ACGE Awarded Contract for Game-Based Language Learning

Ben Lowden, left, Alicia Sutliff, and Steven Tometczak (students at the Center for Information Dominance Corry Station) preview the Integrated System for Language Education and Training (ISLET). (U.S. Navy photo by Gary Nichols)


The Academic Consortium for Global Education, Inc. (ACGE), a Vermont-based non-profit corporation, has been awarded an $8.1 million contract from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to develop a game-based language-in-culture learning program.  The program, called ISLET (Integrated System for Language Education and Training), will provide officer, enlisted and civilian employees of the Department of Navy with listening, speaking and reading skills in targeted foreign languages to a proficiency level equivalent to that gained in 4-6 semesters of undergraduate college-level language courses.

The ONR research contract includes a base performance timeframe with three option periods and calls for the delivery of an alpha version of ISLET by October 2011. The ISLET project will produce several intermediate products for the Department of Navy including a series of task-based, mission-specific, language-in-culture learning scenarios and comparative culture learning modules. The ISLET prototype will demonstrate and evaluate curricula in both Sub-Saharan French and Iraqi Arabic. 

ISLET research will include the design and integration of innovative learning technologies, speech recognition capabilities, effective instructional methods and motivating interactive gaming strategies to develop a task-focused, multi-learner serious game embedded within an active community of practice. Central to the ISLET concept is the idea that motivated by the challenge of interesting task-based game scenarios, learners will collaborate in a language-in-culture, immersive environment in which they will engage in active military “missions” that require the speaking, listening and reading skills essential to effective communication in other regions of the world. 

As envisioned, ISLET will provide the Department of Navy an alternative to expensive, time-consuming pre-deployment classroom language and culture education and training and will be applicable to a wide spectrum of military personnel requiring cultural awareness and language training for personal survival and mission success.  The research will evaluate whether a multi-player on-line “game” will attract and motivate language-in-culture learners to invest the time-on-task essential to second language acquisition and skill retention.

Sponsored by the Chief of Naval Operations, Senior Language Authority (N13), the ISLET research will include active participation by the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), its Military Civil Affairs Group (MCAG) and the Navy’s Center for Language, Regional Expertise and Culture (CLREC).  These Navy commands will provide subject matter expertise and learners who will evaluate the ISLET components and prototype.

The ISLET project grew from recent studies produced by ACGE, Inc. for the U.S. Navy.  The current research team features nationally known faculty and specialists with expertise in foreign language education, learning management systems, language curriculum design, linguistics, game development, artificial intelligence, automated speech recognition, natural language processing, and learner assessment/feedback. In addition to ACGE staff, the team includes ALELO, of Los Angeles, CA, the developer of the Tactical Language and Culture Training System as well as researchers from Amherst and Middlebury Colleges, Brigham Young University, international professional associations and consulting firms within the gaming and training industries. The Principal Investigator of ISLET is Edward Twardy, Ph.D., President of ACGE, Inc.