Changing Training Paradigms

Developing low-cost but high-quality virtual simulators is increasingly efficient

Anne Little

For all of us, solving anything in life requires making a mistake or two and therein learning from them. With enough experience, each of us develops a unique way to accomplish a task or tackle a problem.

For our armed services personnel protecting our nation, the key to their training for flying an aircraft, operating an armored vehicle, or manipulating a satellite is providing immersive experiences and repetition. They cannot memorize their way to skillsets; they have to go and do them.

The breakthrough of low-cost virtual reality simulators is radically enabling and personalizing their training. These simulators are relatively inexpensive to create using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and can have footprints no larger than an office chair and desk, fitting easily inside living quarters.

These simulators are cost-effective for the Department of Defense and give warfighters anytime access to good-fidelity training. By giving them realistic, hands-on training tools to perform practice reps and build experience through trial and error, they can become mission-ready faster.

Changing Training Paradigms blog_body 1
Gardner Congdon, SAIC Serious Games Lab lead, demonstrates the use of digital reality technologies.

Engaged learning

From a learning perspective, having the freedom to fiddle with gauges and controls and do self-paced learning at home between the times in the classroom and the enterprise simulator brings numerous benefits.

Students are more engaged and inquisitive, can explore on their own, and bring their experiences and questions to class for discussion. The learning environment and culture become student-student and student-instructor collaborative.

The process of learning how to learn is energized. By figuring things out personally--the good, the bad, and the ugly—students refine their individual thought processes and ways to best absorb knowledge. They pick up good learning habits and recognize bad ones.

By figuring things out personally — the good, the bad, and the ugly — students engage in the frenetic process of learning and refine their individual thought processes and ways to best absorb knowledge. They pick up good learning habits and recognize bad ones.

There is the obvious accelerator benefit: with so many after-hours training and familiarization, they can make the most of each time inside the enterprise simulator or real vehicle.

Disrupting training methodologies

COTS technologies have advanced a long way from even just five years ago. Learning tools and technologies are also benefiting from disruptive leaps in computing power, software development, and artificial intelligence.


RELATED ARTICLE: SAIC helps Air Force's Pilot Training Next program leverage COTS technologies for virtual simulators


These virtual training solutions can provide anytime, personalized learning.

Companies like SAIC are becoming increasingly creative and fast in putting together high-quality and cost-effective live, virtual, constructive training solutions, by leveraging commercial VR and videogame equipment and using agile development techniques.

The solutions will thus be easily reconfigurable between different vehicle platforms to put them quickly in the hands of students. As the solutions have gotten better and more affordable, the DOD’s integration of them and nontraditional training approaches into curricula has grown.

Low-cost simulation especially has a place in early training and undergraduate training programs. We are seeing great benefits from our virtual mission trainer for students who are starting to learn aircraft or vehicle physics and basic control. We're also using this approach to help train Navy ship crews before they deploy.

This new technology, combined with instructional design, is disrupting training paradigms regarding the use of enterprise simulators. Our continued research in this area is focusing on metrics development, which will allow us to quantify and compare the benefits of low-cost simulators with much higher-cost alternatives.

A learner’s base of experience is like a big rug that fills the floor of a room. The bigger the base, the more there is to lay on. Allowing warfighters to build experience immediately through on-demand simulators goes a long way when they step into the real thing.


FURTHER READING: Learn more about SAIC's wide range of expertise and mission-support solutions in training.

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Posted by: Anne Little

VP, Training Solutions Development; SITE Product Manager

Anne Little, Ph.D., is the vice president of Training Solutions Development and the product manager of SAIC Integrated Training Edge® (SITE®).

Little has led internal research and design (IRAD) for SITE, drawing on expertise from both SAIC’s Training & Mission Solutions and Software practice area. Little is a recognized thought leader in her industry for incorporating innovative learning solutions that align to business performance outcomes. And in her current capacity, Little specializes in building teams with diverse skillsets and guiding them through the Design Thinking process, an empathy-based design approach that focuses on the needs of the customer, not on evangelizing the latest, greatest tool.

Little relies on her expertise in transforming workplace cultures to migrate teams from traditional waterfall training development methodologies into Agile practices, leading to greater mission success.

Little joined SAIC in 2017 as a senior solutions architect. During her first six months of employment, she developed an innovative internal training approach that used microlearning videos, adaptive performance assessments, and strategic communications to transform the oft-dreaded end-of-year compliance training program. Dubbed “Integrity365”, the training program was launched across the SAIC enterprise, saving compliance training cost — as well as learner sanity — by reducing the training time by 70%. This approach earned the “Most Innovative Product” award from MS&T Magazine.

Little spent more than a decade of her early career in academia, teaching in classrooms, grading AP (Advanced Placement) computer science exams for the College Board, and managing instructional technology integration programs.

Little has served as a subcommittee chair for the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC), and is a member of the National Training and Simulation Association, the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and the Air Traffic Control Association.

Little earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Purdue University, and her Master of Education and Ph.D., both in instructional technology, from George Mason University.



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