Julia Campbell, Matthew Jensen Hays, Mark Core, Mike Birch, Matt Bosack, Richard E. Clark: “Interpersonal and Leadership Skills: Using Virtual Humans to Teach New Officers”

November 30, 2011 | Orlando, FL

Speaker: Julia Campbell, Matthew Jensen Hays, Mark Core, Mike Birch, Matt Bosack, Richard E. Clark
Host: I/ITSEC 2011

Successful leaders have strong interpersonal skills (Army FM 6-22, ALDS). With their subordinates, they must develop relationships founded on mutual trust and respect. However, the majority of new officers’ interpersonal skills development takes place on the job. Further, the formal training they do receive consists primarily of role-play sessions with their peers. This situation is not conducive to consistent practice, effective feedback, or accurate skill assessment and improvement. To address these issues, we have created a virtual-human based role-playing system. The Virtual Officer Leadership Trainer (VOLT) offers a controlled practice environment while maintaining instructor control and facilitating throughput. An officer in training interacts with a virtual human subordinate via branching, scripted dialog and behavior that allow the trainee to apply specific strategies and skills. A classroom of other trainees observes this interaction in real time. At each decision point in the interaction with the virtual subordinate, the trainees use personal response systems (“clickers”) to indicate what they believe to be the correct course of action. These data are available to an instructor, who monitors the class’s performance and conducts an after action review. VOLT thus provides a consistent training experience without sacrificing trainee throughput or instructor control. It allows an entire class to participate in a single role-play, stimulating discussion, and facilitating peer and instructor evaluation in real time. VOLT’s instructional design is based on cognitive task analysis (CTA) interviews with expert leaders. The CTA identified a set of learning objectives, which are organized into short, memorable key phrases such as “initiate, check, ask, respond, and evaluate.” These learning objectives were integrated into the training system through the virtual human’s speech and actions. This paper discusses VOLT’s educational goals, instructional design, and technological approach.