Defence is in the midst of a Training Transformation that is intended to enable and shape a Future Ready force that has the capacity to adapt to Accelerated Warfare. [1] The training system will trial new approaches to better harness technology to learn at speed and at the point of need. [2] Acquisition of modern equipment and technology together with contemporary methods, processes and strategies are essential parts of the overall challenge; however, the variable that will ultimately determine a successful outcome is the significant investment in our people. The pursuit and achievement of one’s potential is directly linked to the effectiveness of our ability to comprehend and assimilate the required training material. Our objective to be a formidable trained force will rely on a cultural shift in our training methodology, command team support and buy-in from our learners.

Up until recently, the Army Training System has been based on a ‘one size fits all’ approach, forcing instructors in a residential setting to pitch their delivery to the average level of learners that often produces a mixture of results. Training Transformation is driving changes to this system to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and flexibility of training, allowing learners to pursue a pathway that best suits their individual style of learning and personal circumstances.

Our training system enables us to change the shape, purpose, scope and size of our teams. At present, it does not do this quickly enough or in ways optimised for how Army’s people learn. Army’s training system is being transformed to do this. [3]

The Future Ready Training System must reflect contemporary learning styles that suit our workforce from ab initio recruits to personnel with 35yrs experience. Australian secondary and tertiary institutions have already begun this change in education strategy and with continuous improvements in emerging technology and instructor skills, Defence is now clearly focussed on a new era of education.

Triggers for Defence Force School of Music change

Prior to 2013, Defence Force School of Music (DFSM) courses were structured to use remote learning for reservists and residential learning for the full-time force. This created a noticeable difference in skills between full and part-time musicians, whilst the ability to synchronise a training review of the same course in the two different environments was impossible. The catalyst that forced a more contemporary approach to our training occurred as a result of the 2012 restructure that reconfigured Australian Army Band capability.

Since then, DFSM has developed a very successful ‘blended’ strategy, suitable for the Total Workforce System. By combining remote, followed by a residential training phase, SERCAT 5 and 7 members are able to attend the same course. The enormous benefits of this strategy include reducing the loss of Unit capability and time spent away from family whilst members are away attending courses and the ability to moderate performance standards between SERCAT 5 and 7. Leveraging off the close working relationship that existed between DFSM and Service bands, DFSM was able to create a flexible training environment in the workplace, supervised by mentors trained by DFSM and learning managed by DFSM Instructors. Generally the more theoretical lessons were delivered online, whilst practical application of skill are conducted during remote and residential based phases. This model has been widely accepted across all bands with command teams being supportive of the flexibility to schedule training days around operational tasking.


DFSM’s remote learning is delivered through Moodle; a program hosted on the Australian Defence Education and Learning Environment (ADELE). DFSM courses are set up to allow learners to negotiate their own pathway of learning by choosing when, where, what and speed (rate). This flexibility not only suits a multitude of personal circumstances, but also empowers learners to have some control over their own learning experience with guidance from mentors and instructors.

The most significant boost to DFSM capability was the installation of the George Hooker Multimedia Studio (GHMS) in Oct 2019. This facility houses high quality studio lighting, camera, computer software and hardware, allowing DFSM to produce professional quality video to enhance lesson content and, with the NBN connectivity, a live streaming capability. Particularly during the COVID-19 restrictions, this facility enabled DFSM to continue training 6 out of 7 courses by live streaming lessons through the web conferencing tool Big Blue Button as part of ADELE.   

Below is a list of key components from the DFSM model that I recommend considering when deciding on any changes to the delivery of training:

  • Culture. The DFSM model succeeded largely due to workplace acceptance of the training liability. The culture of a strong relationship between DFSM and Service bands is captured in a formal Memorandum of Agreement detailing the requirements of training support from operational bands. The workplace has all the training resources required to either simulate activities or provide learners with supervised on-the-job training opportunities linked to operational task preparations.
  • Additional instructor skills. Instructors need to think differently when delivering online lessons to a live, remote classroom. To maximise learner critical thinking, it is important to link appropriate questions to each learner’s level of ability. With only heads visible on a computer screen and the lack of visibility to scan body language, determining comprehension takes more effort, relying on facial expressions and verbal cues. Setting the expectations of equipment operations and standard for online behaviour early in the course will minimise any awkward silences and keep the lessons moving.
  • Lesson Support Material. The challenge for DFSM is to balance priority of effort for instructors to deliver training and develop content. Instructors own the subject matter they teach and are best placed to develop the content they use. As designers of contemporary online learning material, instructors need to be:
    • Checking any assumptions
    • Thinking creatively
    • Embracing emerging technology
    • Engaging in opportunities to foster inclusivity and meaningful learning
  • Communication. Successful online learning requires building relationships and more effort in communicating with command teams, training cells, mentors and most importantly learners. More effective learning will occur when learners don’t feel isolated and are engaged with other learners. Use opportunities such as delivering feedback to connect with learners via live streaming (web conferencing) instead of sending a text report – or both.
  • Learning Agreement. Establish buy-in from all stakeholders at the start of the course by entering a contract of learning to set the conditions for the workplace training environment and serve as a reminder to the chain of command of the support and resources necessary for the learner to succeed.
  • Mentors. DFSM uses mentors as the learner’s advocate in the workplace to ensure the correct resources and opportunity are provided to conduct training and assist with the facilitation of practical training and assessment. DFSM conducts formal mentor training to prepare the workforce to support their learners. Mentors also provide DFSM with an independent view for tracking learner progress.
  • 'Hallway conversations'. Encourage collaboration, questioning and communication between learners and staff in an attempt to replicate an important element of the residential classroom environment. The use of chat rooms and open forums will assist in stimulating discussion and learning.
  • Sharing. Publicly recognising good work within the class and with other courses will improve training outcomes and provide lessons learnt and ideas for other learners.


There is an increasing trend in Online Distance Education (ODE) growth all over the globe. In Europe over 80% of higher education institutions are offering online courses [4] whilst in Australia, the proportion of domestic students studying off-campus in the last decade has increased from 21% to 29%. [5] Although extremely reliant on digital technology and infrastructure, this trend demonstrates widespread support and acceptance of ODE in the education landscape.  

The road ahead is to future proof our Future Ready Workforce with a training system that is agile, flexible and effective. Training Establishments need to analyse the context of their training, determine what works best for their situation and introduce step change implementation to their learning strategy. By combining resources like the George Hooker Multimedia Studio, with clever and passionate instructors, Defence can deliver more effective training solutions suitable for the Total Workforce System.


At the end of the day, the cornerstone to training is successfully motivating the learner to learn. Enabling instructors to facilitate and produce visually stimulating lesson content through a flexible training system will instantly engage and inspire our learners. Once hooked, regular communication will ensure the learning momentum is maintained, possibly even after the course has finished. Your strategy will determine if learners receive just a tick in the box or become an invaluable team member with loads of future potential.