Modernizing e-Learning within the DoD

Department of Defense, SBIR/STTR


The Client

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) were established within U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to not only develop the innovation capabilities of the Department, but to also spur innovation and technology amongst small businesses and across the U.S. economy.  The SBIR/STTR program is the only defense program that grants companies with 500 or fewer employees risk-free, non-dilutive seed stage capital in order to encourage and aid the creation and eventual launch of cost-effective innovations; the ultimate goal is to sustain America’s superiority in the technology field. Each year, 600 potential development topics are released and 50,000 small business users submit proposals, 12 agencies are selected to participate, and a total of $1 billion in research funds are awarded.

The Challenge

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) was in need of a way to digitally transform and launch two of their training programs. The first is federally-mandated basic training primarily designed for federal contractors to educate on fraud, waste, and abuse that can occur in the SBIR/STTR program.  The other is designed for those who are applying for the SBIR/STTR program, often for the first time and without any prior knowledge on the process. In order to prevent the loss of research spending and to make their training programs more comprehensive and effective -as opposed to sometimes unreliable face-to-face interactions- the DoD enlisted the creative team at Fifth Tribe to develop a digital solution that would allow their employees and small business applicants to complete the necessary training in an engaging yet educational way.  

The Strategy

One of the most important steps of Fifth Tribe’s design process is the collaborative work we do with our clients; this collaboration manifests in many ways, such as through interviews, brainstorming sessions, and prototype testing.  For the SBIR/STIR project with the DoD, we kicked off with an extensive research and interview process in which we gathered information on the two training programs and had multiple meetings with the project leads and other potentially helpful points of contact, such as government lawyers and accountants.  These connections informed our research in an inclusive way, as we wanted to ensure that the information we compiled was not only accurate, but framed in a way that could be easily understood by program participants. Once this step was complete, we moved on to the design stage: all knowledge deemed relevant to each program was organized and formatted to construct a “click-through” interactive experience.  The project was built using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript with reveal.js as a framework.  Fifth Tribe successfully transformed a once fickle and incomplete program into an engaging web development training solution, fully equipped with quizzes and audio activities. Check out the programs in action on our showcase page, here.

Interactive Feature: Question & Answer Segments

Interactive Feature: Quizzes

The Result

Both the Fraud, Waste, and Abuse course and the SBIR/STTR Program & Accounting training program are broken down into four modules: four lessons that flow from one to the next in a way that displays the reading in a “question-answer” or “quiz-like” format.  The Department of Defense suggested that the program design promote participant interaction so as to guarantee a high level of knowledge retention. Fifth Tribe ran with this idea and developed a slide-to-slide format (one question and one answer per slide; participants cannot skip through program without completing each slide consecutively), adding an audio feature that reads all information on each slide as the participant clicks through.  By doing so, the training programs are not only user-friendly, but they also eradicate the need for face-to-face training, a process that would be both overly onerous and unreliable for the DoD. Through the implementation of each interactive training program on the SBIR/STTR website, the Department of Defense can guarantee that their employees and contractors are being engaged and educated effectively with comprehensive and well-organized information.  

Interactive Feature: Fill in the Blank

Interactive Feature: FAQ’s w/ Links to Learn More