As I end my tenure at the Cove Team at HQ FORCOMD, it's a pleasure to be able to share a reflection with you – our audience – on how The Cove has evolved over the past two years. At the beginning of 2021, I entered the role with The Cove in really great shape from LTCOL Greg Colton. The website was publishing original content daily, there was a great following, and Cove+ had recently launched. Both Greg and Tom McDermott before him with their teams had built The Cove into a self-sustaining entity with great crowd-sourced articles. While it could be polarising, The Cove was one of Army's strongest internal brands.

We knew that The Cove was mainly followed by officers and some SNCOs/WOs. Within that demographic The Cove was well known but the crowd-sourced content was being produced by that group, for that group. We knew that for The Cove to evolve it needed to appeal to a wider range of people, but particularly NCOs and soldiers.

Our strategy to make The Cove more useful to more people within Army was this:

  1. Modernise the platform
  2. Publish content for JNCOs and soldiers
  3. Provide resources for leaders to do PME with their teams
  4. Improve Cove+

Modernising the platform. If you have followed The Cove for more than 12 months, you may remember the old page that was replaced in February this year. The old site served us well; but was starting to age and with over 4,000 individual pages, it had outgrown its structure. Our education officer, CAPT Jody Nicoll, along with our contract partner Interserv, designed and built a new website that not only looked better, but enabled you to find the content you were looking for faster. It was better designed to host features and multimedia like Audio Articles, CoveTalks and video. The Cove App was also updated with more functionality and the ability to filter content depending on your interests and rank group. We've made a few tweaks to the website but overall we're really happy with it and we hope that it enhances your experience.

The Cove's old website home page

Remember this old thing?

Content for JNCOs and soldiers. While the group of officers, warrant officers and SNCOs that were The Cove's typical followers were steadily writing articles, we didn't receive much from or for junior ranks, so we needed to create and source content for that audience. The WO PME, WO1 Mark Grigg, was tasked with solving that problem, and he has driven a few initiatives that means The Cove has plenty of content for JNCOs and soldiers. He created the Quick Military Education (QME) series for section commanders to conduct with their sections when they have 20-30 minutes spare; he partnered with Smart Soldier to bring you their articles before they are published in hard copy form; he also worked with some senior RSMs to create the NCO/WO PME series. Without doubt, Mark's most successful initiative was the I Wish I had Known... challenge conducted mid-2021. This was extremely well supported by the RSM community which gave them the opportunity to speak to junior NCOs about what they wish they knew when they were a JNCO. This isn't by design, but 30% of Cove Survey '22 responses indicated that they did more professional development as a younger soldier or NCO.

We also launched the Battle Honours series, high-quality animations of historical campaigns and battles which the Australian Army was involved in, so far covering the Gallipoli Campaign and the Battle of Beersheba. These were designed to do two things: first, educate everyone in Army about what happened in our most significant historical events, and secondly, bring a new, younger, more junior audience to The Cove. At the time of writing they've been viewed more than 26,000 times. There's a team behind these, including: YouTube channel The Operations Room, Ignition Immersive, our contract partners Interserv, and Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Dr Andrew Richardson from the Australian Army Research Centre leads the script writing for the videos, Combat Training Centre – Live wrote the companion video scripts, and Army History Unit gives their blessing to the products. Leading the project is Simon Carr from Effective Animations, who is also an Army captain. Between Simon and I, we're very proud of the two videos that have been released so far. The Kokoda Campaign will be released early in 2023 and it's shaping up to be the best quality video yet. 

Resources for leaders. When I was a sub-unit commander I wanted to conduct PME with the junior officers, and the junior officers to conduct PME with their teams. Most leaders see the value in PME activities but they're also typically time poor. The Cove was a great place to host an 'off-the-shelf' resource that made conducting PME activities easier. In addition to the QME and SNCO/WO PME sessions, we have also created the Junior Officer PME series, and all three series try to give leaders a leg-up in conducting PME by having prepared activities that are accessible on the open web and easy to follow. There's also a guide for command teams and unit PME officers which helps units develop their own PME program. Finally, Cove+ is increasingly being used by units and training courses for self-paced education.

Cove+. Cove+ is a terrific resource. Launched in 2020 there were 68 self-paced education units. We've now grown that to 93 and early in the new year we'll launch university recognised awards for completion of Cove+ units. Our most common question is 'what do I get for completing a Cove+ course?'. While older folk like myself know that learning develops your brain not your CV, we understand that motivations are different, particularly earlier in careers. These QUT digital badges will be a civilian recognised transcript of your learning on Cove+ and will be a huge reward for undertaking Cove+ courses. For the smallest units on Cove+, QUT typically charge ~$700 for an equivalent short course. Now, for anyone with a DPN log-on it's 100% free. A big thanks to the QUT team that have been our partners with Cove+ for three years now.

If you want to see The Cove's participation stats then have a look at our Analytics page. In terms of engagement, The Cove has grown almost 40% over the past two years, which adds to similar impressive growth in previous years. We now publish new, original content 8-10 times a week and as we get around the Army we're seeing more and more people who know about The Cove and use it regularly. We know that sometimes The Cove can still be polarising, but it's a resource that's built by Army people, for Army people, and we want it to continue to be a place where you can share and discuss ideas as well as enhance your intellectual edge.

There's a few people who I need to thank. Firstly, there's been a core team of regulars that have been in the PME team at different times over the past two years: MAJ Christine Pope, MAJ Dave Guthrie, MAJ Andrew Stokes, CAPT Jody Nicoll, and WO1 Mark Grigg. There's also been our contracted partners Interserv which are a big team, but in particular Paul Lownds and Charlotte Davison have been pretty much embedded in the Cove Team for the past two years. Finally, there's been a whole bunch of reservists who have contributed including LTCOL Anthony Smith, LTCOL Peter Count, MAJ Gareth Rice, MAJ Rob Gibson, CAPT Samuel Cox, LT Ross Butler, SGT Josh Spryland, SGT Kath Callow, and LS Daniel Pace. Without an integrated workforce of ARA, ARes and contracted staff, we wouldn't have been able to do as much as we have over the past two years. You probably didn't know that The Cove has also operated as a 100% remote workforce this year; with the team spread from Hobart to Perth, across to Canberra, Sydney, Wollongong, Brisbane and all the way up to Singapore. My thanks to everyone who has been a part of the team including Mark Beretta who has been our go-to for Cove Talks and interviews. A big thank you also to our leaders COL Anita Rynne and BRIG Glenn Ryan who have been extremely supportive of our initiatives.

Cove Team 2022

The Cove Team '22 (minus a few).

My personal thanks also go to to everyone who has contributed to The Cove. Authors, speakers, organisers, editors, and social media post commenters and followers. Finally it's been my pleasure heading up the Cove Team for the last couple of years. I wish next year's crew and The Cove the best of luck for its next evolution. If you ever have the chance to get posted into The Cove team, take it, it's a fantastic experience.

Here's a few links to some articles and resources that didn't do so well in terms of engagement, but I reckon are worth revisiting: