52nd NATO Conference of Commandants – Day 2
On 11 May 2023, Commandants from NATO and Partner countries gathered for the second and final day of the 52nd Conference of Commandants held in in Tallinn, Estonia. Interoperability, adaptation, innovation and international cooperation in defence education were the primary topics discussed throughout this conference, dedicated to the general topic of online learning.
Online and advanced distance learning tools bring the possibility of accessing educational materials from anywhere at any time. The world witnessed this during the COVID-19 pandemic, and since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, these learning tools have played a critical role in the Ukrainian education system. Indeed, the main topic of day 2 of the CoC was focused precisely on: “ADL in times of war”.
The first lecture of the day was given by Associate Professor Piotr Gawliczek, Director of the NATO DEEP e-Academy named after Jean d’Andurain, on “Online or In-Person? Context is the King of Learning! NATO DEEP e-Academy Lessons Learned and Recommendations". He explained the essence of the NATO DEEP programme and how it has been evolving in order to include training offerings with the new learning ecosystem, including new technologies such as e-learning, AI, Bigbluebutton, among others. He highlighted the importance of keeping pace with the technologically advanced: “teachers will not and should not be replaced by e-learning platforms. But those who do not use those platforms, will be driven out by those who are creatively using them”.
Colonel Maksym Tyshchenko, from the National Defence University of Ukraine named after Ivan Cherniakhovskyi, then delivered a lecture on “ADL in War”. He explained how the educational process in Ukraine has changed since Russia’s invasion and how ADL training solutions have been playing a key role in providing educational training materials to students and soldiers on the field. Moreover, he talked about Ukraine’s vision for military education transformation that provides career-long training and education support for all soldiers, which he stressed, can only be achieved with the support of technology solutions such as ADL, LMSs, e-library, and virtual reality.
Afterwards, Mr Geir Belgen Isaksen, Commanding Officer of the section for faculty administration and digitalization at the Norwegian Defence University College (NDUC), and Brigadier General Ilmar Tamm, Commandant of the Baltic Defence College, delivered a briefing on how their respective colleges have been supporting the National Defence University of Ukraine, particularly as regards the development of ADL capability in the Ukranian Armed Forces. All the briefings were followed by a Q&A session.
In the afternoon, Dr Karol Jędrasiak, from WSB University, Department of Computer Sciences, gave a lecture on "Virtual Reality - How to Introduce the KISS Approach Within the Military Education and Training Environment”. He explained the KISS approach as based on analysing the current reality and how it can be improved, and how virtual reality can benefit military training and education. The lecture was followed by a practical demonstration of “Practical Use of VR Technologies".
Last year’s CoC focused on resilience in military education. Hence, the final set of lectures of the day started with a briefing delivered by Ambassador Shota Gvineria, from the Baltic Defence College, on the “Status of the Resilience Reference Curriculum” of the College.
Brigadier General Rene Leitgen, NDC head of Academic Plans, Policy and Engagement, then presented the consolidation of this 52nd CoC which was focused on the question “Online education as a full substitute to in-person education?” The conclusion is that a combination of both is required. Technology is a useful tool, but the human dimension and personal relations are irreplaceable. Blending in-residence education with online education and advanced technologies is the way forward.
Lieutenant General Michael Plehn, Commandant of the US National Defence College, introduced the next NATO CoC, which will take place next year in Washington D.C. and will be co-hosted by the NATO Defense College (NDC) and the US National Defence College. The topic of the next conference will be “Developing leadership for the next 75 years of the Alliance”.
The 52nd NATO Conference of Commandants concluded with words of appreciation and a gift exchange by the Commandants of the hosting institutions, Brigadier General Ilmar Tamm (BALTDEFCOL) and Lieutenant General Olivier Rittimann (NDC). Lieutenant General Rittimann highlighted the success and importance of this conference in “building bridges” between National Defence Colleges, which are key to guaranteeing the best possible education for the future military leaders of the Alliance and its Partners.