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The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative

About the ADL Initiative

The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative is a government program reporting to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training (DASD(FE&T)), under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness (ASD(R)).


The ADL Initiative work falls into three interrelated categories:

(1) Modernization: The “modernization” work involves Advanced Technology Development in technical areas such as e-learning, mobile learning, learner modeling and analytics, and software interoperability.

(2) Documentation: The modernization efforts inform the PE’s “documentation” work, including the authoring and upkeep of technical guidance, policy documents and software interoperability specifications.

(3) Coordination: The documentation work drives “coordination” efforts, which consist of implementation support and interagency/interorganizational coordination.

The ADL Initiative saves time and money for the DoD (and Federal government) by creating and implementing technology interoperability specifications and stewarding associated policy, by identifying and eliminating inter-Service and interagency duplications of effort, and by matching stakeholders with needs to those with solutions. The ADL Initiative improves DoD/Federal training and education effectiveness and efficiency by identifying, developing, and supporting the implementation of emerging learning science and technologies. The ADL Initiative helps strengthen multinational DoD ties and build partner capacity via NATO, TTCP, PfPC, and bilateral agreements with other nations’ distributed learning proponents.


The ADL Initiative encourages collaboration, facilitates interoperability, and promotes best practices for using distributed learning to provide the highest-quality:

  • education
  • training
  • informal learning
  • just-in-time support

The ADL Initiative is committed to creating a learning ecosystem for our future, tailored to individual needs and delivered cost-effectively, anytime and anywhere to increase readiness, save resources, and facilitate interorganizational collaboration.

To meet its mission, the ADL Initiative serves as a “thought leader” for forward-looking distributed learning topics within the Department of Defense (DoD), other national and worldwide government agencies, and the greater professional community. This work involves:

  • curation of relevant requirements (i.e., collection, validation, synthesis, maintenance, and dissemination)
  • analysis of emerging targets of opportunity (relevant to learning science and learning technologies)
  • generation of corresponding strategic roadmaps
  • stewardship of associated policy guidance
  • effective thought leadership (cultivation of stakeholder and leadership buy-in for the advocated strategies, plans, and policies)


The ADL Initiative pursues three broad lines of effort (LOEs):

LOE 1: Research and Development (R&D) for Distributed Learning Modernization

The ADL Initiative strives to develop the next-generation of distributed learning science techniques and technologies via research, development, and collaboration. The ADL Initiative R&D team seeks to develop and assess advanced distributed learning prototypes that enable more effective, efficient, and affordable learner-centric lifelong learning. These R&D activities span technical areas such as e-learning, mobile learning, learning analytics, and associated learner modeling, interoperability specifications for distributed learning systems, and associated learning theory.

LOE 2: Distributed Learning Policy and Technical Guidelines

The ADL Initiative R&D team efforts inform the policy work. The exploration work of R&D introduces emerging concepts, engineering requirements. This visioning work helps the ADL Initiative develop effective policy, software specifications, and other technical guidance for military, government, and other industry stakeholders.

Notable ADL Initiative contributions to distributed learning policy and specifications include:

LOE 3: Implementation Support and Cross-Coordination

The ADL Initiative aspires to serve as a thought leader for forward-looking distributed learning topics within the DoD, other national and coalition governmental agencies, and the greater professional community. For the ADL Initiative, thought leadership involves the curation (i.e., collection, validation, synthesis, maintenance, and dissemination) of relevant requirements, emerging targets of opportunity, corresponding strategic roadmaps, and associated policy guidance. The program works closely with stakeholders to help them implement effective, coordinated advanced distributed learning solutions. This includes coordination via the ADL Initiative professional working groups, the Defense ADL Advisory Committee (DADLAC), international governmental bodies (such as NATO), and the ADL Initiative Global Partnership Network.

Program Element

Originally, the ADL Initiative Program Element (PE) number was 0603769SE. This PE designates the ADL Initiative as an “Advanced Technology Development” program, reporting to the Defense Human Resources Agency. However, beginning in FY17, the ADL Initiative’s PE realigned to Washington Headquarters Services. Correspondingly, the PE number changed to 0603769D8Z.