The Problem

The Soldier For Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) is a mandatory pre-separation training requirement, which all Army service members must complete before leaving active duty. SFL-TAP requires active service members to complete several variable length classroom trainings, with subjects ranging from DoL-hosted job finding courses, to VA benefits briefings. These courses are designed to prepare the service member for the hurdles surrounding the transition into civilian life. Soldiers traditionally must attend each class in person regardless of geographical location or personal physical difficulties. There was a requirement to contain the rising costs of logistics along with making the training more accessible.

Performance

Three Wire teamed up with software developer 3D Immersive Collaborative Consultants, and their software called Immersive Terf (Terf), to create the SFL-TAP Virtual Center. The software based solution allows active duty service members to connect to persistent virtual classrooms from anywhere on the globe, with minimal network and hardware requirements. The Virtual Center stays available 24/7/365 to accommodate soldiers simultaneously across different time zones, allowing them to take the classes on their own time. The staff is located at Fort Knox Human Resources Command, with personnel present within the Virtual Center at all times to assist users.

The software has gone through multiple iterations of testing and currently holds a Certificate of Net-worthiness, allowing it to be part of the few software applications allowed on standard Army computer hardware. This allows us to deploy our solution across the Army network, giving service members easier access to the required trainings regardless of geo-location. Current progress has been made to include the software as a part of the Army gold disk standard, to be included in all hardware deployments.

Standard features include everything expected out of a web conference solution; voice, video, chat and so on. The Terf solution goes well beyond this with the ability to collaborate and multitask on separate documents and information sources within large groups. One of the standard training sessions runs over the course of 3 days, where soldiers and their instructor will collaborate in-world on documents and breakout sessions, and come back each day to see the classroom just the way they left it. The full list of features is extensive, but it boils down to experiencing physical classroom training from anywhere in the world with a laptop and basic internet connection.

Results

The SFL-TAP Virtual World has been in production for the past 4 years, and has over 36,000 unique service member accounts since inception. Monthly traffic ranges from 1500 to 3000 service members per month, saving the Army tens of thousands of dollars in logistics costs. Qualified instructors would no longer have to be flown out to various OCONUS locations, and would be able to reach those service members wrapping up their tour overseas. Service members have praised the program, complementing the interactive and innovative approach to keeping class time engaging. The solution has also won the favor of HRC Director Walter Herd, who uses a Virtual Center auditorium for his quarterly meetings, instead of the DoD’s standard conferencing software DCS (Defense Collaboration Services). The transition to using the SFL-TAP Virtual World as a primary source to complete training requirements has had a positive impact on user satisfaction, as well as a huge cost savings to the Army.