So What Is PeBL And Why Is The Marine Corps So Interested In It?

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The Personalized eBook for Learning (PeBL) project is a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) contract aimed at advancing one of our top-level goals: Distributed Learning (DL) Modernization. The PeBL ebook is a research and development (R&D) reference implementation or “example” that demonstrates and tests Personal Assistant for Learning (PAL) specifications. PeBL can be thought of as a typical ebook but is adaptive to the learner, has collaborative capabilities with other PeBL learners, and can capture learner behavior (their performance) while working in the ebook (thanks to xAPI!).


We have been working closely with Eduworks, our PeBL BAA performer, to develop this ebook specification and to demonstrate it with a PeBL ebook application. We are in the second year of our contract with Eduworks, so more great development work is expected!


The Marine Corps learned of our PeBL work from several of our external events (e.g., iFEST, I/ITSEC), and our Principal Investigators (PI) meetings. Several of the Marine Corps Training Commands (7 Commands to be exact) expressed interest in transitioning PeBL into their classrooms. A feasibility test is needed to help determine how ready and stable the PeBL application is for transition.


The Feasibility test kicked off 30 JAN at Quantico, VA. We are testing with Instructional Designers, Instructors, and other stakeholders rather than Marine Corps students. They have a vested interest in making sure PeBL is ready for classroom use. Each Command received two iPads and five user accounts (sharing iPads). From 1-21 FEB, testers will "play" with PeBL: testing and experimenting, independently and with each other. They will log their user interface (UI) experiences (e.g., bugs, suggestions for improvements, ideas for classroom use, and overall impressions).


Testers have been given the following:

  1. Feedback form to complete;
  2. Script to help systematically walk through PeBL features;
  3. Collection of "User Stories" on applying PeBL for training and education;
  4. Link to a Discussion Forum to ask questions, if interested; and
  5. Access to Student and Instructor dashboards (both in beta phase) to get an early look at interpreting learner data visually.

We consider this test a "win-win-win" because:

  1. The Marine Corps Training and Education Command (TECOM) wins because they get early hands-on testing with PeBL, and will provide us with key requirements to support a successful transition in the future.
  2. Eduworks wins because they receive early feedback on the stability of PeBL and the demand signal for classroom use.
  3. The ADL Initiative wins because this test will help inform the alignment of our future DL modernization efforts, and PeBL’s readiness for transition. We hope to identify any roadblocks, critical requirements, and necessary details for capturing learner data. Lastly, we hope this helps shape Experience API (xAPI) specifications for PeBL, any associated profiles, and overall support of our Total Learning Architecture (TLA) efforts.

Our testers are busy testing now. We will meet again at the end of February for a feedback forum and debrief, and to sort through feedback forms. Our report should be out shortly thereafter. Stay tuned for the results of our PeBL testing!


Karen Cooper, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Naval Air Systems Command
Navy Liaison / LNO, ADL Initiative