eCombat: Lessons from the Interactive Battlefields of Afghanistan

Share this article

Our Belief. At Vignettes Learning we use stories in eLearning; however, we make them interactive. The emphasis is getting learners involved in the story and not just telling the learners the story.
Synthesis. Spencer Ackerman features Vanguard of Valor, an interactive teaching tool built to instruct the mid-career officers who pass through the Army’s Combined Arms Center, about the lessons accumulated from years of hard-fought war in Afghanistan. In this blog, we will attempt to draw out interactive elearning development lessons by benchmarking Vanguard of Valor.
uncle sam
In his article Army’s First Interactive iPad Book Lets You Finger-Swipe Through Afghanistan published in, Spencer Ackerman extols the military interactive elearning tool called Vanguard of Valor in enhanced iPad edition.

According to the writer, this upgraded version is far better than previous Army digitized books. Of this, Ackerman writes, “It’s the first immersive, interactive Army e-book, replacing the simple PDF-style scans with dynamic animations of the warzone. Maps shift, videos load, audio plays and pictures scroll to complement the text.”

Vanguard of Valor also contains a compendium of lessons learned from past military engagements. These lessons are valuable since they came from actual Afghanistan battlefield experiences. The book version of the Vanguard of Valor is free and can be downloaded from iTunes.

This elearning tool was developed by the Combined Arms Center together with military historians. Command Sgt. Major Joe B. Parson, Jr., explains that, “If you’ve got no military affiliation, it’ll give you a sense of how difficult this fight has been. If nothing else, you’ll gain empathy for the situation individuals were placed in.”

This gets more interesting. In October 2000, Military Technical Report 1107 entitled “Applying Collaborative and e-Learning Tools to Military Distance Learning: A Research Framework by Curtis J. Bonk and Robert A. Wisher of the U.S. Army Research Institute was published by the US Army Research Institute.

This paper accurately assessed the trend of military training, the shift from conventional learning to interactive elearning. More than 13 years ago, Bonk and Wisher foretold the future of military elearning.

The research paper cites seven guidelines on how to develop elearning modalities. These benchmarks continue to be relevant today as they were more than 13 years ago:

1. Historicity Element: Incorporate prior experiences and stories of members, explicitly share the culture and values of the virtual community and make public the history of the community.
2. Identity Element: Foster team-building activities, develop community logos, publicly acknowledge accomplishments of groups and members and articulate the community focus, purpose and requirements for membership.
3. Mutuality Element: Include group exercises, assignments and activities that require each member to contribute to the final product, while also inserting questions and guidance that encourage members to share solutions and invest in each other’s ideas and concerns.
4. Plurality Element: Encourage membership in and participation from groups and professional associations related to the learning focus, including those from other countries or locales pursuing similar goals and issues.
5. Autonomy Element: Within group identity, it is vital to foster individual expression, promote respectful communication of ideas, and create strategies for settling disputes and reaching consensus.
6. Participation Element: Allow group members the chance to shape learning agendas, while guiding the participation of new members, promoting individual or group exploration outside of the key learning focus, and encouraging risk and outside lurking.
7. Integration Element: Articulate a common set of beliefs or group norms as they emerge within a learner-centered philosophy and pedagogy that celebrates individual accomplishments while building group identity and momentum.

Read my related blog:
Learning Facts and Foundational Knowledge with Stories

Army’s First Interactive iPad Book Lets You Finger-Swipe Through Afghanistan by Spencer Ackerman
Applying Collaborative and e-Learning Tools to Military Distance Learning: A Research Framework Curtis J. Bonk, Indiana University Consortium Research Fellows Program