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Meet Virtual I/ITSEC 2020!


On December 6, 2019, on the same day that the final events of I/ITSEC 2019 were concluding at the Orlando Convention Center, doctors in the Chinese city of Wuhan recorded the first suspected human-to-human transmission of a newly identified virus, found in a patient who denied visiting the seafood market associated with the initial outbreak.

“It’s been quite a year,” observes RADM (Ret.) James Robb, President of the National Training and Simulation Association. Appearing on the NTSA’s mid-November Webinar series, Robb outlined how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted I/ITSEC 2020, while setting the stage for continuing dynamic changes at next year’s I/ITSEC 2021.

“As you all probably know, I/ITSEC went virtual in September, and the team has been working extremely hard for the last three months to convert all the content over into a virtual format,” he explained. “I want to congratulate the leadership, the NTSA staff led by Debbie Langelier, and all the volunteers for the tremendous efforts that have gone into making ‘vIITSEC’ all it can be. And it will be tremendous.”

Pointing to “the very rich content” of the vIITSEC program, Robb introduced a webinar panel that included conference chair Bob Kleinhample, program chair Matt Spruill and moderator Sophia Moshasha, vice president of the VR/AR Association DC chapter.

Reflecting on the conference theme, The Future is Now, Kleinhample observed, “What we envisioned in the past is what is happening today. Likewise, the actions we take today, and that we accelerate today, will impact the future that we're going to face down the road.”

Spruill concurred, adding, “We can’t wait to develop the training and the products with which we're going to train our warriors for the next battle. We've got to do it now.”

Moshasha asked the conference and program chairs about other trends they see for vIITSEC, drawing responses ranging from Covid-19, which Kleinhample called “the big elephant in the room,” to distributed learning and training technologies that will combine to move training “to the point of need.”

Spruill shifted focus to highlight how the upcoming vIITSEC program content will address some of the cited challenges and trends. He described the wide array of presentations, papers, special events, service and cross-service panels and more than 115 virtual industry exhibits, even teasing webinar attendees: “And then we've got a we've got a real treat for you at the opening ceremony, thanks to Bob. The keynote addresses are going to be awesome but then we'll have a little surprise for everybody that you will not want to miss.“

One key aspect of vIITSEC 2020 that represents a significant advantage over past live events is the digital availability of certain presentations and papers for three months following the event dates. Panelists enthused how this digital aspect would allow registered attendees to “see” every event.

“That’s never happened before,” Spruill said.

Along with highlighting the upcoming conference, the webinar included an introduction and overview of the digital platform presented by NTSA vice president Debbie Langelier.

Spotlighting the myriad capabilities of the new platform, she said, “We think this is a powerful tool and we want everyone to use it to its full capabilities.”

All webinar attendees were quick to credit the tireless efforts of nearly 300 individuals, mostly volunteers, who have made vIITSEC possible by responding, pivoting direction, revising activities, and redirecting their energy over the past three months.

Robb placed an emphasis on the amazing support that the virtual event has received from across the Department of Defense, observing, “In a COVID year, all the services are ‘all in’ and they have consistently ‘gone the extra mile’ to make this happen. It's been an exceptional response from all those folks and I think it makes clear that training and simulation education are important to them as well.“

He continued, urging attendees at vIITSEC to analyze the benefits of this year’s virtual platform.

“As we go through this, we are strategically reviewing I/ITSEC 2021, potentially to be somewhat of a hybrid event where people will be able to attend in person or remotely, or maybe a combination of both,” he said. “So give us your feedback on how we can make in person better through this experience, which has been quite extraordinary.”

Robb concluded, “I want to close out by circling back to our mission of supporting warfighters first responders and their families. They didn't get a year off. So it's really critical that we persevere and make vIITSEC happen. After all, it's really to support these great heroes and heroines that we do this in the first place.”

Topics: Modeling and Simulation

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