ITADS: Simulation-Based Trainer for IT Professionals


The Intelligent Tutoring Authoring and Delivery System (ITADS) is a simulation-based intelligent tutoring system for training IT professionals, originally developed for the US Navy. An increasingly digital Navy relies on a large staff of trained system administrators to keep complex computer systems and networks running effectively and efficiently. These complex systems and the professionals who install and maintain them are critical for mission success. The Navy is committed to providing its IT corps the best training. This is evident in the IT school at the Center for Information Dominance that trains thousands of Naval officers and enlisted staff each year. There is a need for more hands-on practice with the types of IT issues and trouble tickets that arise in the Fleet to augment schoolhouse training. The ITADS trainer, developed in a collaboration between Stottler Henke and Comtech TCS, addresses this need.

The Navy is not alone in facing the challenges of training highly competent IT professionals. IT training in the civilian sphere can also benefit immensely from hands-on exposure to real-world troubleshooting and maintenance problems help IT professionals be job ready.

Features and Benefits

The ITADS is an effective means to providing the benefits of on-the-job training using authentic simulations of real-world problems. The simulations are augmented with automated performance assessment and adaptive feedback thus enabling self-directed learning. This frees up the instructors’ time to provide higher-level support as they monitor student progress using the Instructor Operator Station tool. The ITADS Authoring Tool suite (AT) enables instructors and subject-matter experts to customize the content. The ITADS provides the following benefits:

  • Authentic hands-on practice in real-world troubleshooting and maintenance problems
  • Adaptive, automated coaching and feedback to help trainees learn as they solve the problems
  • One-on-one learning experience without the need to change instructor to student ratio
  • Customizable content

Training Effectiveness

A study was conducted to evaluate the training effectiveness of ITADS by comparing the performance of students trained on ITADS with that of a control group that did not receive this training. The study demonstrated substantial benefits from using ITADS. The experimental group receiving ITADS training performed significantly better than the control group along the key performance dimensions of task completion and speed:

  • They successfully completed all phases of troubleshooting 63% more often than the control group.
  • They were 70% faster than the control group in finishing scenarios.

A usability evaluation of the ITADS Authoring Tool suite demonstrated that:

  • With only 2-1/2 days of training, schoolhouse instructors could use the AT to accomplish a wide range of content authoring and maintenance tasks.
  • The authoring tool suite is logically organized and usable with a reasonable amount of training.
  • The AT will radically shift the cost curve for maintaining the ITADS over the long haul; with further work, it should also lower the costs of creating entirely new training domains in structurally similar areas.

ITADS in Action

ITADS student user interface

Figure 1: ITADS student user interface

An example authoring tool from the ITADS authoring suite

Figure 2: An example authoring tool from the ITADS authoring suite

ITADS: A Real-World Intelligent Tutor to Train Troubleshooting Skills