With a charter to help advance force development and transform how Airmen learn, the Air Force Career Development Academy at Keesler Air Force Base has reimagined the service’s career development course design and delivery model to bring it into the 21st century learning environment.
Using an approach to modernization centered on rapid curriculum development and agile curriculum updates, with an emphasis on tasks that are mission-focused, the effort ties to the people-first approach of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr.‘s Action Order-A (Airmen) and directly contributes to developing Airmen to ensure they are ready for the future fight.
“We want every Airman trained within a modern, learner-centric model that befits their experience and education right when they walk in the door, as well as throughout their careers,” said Maj. Gen. Andrea Tullos, Second Air Force commander. “The CDC modernization program is another great example of how we are accelerating change by investing in learning options that allow Airmen to learn in the connected way they’re already familiar with in today’s world.”
The legacy CDCs used textbook-style delivery with between 100 and 600 pages of reading, evaluated with multiple-choice assessments. The more modernized process includes the use of interactive, student-centric instruction with a focus on performance-based assessments and realistic scenarios.
“It’s no secret our CDC systems, processes, and courseware needed to be modernized because the program wasn’t meeting the needs of today’s Airmen or the career fields,” said Lindsey Fredman, Air Force Career Development Academy director. “Our new approach, which will be housed in myLearning, is now more mission-focused, Airmen-centric and competency-based than ever before.”
The CDC modernization process is done in four stages: analysis and discovery; design and prototyping; beta testing and implementation; and followed by evaluation.
Under the old model, the analysis and discovery process to develop or update a CDC could take two to three years depending on the number of tasks involved.
“Using rapid curriculum development, updates for an entire modernized course can take as little as a month or two,” Fredman said. “Moving forward in design, we now use CDC writers to provide subject matter expertise on their career field’s tasks, and provide that information immediately to the instructional designers, speeding up the process to develop and implement robust, effective courseware.”
Another new aspect in CDC design is the introduction of interactive content, which allows students to pace themselves through realistic training scenarios and performance-based assessments.
“Whereas before CDCs were simply words on paper, we have brought interactive training to the curriculum,” Fredman said. “For example, in the helicopter maintenance course, we are integrating interactive 3D engine models to identify components and even replicate malfunctions so an Airman has to diagnose and solve a realistic scenario that could happen out in the field during the training.”
Another example is in the missile and space systems electronic maintenance career field CDCs, which are currently undergoing modernization.
“We’ve been working with AFCDA since March to modernize the 2M0X1A 5-level CDCs into a fully interactive online course,” said Master Sgt. Peter Pleasanton, a 532nd Training Squadron flight chief based at Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, and the 2M0X1A CDC author. “We are developing content in Adobe Captivate and will be using myLearning.”
Another example is the 2T3X1 Air Force specialty code, which is the mission generation vehicular equipment maintenance career field.
“We really appreciate the guidance and IT support from AFCDA as we bring our CDC delivery method to an electronic platform that has interactive capabilities versus 14 volumes,” said Master Sgt. Arun Sebastian, assigned to the 344th Training Squadron at Naval Base Ventura County-Port Hueneme, Calif., and author for the 2T3X1 CDCs. “With our career field being extremely hands-on oriented, the interactive capabilities modernizes and expands the learning environment.”
From an agility perspective, the focus on task analysis specifically means courses can be updated much closer to real-time thanks to the use of proven AFNET-approved software.
“Considering the CDCs have been predominantly PDF text booklets for the last couple of decades, the career field is excited to have this opportunity to modernize the course,” Pleasanton said, adding the target for completion of the 2M0X1A CDC modernization is in fall of 2021.
The focus on tasks in the new process also meant removal of information Airmen didn’t necessarily need in the context of the CDC itself.
“In every instance, we are really taking hard looks at the ‘fluff’ in terms of content and where it can be cut down,” Fredman said. “One of the biggest things we learned was Airmen in the field felt there was too much content that didn’t tie directly to a task, or it wasn’t mission-focused.”
Understanding that some of that extra information might prove useful to Airmen outside their CDCs, the AFCDA now provides career fields proposed training plans that bridge knowledge gaps from the CDCs to tasks normally performed on the job, Fredman said.
As part of the modernization process, AFCDA is collaborating with certain career fields, such as logistics readiness, civil engineering and dental, to assist with the modernization process, Fredman said.
“We are working together to develop the 2T3 CDC’s which is one of the biggest changes our career field has seen in the realm of upgrade training,” Sebastian said. “Our career field manager is excited to see the product improve upgrade training across the enterprise.”
Using an AFCDA liaison to ensure the process is standardized, the liaison can guide a career field as they take on task analysis and even course design to further speed up the modernization process.
“We really appreciate the guidance and IT support from AFCDA as we bring our CDC delivery method to an electronic platform that has interactive capabilities versus 14 volumes,” Sebastian said. “With our career field being extremely hands-on oriented, the interactive capabilities modernizes and expands the learning environment.”
“For instance, the medical career fields have instructional designers and many are using our CDC model to help them modernize,” Fredman said. “Career field managers are helping by leveraging resources they have to help speed up the timeline by helping us build courses.”
After the collaborative courses are built, AFCDA takes ownership of any updates, student management, courseware validation, and end of course surveys. Career field managers will also have access to data that will provide information on how individual career fields are performing.