USMC extends elite training to the digital classroom.
The elite branch of the armed forces builds a centralized eLearning platform to better support Marines throughout their careers.
Prince William County, Virginia
Made eLearning accessible to
over 300,000 members
Make eLearning accessible to every Marine while maintaining the Department of Defense’s security posture
Standardize online training content and certifications, and make them user-friendly on any device
Elevate eLearning content from static PDFs to dynamic media and video
A single, integrated eLearning platform serving more than 300,000 Active-Duty Marines, Marine Reserves, Sister Services, and authorized civilians
6000 virtual meetings and training sessions hosted to date
2200 user-generated training videos across 148 channels accessible on-the-go
38% reduction in annual cost of eLearning per user
Leading the charge on the ground and in the classroom
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.”
The technology USMC CDET uses to create and distribute training content needs to evolve accordingly, which is why the organization is using Adobe’s solutions to standardize its eLearning platform, also known as MarineNet®. The new eLearning ecosystem provides every USMC member with 24/7 access to virtual courses and assessments, rich training videos, and the opportunity to collaborate and develop teamworking skills while learning remotely, from anywhere in the world.
Digital Learning on Demand
USMC has had an eLearning platform in place for over 20 years. Previously, the platform had no way to support the creation, distribution, or tracking of various types of digital content for every user, nor were training materials truly digital. A small amount of rudimentary courses was offered, or educators would upload their course materials as PDFs or Scantron documents for Marines to download or fill out manually.
Prior learning systems restricted educators to limited control over course content and the end-user experience. “Training works best when you empower educators to create their own eLearning materials and they can impart their specific expertise, but until recently we couldn’t make a change to the website without going through an external contractor,” recalls Smith.
The case for USMC to transform its eLearning environment was already clear, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, adding a new layer of urgency to its plans. Along with annual training requirements, Education Command’s formal schools and master’s programs had to shift to teaching remotely. This meant that the USMC needed to keep training and educating its members as well as host group seminars in a virtual environment.
“The goal was digital training on-demand,” says Smith, breaking down the three principles that would go on to govern USMC’s eLearning transformation and new look approach to distance learning:
- To make all training and educational content accessible to every Marine on-demand.
- To ensure members can view training materials on any device while respecting the Department of Defense’s security posture.
- To bring consistency to eLearning across USMC and empower users to create rich media content within that framework.
A Training Platform for Every Marine
Adobe Experience Manager is the cornerstone of USMC’s new eLearning platform, MarineNet™. The platform provides a single sign-on portal for users across the organization, including its formal schools, master’s programs, and communities of interest. Every USMC member and approved guest now has 24/7 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 the application allows approvers to easily manage requests and provide Marines’ the eLearning content and support they need.
The shift to virtual learning has also seen a swell in the production of user-generated training videos, sparking a new era for the way USMC engages with its members. “Going digital isn’t just about making PDF documents accessible on people’s phones. It’s about driving deeper engagement and interactivity with our learning materials,” says Smith.
With Adobe Experience Manager Sites, USMC CDET can quickly and easily develop training and education subsites within the MarineNet® portal, without relying on external developers. The new sites are responsive and mobile-friendly, in line with the way members digest content and train or 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 FedRAMP-authorized solution, USMC’s educators have developed and hosted more than 6000 virtual meetings to date, ranging from live training for large groups to intimate team discussions. “Virtual training became indispensable during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Smith. “Thankfully, we had the technologies in place to keep USMC members informed and ensure they keep developing their skills remotely.”
“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.”
Director of Educational Technology, USMC
A More Immersive Learning Environment
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 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 Photoshop and Illustrator.
“It’s one thing to build a new eLearning platform. It’s another to create a community in which our members engage with the content and with each other,” says Smith. “We still have work to do, but the level of connectivity and collaboration we’ve seen so far is hugely encouraging.”
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 (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR) can make USMC training even more engaging and immersive.
Video creation has also become more democratic with the establishment of MarineNet® Video Services (MVS), 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.
“MarineNet® Video Services is like our version of YouTube. And like YouTube, our members use it daily, looking up everything from tips on changing a tire to basic training,” says Smith.
“Just like in the world of civilian education, Marines increasingly crave digital learning experiences and the option to train remotely.”
Director of Educational Technology, USMC
Better Content, Better Engagement
These are early days for USMC’s new eLearning platform, but for Smith, one thing is certain. The quality and richness of learning content being created has improved significantly, and engagement among users is on the rise.
More than 300,000 individual users across USMC use the platform today. 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 the more than 2200 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.
Smith is also thankful that USMC was prepared to go remote so quickly during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We wasted no time in shifting to distance learning, online courses, and remote certifications because we were able to stand up virtual environments, content libraries, and communities overnight,” he says.
The financial advantages of USMC’s transformation were also compelling. The average cost per user for the organization’s eLearning environment dropped from $74 per year to just $46 per year, a 38% improvement. “This digital transformation was about modernizing and improving the way we train USMC members,” says Smith. “Seeing that translate to cost-savings only goes to show how valuable eLearning has become to our organization.”
“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.”
Director of Educational Technology, USMC
Future Education Targets in Sight
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 eLearning platform a success. For Smith, this cultural transformation was as important as the technological advances his organization has made, and as much for its students as for its teachers.
“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.”
Change is certainly on the agenda for USMC, including the development of an enhanced Digital Asset Management (DAM) platform with Adobe Experience Manager Assets. The DAM will allow educators to create and publish digital content, documents, and training guides that users can download directly from their online portal.
Setting his sights on the future, Smith hopes to improve course recommendations for USMC members based on their rank, location, and career path. Sitting behind those recommendations would be advanced Artificial Intelligence and campaign targeting capabilities integrated in the organization’s eLearning environment.
“Five years ago, we had a small Learning Management System that delivered asynchronous content to everyone in our organization,” says Smith. “Today, we can adapt our content and training in line with our members’ fast-changing environments, ensuring every Marine has the resources they need to reach their elite potential.”
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