Notre Dame researchers partner with US Air Force, Trek10 to launch cloud engineering learning platform



University of Notre Dame researchers in the Center for Research Computing (CRC) and Department of Psychology, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force’s Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate’s product innovation initiative (BESPIN) and Trek10, a cloud engineering innovation company based in the University’s Innovation Park, have developed an adaptive online learning platform to educate members of the Air Force on cloud computing. 

The Air Force team selected Trek10, a global leader in the design, build and support of next-generation, cloud-based software systems using Amazon Web Services, to develop the Cloud Enablement Curriculum for its Digital University prototype platform. Solving the “digital readiness workforce” problem at a systems level through the adaptation of this platform provides the Air Force with an opportunity to increase the readiness level of U.S. forces, while decreasing the cost to the American taxpayer.

“This collaboration will provide curriculum and a strategy for administering that curriculum to airmen, giving them the digital skills they need to be successful within the Air Force, as well as skills that are very much in demand by employers in the civilian workforce,” said Teresa Ober, a postdoctoral scholar in psychology. “A hallmark of success for the program is whether or not the curriculum gets the airmen excited about cloud computing. Regardless of where they start, are they able to pass certification exams and are they still passionate about doing work in cloud computing in the long run?”

Ober is working on the initiative with primary researcher Paul Brenner, the CRC’s senior associate director. Given his computer science background and more than 20 years as an Air Force Reserve officer, Brenner understands the growing need for cloud computing knowledge among both the military and civilian populations.

“Helping our airmen develop these rapidly evolving technical skills is critical for our national security,” Brenner said. “Many security threats are now cyber, and if we do not have ways to modernize the speed at which the military trains, it puts our country at greater risk.”

The platform uses “scaffolded lessons” to customize content based on each student’s prior knowledge. Now in the pilot phase, the team is educating 30 Air Force members via Notre Dame-designed and -administered assessments, which are then followed by customized Trek10 instruction.

“The University of Notre Dame and specifically the leadership of Paul Brenner and Teresa Ober have been an invaluable resource to this effort. In addition to the deep expertise in computer science and educational assessments, their track record with the educational arm of the Air Force has allowed the team to quickly and efficiently adapt thinking and provide a common framework to discuss how this technology could be adapted to Digital University,” said Shane Fimbel, chief executive officer of Trek10.

This research is funded by the Air Force. Now in Phase 2 of the plan, Notre Dame and Trek10 have completed the initial Phase 1 planning and are moving on to the program prototype. If successful, the team hopes to gain approval for Phase 3, which would scale the project up to train even more Air Force members.

Originally published by Kate Flanagan at on May 26.