ADL Initiative Partners with NATO to Advance PERLS Microlearning Platform

The modernization of the DoD’s digital learning ecosystem includes the use of technologies that enable needs-based education and training. One of these technologies is the PERvasive Learning System (PERLS), an open source platform designed to optimize learning opportunities for mobile device users anytime, anywhere. The ADL initiative is developing PERLS in collaboration with several DoD stakeholders, and the team recently added NATO as a partner for early implementation of the technology.

The NATO organization Allied Command Transformation (ACT) worked closely with the ADL initiative to test the PERLS platform and to add capabilities that NATO considered the NATO e-learning network application or NeNA. To date, NeNA is one of the earliest implementations of production testing by PERLS. By using NeNA, NATO personnel will receive recommendations for on-demand mobile content appropriate to their educational / training goals so that they can make the most of their available time outside of formal learning activities.

Cem Kumsal from NATO ACT provides information on the NeNA project during the ADL Global Partnership Network’s annual meeting in Orlando in 2021.

“NATO required micro-learning capabilities (PERLS), but our requirements went slightly beyond the latest version of the ADL initiative,” said Salih Cem Kumsal, staff officer for training technology at NATO ACT. “Our collaboration with NeNA enabled NATO to provide UI / UX enhancements, while the ADL initiative focused on platform optimization, security accreditation and other elements required for DoD usage. We were able to align the development of both efforts in parallel. NATO benefited from platform optimizations and security hardening for NeNA, while the ADL initiative received additional UI / UX improvements for PERLS. “

Both the PERLS platform and its NeNA instantiation target micro-learning and offer media-rich learning activities (usually less than 2-4 minutes each). This includes podcasts, videos, documents, links, flashcards and quizzes, all of which are operated with a backend content management system for creating and maintaining content. The adaptive front end is offered as a mobile app or web interface.

PERLS and NeNA use a machine learning algorithm to run a recommendation engine. The more a user interacts with them, the more individual and relevant the proposed learning content becomes. Effectively, PERLS and NeNA can adapt to both the preferences of the user and the level of readiness. Since these are self-directed applications that target Self-regulated learning Principles, PERLS, and NeNA provide goal setting, reminders of progress, and tips for self-reinforcement.

PERLS and NeNA were developed under a contract with Float LLC and are both designed to use standards and specifications consistent with the ADL Initiative’s Total Learning Architecture (TLA), including the Experience with application programming interface, or xAPI. The xAPI standard enables data profiles for different types of learning activities and specifications for formatted data storage, authentication and access (i.e. learning data storage). xAPI has seen growing adoption across the e-learning community and is included in DoDI 1322.26, the DoD instruction for developing, managing, and purchasing distributed learning systems.

Graphic with NeNA logo and screenshot of NENA application training interface

NeNA is still in the test phase until the end of 2021. After the test, NATO will start moving NeNA to its own servers. After the transition, NATO will decide how to transform it into a full NATO capability.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to work with NATO on NeNA,” said Stella Cox, technical project manager for PERLS of the ADL initiative. “Working together allows us to develop a more robust product that will be available to our other DoD stakeholders.”

With PERLS (and NeNA), the ADL Initiative is moving its original R&D project investments beyond the prototype towards a full implementation with accreditation, documentation, hosting, maintenance and distribution via the ADL Initiative’s Learning Technology Warehouse (LTW) portal. Ultimately, both the LTW and PERLS platforms will be available through the Air Force’s secure DoD cloud environment, Platform One.

The NATO-NeNA collaboration brings additional features and security improvements to the PERLS project from which both DoD and NATO users benefit, while at the same time promoting an ongoing partnership and joint training and development for military and civilian personnel. The ADL Initiative looks forward to maintaining and expanding this win-win activity.

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