By William Kenny, Submarine Learning Center Public Affairs


In the age of information, looking up a “how to” on nearly any subject conceivable can mean a visit to YouTube. Now, thanks to Submarine Learning Center’s (SLC) Submarine On Board Training (SOBT), EVEN with the loss of connectivity “how to” videos are readily available in every afloat submariner’s work space.

For Navigation Electronics Technician Senior Chief Petty Officer Rafael Arriaga, training “on demand” is an achievable reality even submerged on a submarine. Arriaga coordinates the SLC’s, Submarine Learning Channel (SUBLC).

“SUBLC,” says Arriaga, “is a ‘You-Tube’ like video series available on every submarine’s Local Area Network (LAN) using the SEAWARE application designed and maintained by Division 2532, Under Sea Warfare (USW) Combat Systems Trainer Technology Development Branch of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC).

“SEAWARE is on every afloat Submariner’s desktop and is the interface to SOBT’s library of interactive courseware (ICW) Submarine Learning Channel videos, Fleet Lessons Learned messages, and at the end of 2017 over 75 Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC) publications in an E-Library format. It’s more than one-stop shopping. It is bringing training to the Sailor when they’re ready to learn it.”

“Division 2532, Under Sea Warfare (USW) Combat Systems Trainer Technology Development Branch at NUWC, Newport, our strategic partner, distributes all SOBT and SUBLC products via a hard drive biannually to every submarine crew.

“Now that we’re continuing to expand our library, with over 130 videos of varying lengths and subjects, we’re expanding our distribution beyond submarines to include every homeport school house technical library.” SOBT has been the onboard training resource for the Submarine Force since 1983, evolving along with both the delivery technology and fleet requirements for applied knowledge. In a sense, SUBLC was a logical next step for a Submarine Force driven by technological innovations.

Arriaga explains, “SUBLC addresses training deficiencies that a standard “click next” PowerPoint presentation just can’t. Specifically, when a Sailor asks us ‘How do I…,’ a video demonstration is often a lot more intuitive than a slide presentation.”

This aligns with the environment on a submarine, which involves as much doing as knowing. But, he concedes, that’s not the most significant difference.

“We are primarily using Sailors to give the training rather than contracting a professional narrator to read a script. The intention is to have someone talking to the camera and making the video whom the Sailor recognizes as experienced and whom the Sailor can better relate to.

“The turn-around on a finalized video is about three times faster than interactive courseware (ICW). The feedback we have received so far from afloat units indicates that Sailors prefer being assigned a series of videos to review because the information gets absorbed far more quickly than through ICW.

“You can address small training deficiencies that aren’t significant enough to dedicate a large ICW or classroom to with a three- to five-minute video. And we’re hearing from the Fleet that subject matter taught by a fellow Sailor tends to be better received.”

Job-Specific Training Wherever You Might Be
On a day Arriaga and a commercial video production crew from Epsilon Systems Solutions are recording in Naval Submarine School’s fire-fighting trainer, there’s a sense of structure and organization that Arriaga says is essential to the timely development of short videos, which are beginning to populate SLC’s SUBLC. Previous recordings include a variety of subjects (soldering, small arms, welding inspections, topside safety, plastic waste management, towed array tie-off, etc).

“Everyone has a job and a role,” he says. “SLC has military project managers like me who coordinate efforts, military subject matter experts who review content for accuracy, and learning standards officers who enforce Navy-wide learning standards on each SOBT product.

“The entire content production process for a SUBLC video is defined in the SOBT developer’s guide, but is straightforward to keep the focus on rapid, deployed learning. The trigger to create a video clip can vary but includes:

  • Fleet feedback: SOBT conducts site visits to each homeport annually and within SEAWARE there’s a feedback function that generates a report to SOBT.
  • Submarine Learning Center needs: Videos to support schoolhouse courses that don’t have facilities for demonstration.
  • Referencing at-sea evaluation reports that indicate where we need to focus our training efforts.”

“SOBT has worked with afloat units, maintenance facilities, and schoolhouse labs to create SUBLC videos. We have funding and a process to record and develop. What we are continuously requesting is knowledgeable personnel to give the demonstration and a facility to record it. Having a knowledgeable and invested professional makes the training click in the Sailor’s head.”

There are two critical questions. Does SUBLC work, and how is its effectiveness measured?

“Yes”, says Arriaga to the first. “We have quantifiable evidence with recorded afloat usage numbers that indicate the products are being used. Effectiveness will be a much longer qualitative review. Regarding effectiveness, assessing afloat inspection results and direct fleet feedback through the SEAWARE application will be the catalyst for us to grow or change course.”

“It’s all measurable feedback. SEAWARE logs every time a product, video, or ICW is used and/or completed, so we have gross numbers in terms of views and visits.”

“But SUBLC also has thumbs up and thumbs down icons on every video and a feedback window for comments just like YouTube.”

“All this feedback comes to SOBT via NUWC, so when the ship’s hard drive is returned, we have hard numbers and a very real sense in nearly real-time of which products are being viewed and which are helping our Sailors. Computer-based training has had a negative connotation in the fleet in the past. We are attempting to close the feedback loop by receiving input directly from the Sailors afloat and grow the products to meet their needs instead of polishing the cannon ball.”
And while SUBLC is still new, Arriaga has a sense of what’s next.

“I see us working on 360-degree videos,” he says. “For instance, I see us producing a video for a ship traveling inbound to a selected port or harbor, integrating videos into ICW to replace slides, and reaching out to non-submarine training pipelines to share our products that apply to any Sailor or other branch of service. Putting the service members back into computer-based training products is crucial in order for them to buy into the relevancy of what they are learning.”

“That same SEAWARE application we use to push products to the fleet will have the capability to upload videos produced by afloat commands to share with SOBT for potential re-use and distribution to better integrate and collaborate.”

“SLC and SOBT are gaining momentum, and it’s a great time to be in an organization where we can identify a fleet-wide problem and then most importantly be able to provide a fleet-wide solution.”

The People Behind the Program

USW Combat Systems Trainer Technology Development Branch provides advanced development, systems engineering support, and fleet support for multiple Navy training and combat systems. Main products from this branch include multiple variants of the Seaware learning management system, including Submarine On Board Training (SOBT), as well as distance support for SOBT. Code 2532 also focuses on human systems integration (HSI) research and engineering, providing products such as user-centered design, heuristic evaluations, experimentation, and HSI acquisition plans to multiple undersea warfare stakeholders.

Sitting, from left to right: Bryan Burman, Bradley Gonthier, Will Nichols. Standing, from left to right: Adam Miga, Nick Massa, Brian Sardinha, Denise Myrick, Alfonso Guzmán-Vázquez, Ryan Proulx, Gene Czepiel. Not shown: Josh Sadeck and Tim Sweet