USMC extends elite training to the digital classroom with eLearning platform MarineNet®

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is comprised of elite individuals shaped by extensive training and education. Often the first on the ground in combat situations, Marines must be prepared for any crisis across the globe. The same goes for USMC’s tens of thousands of reserves who live and breathe the same spirit of vigilance and must be ready to act at a moment’s notice.

Fueling the organization’s extensive training and professional military education is the Marine Corps Education Command (EDCOM) and the College of Distance Education and Training (CDET). Together, these organizations deliver, manage, and constantly improve USMC’s educational programs to prepare Marines for their daily operations and support their career and skills development.

“Our mandate is to make critical training and education accessible to every USMC member, and to make sure the way we teach those skills evolves with their needs,” says Larry Smith, director of educational technology at USMC. “Just like in the world of civilian education, Marines increasingly crave digital learning experiences and the option to train remotely.”

But keeping training programs current for its 180,000+ Marines has been a challenge. Its eLearning platform of 20+ years, MarineNet®, wasn’t able to support the creation, distribution, or tracking of digital content for every user. Nor were the training materials actually digital — educators had to upload their course materials as PDFs or Scantron documents for in-class Marines to download or print to fill out manually.

The need for USMC to digitally transform its eLearning environment was evident, and the pandemic’s onset in 2020 added a new layer of urgency to the service’s plans. Limits on in-person learning meant USMC’s formal schools and master’s programs had to switch to a virtual format, training its members and hosting group seminars in a virtual environment.

Three principles guided USMC CDET’s transformation:

USMC CDET selected Adobe’s solutions to standardize MarineNet. The new digital ecosystem provides every USMC member with 24/7 access to virtual courses and assessments, rich training videos, and the ability to collaborate and develop teamwork skills while learning remotely — from anywhere in the world.

Adobe Experience Manager is the cornerstone of USMC’s new eLearning platform. It provides a single sign-on portal for users across the organization and around-the-clock access to self-paced and instructor-led courses, assessments, and surveys.

MarineNet access and the many processes needed to support the users’ and trainers’ learning experience is supported by CDET’s use of Adobe Experience Manager Forms. Whether a Marine needs a transcript, course exemption, or access to a MarineNet community, the native workflows in Experience Manager Forms allows approvers to easily manage requests and provide Marines’ the eLearning content and support they need.

With Adobe Experience Manager Sites, USMC CDET can quickly and easily develop training and education subsites within the MarineNet portal without relying on external suppliers. The new sites are responsive and mobile-friendly, which is in line with the way members digest content and educate themselves in their daily lives. CDET is able to manage this digital content across the ecosystem’s solutions with Adobe Experience Manager Assets. As for training materials, Adobe Experience Manager Guides allow USMC to create, comment on, and adjudicate digital documents within the MarineNet platform, saving users considerable time and energy.

Meanwhile, Adobe Connect underpins USMC’s virtual learning environment. Using the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program-authorized solution, USMC’s educators have developed and hosted more than 6,000 virtual meetings to date, ranging from live training for large groups to intimate team discussions.

Not only has USMC made eLearning more accessible, but it has also begun to explore new formats for its training materials that take full advantage of its digital platform approach. Using Adobe Creative Cloud for Enterprise, educators can develop digital assets for their courses enriched by responsive imagery and video.

USMC CDET has also built an internal social network to connect content teams, educators, and MarineNet users. Consistent branding, badges, and logos link these teams together, and were all developed using Adobe Creative Cloud solutions like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

For its part, the USMC video production team leans heavily on Adobe’s solutions to record, edit, and distribute training videos to every corner of the organization. Always innovating, the team is now considering how emerging technologies like 3D media, augmented reality and virtual reality can make USMC training even more engaging and immersive.

Video creation has also become more democratic with the establishment of MarineNet Video Cable Services, USMC’s user-generated video solution. Instructors and members can now request, moderate, and update content to their own video channels, each of which is accessible to users on-demand and remotely within the eLearning platform.

More than 300,000 individual users across USMC use the platform today, roughly 10% of CDET’s total enrollment. What’s more, 300 instructors now create their own digital content to train and educate Marines via the platform. And when training on-the-go is essential, USMC members can access more than 2,200 user-generated videos and podcasts streaming from 148 distinct channels within the platform.

“We set out to make content creation and distribution simpler, quicker, and more user-friendly. That’s certainly happening, but I’m just as thrilled to see how the new technologies we’ve put in place have turned every educator at USMC into a potential content creator,” says Smith.

The average user training cost savings of USMC’s transformation are also compelling. The average cost per user for the organization’s e-learning environment dropped from $74 per year to just $46 per year, a 38% improvement.

A digital platform alone cannot transform the way people work. It also took a cultural shift among USMC members to make the organization’s new e-learning platform a success. Students and teachers alike found changing the culture just as helpful as updating the technology.

“We’re asking instructors to transform decades-old course materials and PDFs into digital content and interactive experiences. That’s no small task, which is why we brought on technologies to make the transition easier,” says Smith. “After all, you can’t transform education without giving instructors the tools and support they need to drive that change.”

More change is on the horizon for USMC, including the development of an enhanced digital asset management (DAM) platform with Experience Manager Assets. The DAM will allow educators to create and publish digital content, documents, and training guides for users to download directly from their online portal.

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You can also check out the full USMC CDET customer success story here.