ahead requires a distributed learning ecosystem that features a balanced mix of technology, scheduled courses, and industry and academic partnerships to deliver an intuitive and on-demand professional development experience. Built on the existing IT/CS and Intelligence civilian COIs, the Information Development Institute (IDI) represents the DC I prototype for implementing DoD Directive 8140.01 as discussed in CHIPS article, “Improving Marine Corps Information Civilian Workforce Readiness.” The IDI will seek to enhance learning across three axes: learning partnerships, a learning network and learning experiences, illustrated in Figure 1.

In order to drive skill-based growth and development, the learning model must incorporate all three elements to provide a holistic portfolio for Marine Corps information civilians. Learning partnerships with academia and commercial vendors set the educational bedrock for the IDI learning network and experiences. Industry has the reach to provide up-to-date and extensive content and customization, in addition to best practices. Academia is shaping certifications, course work and degrees to meet the evolving information and cyber environments. The IDI learning network will provide a centralized platform with multiple resources for innovative training on demand and access to virtual and scheduled courses. Learning experiences will include industry exchanges and rotational opportunities that encourage cross training and exposure to different learning pathways.

Distributed Learning Ecosystem. In cooperation with the Marine Corps’ MarineNet eLearning Ecosystem, the portal for Marine training and virtual learning, the IDI will build a delivery platform that enables distributed learning and support. All three learning axes will be included on the IDI portal, providing Information civilians one-stop shopping for DoD 8140 training support, industry exchange opportunities and academic resources. The partnership with the MarineNet eLearning Ecosystem facilitates IDI’s use of industry training, curriculum vendors, and allows civilians to access training with a single sign-on. Additionally, it delivers training completion certifications back into authoritative Marine Corps civilian databases of record, illustrated in Figure 2.

The DC I workforce division selected a product to jump-start the effort providing the latest curriculum from industry, with a flexible curriculum and platform configuration, aptitude metrics, and work role IQ customization supporting DoD 8140. Role IQ quantifies technical proficiency in a specific role. By measuring knowledge in relevant skills, role IQ tells you what level you're at and shows you what skills you need to work on to build expertise. Combined, these features will allow the IDI to shape courses more easily to meet changing information environment demands.

The system’s unique algorithms continuously mold the individual learning environment and recommend future curricula based on weaknesses identified during assessments. The result is a personalized learning cloud that automatically evolves as a civilian grows in knowledge and takes more courses. Lastly, the IDI portal will include easy access to Naval Postgraduate School IT and intelligence operations courses; the yearly IT/CS and Intel COI virtual course listings; current industry exchange opportunities; and web materials that support the DoD 8140 rollout.

Way Ahead. The DC I workforce team is releasing an initial IDI capability on the MarineNet eLearning Ecosystem in the second quarter fiscal year 2021, as illustrated in Figure 3. We also contracted a limited number of subscriptions for the selected training product for the pilot effort with a few designated Marine Corps organizations. This early user test will help identify how effectively the product supports DoD 8140 work role training, ease of use, and analytics and work role IQ development and support. DC I plans to expand access systematically each fiscal year, targeting access for the entire Marine Corps cyber civilian workforce by 2023.

A workforce that can out-think and out-innovate adversaries is critical to maintaining our information advantage. Our strategy must evolve developing a richer, deeper integration of the mission needs of the IT/CS and Intel COIs into our learning and development cycle, especially as we anticipate a more distributed workforce environment based on lessons learned and workforce effectiveness showcased during the pandemic. Shifting the learning culture required the realization that COI managers’ manual curation of learning content is no longer effective. A data-driven model, taking advantage of the new landscape of learning solutions will shape this transformation.

The Marine Corps DC I is investing in improved technical training, using platforms that feature innovative ways to transfer knowledge and shape learning content based on data. The IDI will provide an ecosystem that identifies workforce aptitude and proficiency among core technical skills needed for each position. In the near future, this will quickly facilitate new civilians’ knowledge of Marine Corps critical technical roles, while addressing the growing demand signal for external and web-based training, professional development tools, and industry and academic exchange opportunities.

Figure 1. The IDI will seek to enhance learning across three axes: learning partnerships, a learning network and learning experiences.
Figure 2. Distributed Learning Ecosystem. All three learning axes will be included on the IDI portal, providing Information civilians one-stop shopping for DoD 8140 training support, industry exchange opportunities and academic resources.
Figure 3. The DC I workforce team is releasing an initial IDI capability on Marine.net in the second quarter fiscal year 2021.
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