Air Force Exploring Mobile Learning Systems

Photo: Shaw Air Force Base

Col. John Thompson is the Future Learning Advisor to the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Director of Plans, Programs, Requirements, and Assessments. He is responsible for facilitating innovation across AETC’s recruiting, training and education mission.

Today, I’m taking a trip to Edwards Air Force Base to watch a friend’s change of command. During the dead time in my travel, I often look for ways to be productive. One of the options that we don’t have is access to training through our mobile devices. Mobile learning is looking to change that by providing small (15 minutes or less) sections of courseware that can be taken anytime/anywhere. So, if you want to take your laws of armed conflict annual training from your lounge chair at home on a Saturday, you will be able to.

When hurricane Katrina hit, the military had challenges with personnel accountability. A lot of the missing personnel had access to their mobile devices which worked until the battery ran out in the device or the cell tower.

Imagine the day when accountability is available over your mobile device. Your mobile device is tracked so we send warnings to those in a certain geographic area. That day is here. The technology is available. What we need is an appropriate business case to invest in the technology.

When I look at my use of my personal mobile device, I realize that I don’t currently use it for learning but instead for reference. If I want to know where a movie is playing, how much money is in my bank account, or what readers are saying about this article, I use my mobile device. I would expect the predominate use of the mobile device to be communication and reference, not training.

Once we make mobile learning available, how do we decide which device to use? A couple of different options are being explored. Do we issue a mobile device as we access you into the military, or do we pay to have the courseware available in multiple formats so you can use your personal device? How do we handle Airmen that don’t have a personal device?

All these issues need to be decided before we have a large mobile learning system.

Join us over the coming weeks, as we explore AETC’s five focus areas in our advanced learning technology series.

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10 Responses to Air Force Exploring Mobile Learning Systems

  1. Randall Chalkley says:

    As a civilian wrestling with many of these same issues in the Army, I agree with COL Thompson's views of the future of mobile devices. The Army is also looking to use smartphones and other mobile devices to deliver training and we are considering the same issues of how to provide this new technology to our Soldiers. My personal opinion reinforces COL Thompson's observation that he doesn't usually use his mobile device for training, but for “reference.” To me, the power of small, handheld devices is not to deliver courseware or training, but to provide readily available information that is already available on the internet or in the .mil domain. I think the ability to google information, or to research information “just in time” and wherever it is needed is the real future of mobile devices. Part of that content could be courseware, but that shouldn't be the primary focus. Although people do look at TV shows and movies on their mobile devices, I don't think they want to give up their LCD TV for their 4″ phone screen. I hope that the Army and the Air Force leadership will do the necessary research to realize the best uses of this new technology, and not just apply traditional uses of training to a new technology.

  2. Chris says:

    Interesting thanks, I just happend across your blog and look forward to reading more

  3. Mike Carris says:

    This is already possible check out http://WWW.apw-cts.Com then click the video of the week and the training page. This will show a video that demos a system that can deliver anything in one system that can be accessed from any web browser or mobile device

  4. Mike Carris says:

    A technical Document on a technology that can accomplish the needs mentioned above –

  5. Guest says:

    Interesting comment.

  6. John Thompson says:

    I didn't have enough space to discuss mobile applications. There is a government website ( where numerous government agencies provide free applications. The Army is actually conducting a mobile application contest. They get their solidiers to create different mobile apps and the most useful one wins a prize.

  7. Here is a link to a previous Armed with Science blog post, which features a presentation by Lt. General Jeffery Sorenson, Army CIO/G6, on “Apps for the Army”:

    ~ John

  8. Here is a presentation by Lt. General Jeffery Sorenson, Army CIO/G6, on “Apps for the Army”: ~John

  9. JustinBoots says:

    with mobiles more smart, we can do more things. 10 years ago, no one would think of buying through your cell phone.

  10. Mike Brooks says:

    Not soon enough…and I'd be happy with just our PME being available on mobile devices. Sure, tracking would help out C2, but ACSC would have been more convenient to read if I could use iBooks to read it on my iPhone…or as some people on my base, their issued iPads. The ability to search and bookmark, makes it a great tool for study. If I'm going to have my phone on my most of the time, it means I can read in those moments when I'm unexpectedly waiting (hurry up and wait is the military way of life). So lets take those PME PDFs and convert them to .epub files so we can use our time a little more efficiently.