Higher Pass Rates on DoDD 8570 for 200+ Soldiers at the US Army
United States Army Signal School leadership expressed that their Soldiers were consistently underperforming on the CompTIA Security+ certification exam, required for certain roles by Department of Defense Directive 8140/8570. A low pass rate and under-certification risked a negative impact on national defenses and military objectives. The low pass rate was also taking a financial toll, forcing Army leadership to invest additional funds into exam retake vouchers after Soldiers failed earlier attempts. Compared to Soldiers who had at least one year of experience in the field, the 2,600 to 4,000 new recruits within the Advancing Infantry Training (AIT) program significantly underperformed. Leadership was confident that the pass rates were not a reflection of the Soldiers’ aptitude or competencies, but rather a failure in the training system designed to prepare the participants for exam day.
The Army needed a new training approach that would generate high engagement and accountability, coupled with the flexibility and efficiency demanded as a result of COVID-19. To preserve the health and well-being of their Soldiers, leadership shifted their search from in-person providers to those that could deliver 100% online training.
N2K designed and deployed a four-week Security+ training course specifically configured for more than 200 Soldiers. The fully online course centered around two major elements: asynchronous video on-demand lessons, and live online office hours with a dedicated instructor and Teaching Assistant (TA) two times each week. The design of these components ensures accountability and progress toward passing scores on exam day. The course also leveraged live online portions—class orientation, office hours, and a final day dedicated to test day strategies—providing Soldiers the opportunity to ask in-depth questions and explore points of interest that they didn’t fully comprehend from the course material.
N2K certification experts led the Soldiers through exam-like questions, instructing how to approach tricky questions and execute test-taking strategies. To maintain accountability and engagement at scale, live online sessions were integrated across multiple cohorts ranging from ten to 50 Soldiers. Further accommodating the cohorts, office hours operated on a rotating schedule to provide each cohort with a dedicated window of time to engage.
In addition to the on-demand video content and live online portions of the course, N2K integrated hands-on practical labs, a question-bank, flashcards, a lesson book, summary notes, and an electronic textbook to ensure participants were well prepared. Each component was available digitally within a Soldier’s Learning Management System (LMS) portal.
Soldiers could monitor their progress and performance with a personal performance tracker embedded in the LMS. N2K tags content and assessment questions directly to the CompTIA exam outline, making it easy to track areas of weakness mapped to each domain and subdomain of the certification exam. Furthermore, they received specific and granular feedback, as well as a robust data source for performance and completion analysis. For example, if a Soldier were to answer a practice question incorrectly, they could immediately review their performance on related questions or link to the relevant on-demand training video to revisit the corresponding lesson. This allows for efficient course navigation for participants and provides actionable, data-driven insights for both the Soldiers and leadership.
The Signal School Commandant and Leadership received weekly class engagement reports, outlining performance analytics and feedback for each cohort. To keep Soldiers motivated and build friendly competition, participants also received leaderboard results within live online sessions. With N2K’s forecasting metrics and recommendations, the Army could assess and determine who is ready to sit for the certification exam. Participants identified as not ready to take the certification exam received individual study plans for additional support.
“In 30 years in the Army this was the best training I’ve ever attended. Every Signal and Cyber Soldier in the Army needs to take this course whether they need the certification or not.”
Signal School Administrator
As a result of the course curriculum, approach, and reporting, N2K accurately predicted the exam success rates of each Soldier who had gone through the program. 95% of Soldiers that N2K recommended to sit for the Security+ exam passed while a smaller subset of Soldiers that N2K predicted were not ready did, in fact, fail.
With N2K’s custom-configured curriculum, Soldiers are not only better prepared to sit for and pass the exam, but there is early anecdotal evidence that they can actively apply what they have learned in a realistic manner consistent with real-world job requirements (and the Army’s KSATs or knowledge, skills, abilities, and tasks). Quantitatively, the Army has, to date, saved over $90,000 by bypassing vouchers for Soldiers not deemed ready based on N2K’s forecast metrics. These funds are now available for further investments in skill improvements or certification pursuits.
A senior administrator from the Army Signal School remarked, “In 30 years in the Army this was the best training I’ve ever attended. Every Signal and Cyber Soldier in the Army needs to take this course whether they need the certification or not.” Likewise, a participating Soldier noted, “So far, best block of instruction we have received!”
N2K is proud to service the US Army Signal School and NCO Academy as a certification training partner and looks forward to continued partnership moving forward within the United States Department of Defense in the coming years.