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NEWS | Aug. 20, 2021

My Navy Learning provides personalized, adaptive learning for Sailors


As Sailors progress through their Navy careers, their training, education and professional development needs evolve. In addition to training requirements that vary depending on rank or rating, individual Sailors learn at different paces using varying methods. These evolving needs require a personalized learning system that not only keeps pace with the dynamic nature of the Navy, but adapts to the needs of individual Sailors.

Enter My Navy Learning (MNL) Future Naval Capability (FNC)—a next-generation system that will encompass personalized training, education and professional development throughout a Sailor’s entire career, from the day they are recruited until they retire or separate from service.

“My Navy Learning was born because the Navy currently has no platform or method for delivering personalized, adaptive learning and training to Sailors where and when they need it,” said Marty Vozzo, branch head for Distributed Training at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Dam Neck Activity (DNA). “Every Sailor has different career goals, aspirations and objectives, so instead of everyone logging into a system and taking the same courses, My Navy Learning will give every Sailor their own personalized, adaptive learning capability.”

What sets MNL apart from existing online training and professional development platforms is that it uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine and recommend myriad learning content, track individual Sailor progress, manage the pace of training and even recommend advanced personalized resources to Sailors based on their unique needs.

“For example, when you log into MNL as a Sailor in the third year of your career, it knows who you are and tells you that you need to take [certain] courses. But not only is it tracking those courses, it’s able to gauge how fast you took those courses and how well you did on the assessment,” Vozzo said. “It’s able to get an understanding of your knowledge level, and using artificial intelligence algorithms, may recommend that you skip ahead a few courses. Or if you’re a slightly slower learner or having challenges, it may have you go back and take a few more basic courses to gain a better understanding before you move forward to the next course.”

The program also provides a series of dashboards so instructors, supervisors and other leaders can track their Sailors’ progress and recommend training, education and professional development content.

An Office of Naval Research-led FNC effort, MNL brings disparate training, manpower, personnel and education systems together into a cohesive learning ecosystem for both users and decision-makers. Ultimately, MNL will be a one-stop personalized adaptive learning platform for Sailors and leaders alike.  

The requirement for a consolidated training and professional development resource originated from Navy Education and Training Command (NETC) as part of the Navy’s Sailor 2025 Program. “Ready, Relevant Learning” is one of three pillars under Sailor 2025, calling for a career-long learning continuum, modern delivery at the point of need and integrated content development. NSWCDD DNA’s Distributed Training Branch serves as the lead systems integrator for MNL, responsible for all engineering technical aspects of implementation including software and architectural design, development, integration, testing and operational sustainment of the capability. 

Part of their role includes designing and developing the system user interface/user experience (UI/UX) for MNL, which is the first feature Sailors see when they log into the system. The main graphical UI/UX for MNL is a circular figure called a “sunburst,” where users click on different sections of the sunburst to access specific aspects of their career-learning continuum. The priority for the team at NSWCDD DNA is to ensure the UI/UX is easy to use, functional and meets the requirements of a broad customer base.

Kia Pierce is a software engineer in the Distributed Training Branch, and serves as the UI/UX engineer lead for MNL. According to Pierce, the team’s work begins with a list of requirements from Navy stakeholders like ONR and NETC, but cannot be completed without feedback from Sailors throughout the design and development process.

NSWCDD DNA engineers work with NSWCDD’s Human Systems Integration (HSI) Branch to conduct usability studies with local Sailors. During these studies, the Sailors log in and navigate the MNL UI/UX alongside the engineers and provide feedback directly to them.

“Rather than just building something we think would be nice or intuitive, we use the information from usability studies as guidance to develop the system,” Pierce said. “The Sailors’ feedback helps us understand what features and functionality to add to the system. We want to know what works for the Sailors and what they want to see.”

The first operational use case for MNL, called Surface Training and Readiness Management System (STRMS), is focused on Sailors serving in watch station positions on surface vessels. So far, the team has conducted two usability studies with nearly 20 operations specialists and fire controlmen from that community.

“It’s important to have Sailor participation throughout this process because their feedback makes a big difference for the end product,” said Ken Robinson, a human factors engineer with the HSI Branch at NSWCDD. “For example, we received feedback that there was difficulty navigating through some of the sunburst features, so we created what we call ‘breadcrumb navigation’ at the top of the screen and then the next group had far less difficulty. That’s a simple example, but user satisfaction is one of the end goals, and those little things add up to big points when the Sailors are happy using the product.”

MNL will ultimately expand to include all of the Navy’s ratings. The program will also include performance measurement tools that will enable the collection and analysis of training proficiency data at the individual, team levels and above—a feature that will come in handy for instructors and leaders in the fleet.

“So far, feedback has been pretty positive and informative, and it’s the type of technical input we’re looking for,” Vozzo said. “We’re now beginning to transition MNL to a program of record for the Navy, and we’re shooting for initial operational capability by the end of fiscal 2022. We’re continuing to thoroughly engineer and develop the capability, because we want to get it right. We want to provide a career-long personalized adaptive learning toolkit that Sailors will use.”