DND ditches PowerPoint for Web-based training tools

The Department of National Defence (DND) is using a $1.4 million training solution to develop the skills of both new and experienced F-18 pilots.

Developed by Simgraph,

the software will give pilots who are part of DND’s 410 Tactical Fighter Squadron in Cold Lake, Alta., access to two self-paced and two instructor-led Web-based courses, an adapted Microsoft Content Management Server (MCMS), SQL Server, workstations, projectors and hardware.

“”We have been using PowerPoint briefing guides,”” said Marty Street, the Canadian Forces-18 ground-based training system project manager. “”The how-to-fly manual is actually a Microsoft Word document, a very large one. And this is what the students use prior to flying their missions.””

Acknowledging that the courseware will neither save DND any money nor accelerate training, Street said the department is simply seeking to modernize the training process and to take complete control of courseware expected to be used by an average of 25 student pilots annually.

“”Generally speaking, we’ll be running two courses (a year) of anywhere from eight to 10 students and then we get other students coming through who are already experienced F-18 pilots but they haven’t flown the F-18 for perhaps half a dozen years, and they go through the refresher course,”” he said. “”So they’ll be using a portion of this computer-based training system.””

Because DND wanted the courseware to be on the MCMS platform, programmers, instructional designers and multimedia specialists at Simgraph had to work closely with Microsoft to achieve the client’s objective. The end result incorporates over 10,000 slides, simulations based on real flight data, and 2D and 3D animations. DND hopes to have the courseware rolled out by early next year right after the department changes over to a new network operating system, switching from a Novell solution to a Microsoft solution.

Richard Pappas, president and CEO of Simgraph, based in Laval, Que., mentioned that DND has previously awarded Simgraph with a number of contracts to develop and produce simulation-based training tools. And, he added, there’s at least one good reason for using ground-based pilot training: it can cost up to $10,000 per hour in fuel to operate an F-18 jet.

“”What it all boils down to is that there’s hundreds of hours of training prior to actually sitting in the cockpit and flying the aircraft,”” said Pappas. “”And when we talk about ground-based training, we’re talking about those hundreds of hours of preparation, of learning the aircraft, the technical skills needed to understand the equipment and so on, even how to fly the aircraft.””

While DND prepares to launch its courseware, University College of the Cariboo (UCC), based in Kamloops, B.C., is already making use of a similar content management solution. SiteCM, a hosted Web content management tool that is administered through a Web browser, allows users to create Web content, manage content approval processes, and manage image library, multimedia and documents.

“”As far as content management software, we actually do use a competing product to the Microsoft package for a lot of our Web content,”” said Bob Barlow an instructor with UCC’s computer information systems technology department. “”We don’t actually use it in an instructional setting ourselves yet, but it is being used for our international division for a lot of their policy and procedures work.””

But the academic institution may very well be using SiteCM for interactive learning in the future, said Barlow, explaining that his institution’s impending merger with B.C. Open University could provide the conditions necessary for creating interactive learning tools.

“”It’s one of the options,”” he said. “”A lot’s going to depend on what material we inherit from B.C. Open University because the provincial government has just mandated that they be merged with the University College of the Cariboo to create a new university. So they’ve got the infrastructure, but we’ve got a lot more of the academics, so we have to see how it’s going to (work) out.””

Provided by MediaWeb Solutions, SiteCM enables users to manage their own Web sites without their having to be expert programmers, according to Wilf Froese, sales manager at MediaWeb Solutions, which has offices in Kamloops and Vancouver, B.C.

“”What UCC is (getting) with SiteCM is basically the ability to manage their own Web site where they can go and update content on a regular basis or whenever they need to,”” said Froese. “”No more need to wait for the Web guy, as the people say in the industry now.””

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