Sgt. 1st class Jerry Dickerson, a facilitator assigned to the 101st NCO Academy, at Fort Campbell, KY, uses the defense collaboration services (DCS) website to meet with other facilitators in preparation of the daily face to face time between the facilitators and BLC students. This tool provides consistent engagement, interaction and discussion to meet all learning outcomes for the students, without sacrificing the integrity of the course assigned to the academy | Picture taken by Sgt. 1st Class Jedhel Somera
This article is brought to the NCO Corps by the letter “e.” Due to the current precautions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Basic Leader Course, the Master Leader Course, and the Sergeants Major Academy move towards distributed learning platforms.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers, the Commandant of the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence, explains the importance of delivering professional military education through distributed learning platforms.
“We refined methods to ensure we continue to develop and deliver world-class professional military education to the enlisted force,” he said.
Though the effects on each installation and location will vary, the NCOLCoE continues to focus on maintaining a healthy, ready, and lethal combat force.
“It is imperative that we maintain a safe and healthy environment to train and educate NCOs and Soldiers to the standards codified in our course management plans,” he said.
Sellers explains, the Army is a learning institution which remains in a constant state of improvement, that gets better every day.
“As our NCOA Commandants and their teams experience challenges associated with delivering the first online BLC,” he said. “We’ll codify their lessons learned and share them throughout the entire enterprise.”
Reducing the risk of unnecessary exposure is why the BLC is conducting two different tracks under the emergency BLC (eBLC) learning.
Blended Learning consists of a combination of limited faced to face training and online training via Blackboard.mil.
“NCOAs will facilitate the blended learning environment by reducing the number of Soldiers per classroom down from 16 to 8 Soldiers,” Ogletree said.
Soldiers are spread out across the classroom while adhering to the social distancing requirements.
“Soldiers are able to spread out- exaggerating the social distancing requirements,” Ogletree said. “This also makes up for the lost time in the classrooms.”
This method of training and lessons will be advanced and reinforced online via blackboard once the class is over for the day.
The other virtual option is full Online.
“NCOA Commandants are fully prepared to facilitate BLC completely online based on Senior Mission Commander and CSM Guidance,” Ogletree said.
He added, “think of this option as a traditional online college course.”
The upcoming BLC Class 6-20 will go as scheduled, and no student will be canceled out in ATRRS and will utilize the blackboard.mil website.
The MLC students transitioning from resident to the distributed learning platform will first encounter a dis-enrolled from the Resident course and reenrolled into the MLC DL course.
“At this time, no actions need to be taken by the sergeants first class scheduled or planning to attend MLC,” Ogletree said. “The quota source managers and the registrar at the NCOLCoE are processing the transfer enrollments from resident to non-resident.”
NCO Academies will cease delivery of Master Leader Course-Resident conducted from Apr 1 through June 18.
Ogletree confirmed, “the canceled MLC-R courses entered into the Army Training Requirements and Resources System are coded as ‘Non-conduct’ utilizing reason code 6 [COVID-19].”
Once the cancellations are complete, the re-enrollment occurs by their Army components.
“The active duty Soldiers are enrolled through the Human Resources Command, while the Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers receive re-enrollment through their quota managers,” Ogletree said.
On March 23, the Sergeants Major Course implemented the virtual classroom, using Blackboard.com to enable faculty to hold class in a collaborative online environment.
“We will continue in this modality as long as required, based on the current operational environment,” Sgt. Maj. Jamie Halchishick, director of the Sergeants Major Academy said.
“The NCOLCoE is adapting to the ever-changing situation on Fort Bliss and in the El Paso community related to COVID-19 restrictions and health updates,” Sellers said. “Class 70 is conducting DL for the immediate future.”
This effort includes the ability to use Blackboard.com to host collaborative classroom sessions and provide synchronous learning environments.
The NCOLCoE created measures to mitigate the risk of exposure by utilizing DL platforms.
“In keeping with the messages from our Army’s senior leaders,” Sellers said. “It’s imperative that we adhere to the safety guidance disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control. By effectively protecting the force, protecting our families and protecting the mission. We will be highly successful in the battle against COVID 19, and be able to resume resident PME once it’s deemed safe to do so.”
Sellers added, “in the end, I think we are going to see marked improvements as a result of the current operating environment. The lessons learned will enable us to develop more ways to increase training capacity and opportunities for our Soldiers and NCOs to attend professional military education courses.”