The Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California (USC-ICT) is a US Army university-affiliated research center. This center conducts research and development for training across multiple domains including simulations, games, artificial intelligence models, virtual and mixed realities, and more. This article is a case study of learning technology work my organization is doing for USC-ICT.

Among USC’s many programs is one titled Captivating Virtual Instruction for Training (CVIT). A portion of the stated goals of CVIT puts it this way: “CVIT is a multi-year research effort seeking to produce blueprints for mapping effective instructional techniques used in successful live classroom settings to core enabling technologies, which may then be used for the design and development of engaging virtual and distributed learning applications.”

The challenge of creating captivating distance learning

Let me unpack that statement. There is a purposeful focus within CVIT around the word “captivating.” The user experience (UX), the learning experience: Is it captivating? The USC learning and behavior scientists are looking to take the concepts that make popular and effective live training “captivating,” and keep it captivating while digitizing and blending it into distance learning. There is a tremendous value in the training content’s holding your attention and keeping you engaged. This particular content has been designed with learning science, is considered documented training materials or platform instruction, and is deemed to be effective at meeting a standard of performance when delivered by the instructor. Considering that instructor-led training, or ILT, has often been referred to as “death by PowerPoint,” there is good reason to develop examples of captivating distance-learning blueprints.

Badging and achievements

The course title is Intelligence Architecture Online Course (IAOC).The USC-ICT behavior scientists were looking to take an instructor-led information assurance (cybersecurity) training course, bring the training into the digital realm, and make sure it is captivating.