FSTS is a perfect blend of interactive multimedia and gaming technology.
When the U.S. Army contracted our team to design the Future Soldier Training System (FSTS), we immersed ourselves in the subject matter. We gathered our criteria of success for the project from Army leadership. The goal was to help improve attrition by reaching and teaching delayed entry candidates. FSTS also had the tasks of introducing these Future Soldier civilians to the Army culture, Army values, and some difficult concepts before they report for the high-intensity environment of Basic Combat Training (BCT).
Our team of instructional designers, interactive developers, and art directors personally visited Ft. Benning, GA, as civilian observers of real BCT. We sat in live classes with the soldiers in training and took lots of notes on the material being taught, questions asked by the students, and the students' reactions to the class material. We witnessed the challenges of BCT first-hand. We also observed live exercises at a safe distance and interviewed drill sergeants who were tasked with teaching these concepts to discover which subject areas were commonly difficult to grasp.
FSTS was designed to follow the same flow that BCT does in introducing a training task, with the photo and voice of a real drill sergeant explaining the Action Condition and Standard to help Future Soldiers to display proficiency as is expected of them.
We teamed up with video game production companies who were developing on America's Army first-person shooter platform to create 3D, immersive training modules that could be played to reinforce the concepts we taught with our courseware. For example, when the learner finished a topic in our courseware, the game scenario became available to launch, which is the closest a Future Solider can get to an exercise without being there. We worked with the University of Central Florida ROTC and real drill sergeants to film our video instruction. This was especially helpful when describing the Drill & Ceremony concepts like standing at attention and giving a proper salute.
We also designed and developed interactive activities and animations to explain difficult concepts like the Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) and how that translates to figuring out coordinates. We discovered during our interviews with the drill sergeants that even the smallest bit of information, like how to do a proper push-up, could provide a vital boost of confidence to a young man or woman facing the character building challenges of BCT.
FSTS is not just a SCORM-conformant custom courseware designed for rapid e-learning development. It is also a custom Learning Management System (LMS), complete with a custom administration area for Army recruiters to track progress and keep in touch with their delayed entry candidates.
FSTS logged over 70,000 hours of instruction in the first three months of going live and it is still being used today. Several more courses and topics have been developed on the system since that first deliverable.
The Future Soldier Training System won two Horizon Interactive Awards-a Silver award for education and training, and a Bronze for interactive multimedia. This worldwide contest involved top digital agencies and their commercial multimedia clients, including Nike, Honda, and Discovery Channel, among others. FSTS placed in the best of the best of commercial business. You could say the Silver award was for our instructional design and course authoring, while the Bronze was for our courseware engineering.