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09 23 2019

NCI Agency launches new innovative training course

The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency has developed a new training course to help staff from the Agency, NATO Nations and Commands prepare for their role more quickly, without travelling to a training location.

The blended training course, which combines online training with peer-to-peer coaching, was developed through a collaboration between the Network Services and IT Infrastructure (NSII) Service Line, and the Education and Training (E&T) Service Line. It is designed to train the 500+ operators in more than 45 sites who support NATO's Recognized Air Picture capability, a common picture of NATO's airspace.

The online solution allows them to access the training anytime and anywhere they might need it – even on the job.

The Agency began training the operators in 2014 with a more traditional in-person approach, said Claudiu Rebrean, Principal Technical Lead for Networks, Voice and Video at the Agency.

Through that effort, the Agency saw the importance of providing such training, particularly in helping to reduce the time to resolve a fault within the network. But over time the demand for training increased, and last year, the NSII Service Line decided another solution was needed.

"A strong advantage of this blended approach is that we're not just teaching people how to fix problems on a certain device in their building. We teach them what the end-to-end process looks like in monitoring NATO's airspace. We show them what their specific role is in the bigger picture, and how they can work together with other entities to solve problems quicker," said Sebastiaan Tampinongkol, Head of Learning Innovation and Development for the E&T Service Line.

The training teaches operators some more general technical principles, and how to troubleshoot the specific system.

"In the future if something changes, we can be more agile based on those principles in changing and supporting any new service," Rebrean said.

NCI Agency launches new innovative training course

Another advantage to the new solution is how it is delivered, Rebrean says. By providing part of the training via e-learning, staff can get up to speed on their role as soon as they are needed, without having to wait for classroom training to be organized. The online portion of the training takes about two hours to complete.

"After completing the online portion, operators are supported with peer-to-peer coaching on the job to reinforce their new skills and knowledge. By combining online preparation with on-site coaching, there is less of a need for operators to be away from work for training. And putting the theory they have learned directly into practice helps with retention," Tampinongkol said.

A small group of operators tested the first prototype of the course, gave feedback and suggested improvements to the content, tone of voice and more. The Agency plans to roll out a larger trial in the last quarter of this year. In parallel, the NCI Academy will start developing the next course, which will cover new topics.

"The NATO Communications and Information Agency is leading the digital endeavour of NATO," Rebrean said. "I think this type of training is also setting a milestone, and a stepping-stone, for what we are going to do in the future. It allows people to be more effective and more efficient in supporting NATO missions."

In the future, the Agency also aims to integrate augmented reality into the learning experience to illustrate how a certain activity or device works. This is a powerful way to train, and it can support operators on the job in real time.

"This reflects a key element of the NCI Academy's overall learning strategy: use digital technologies to bring learning and working closer together," Tampinongkol said.