by Phil Berube
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
7/21/2014 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- As any builder would know, building a structurally sound house starts with a solid foundation.
That's the blueprint curriculum developers at the Air Force's center for
enlisted professional military education followed when developing the
new distance learning course for senior noncommissioned officers and
building the new curricula for the Air Force Senior NCO Academy at
Developers and faculty at the Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted
Education kicked the level of learning up a notch with version 6 of the
distance learning Senior NCO Course 14. The new version replaced version
5 in late 2013.
What makes v6 different than v5, said Senior Master Sgt. Christine
Knudson, the superintendent of the center's senior NCO programs team, is
that v5 was developed primarily at the knowledge level of learning,
with some comprehension-level learning objectives, a learning model
designed to address Air Force education requirements for senior NCOs
that dates back to the early 2000s.
Using interactive media, v6 addresses current institutional competencies
prescribed for senior NCOs and starts at the comprehension level, with
some opportunities to apply learned academic principles, she explained.
The course is a prerequisite for eligible students to attend the new,
in-resident "Advanced Leadership Experience," or ALE, at the SNCOA.
An instructor at the Air Force First Sergeant Academy at Gunter Annex
said he didn't think he needed to complete v6 before attending ALE
because he felt the course he completed in 2008 was sufficient.
"I was wrong," said Senior Master Sgt. Bryan Charz, who graduated
recently from the SNCOA. "There was so much to learn in version 6, and
it was a great stepping stone into ALE, where procedures, processes,
concepts and leadership styles all got put into action."
To make it easier for students to do their coursework anywhere, anytime,
the v6 course material is accessed via the Internet on a commercial
learning management system instead of through the access-restricted
Advanced Distributive Learning System.
Just as v6 is a completely different than its predecessor, the
curriculum and teaching methods at the academy also were rebuilt from
the ground, up.
The curriculum moved from the application level to the synthesis level,
said Chief Master Sgt. Kyle Robinette, vice commandant of the academy.
"Though the previous curriculum and instructor delivery method worked to
capture interrelationships between lessons, the course engaged one
lesson at a time and tested those lesson principles separately," he
explained. "Because engagement of leadership concepts occurs
simultaneously in real life, the new ALE combines lesson principles
throughout the course."
For example, he said, in the old course, students learned about
"full-range leadership" in a lesson, were redirected back to those
principles in a case study and then evaluated with a few select
questions on an objective test. In ALE, students arrive with a
comprehension of full-range leadership and engage its principles in
three different modules, synthesized with seven other lessons.
"The assessment for the three modules is student-centered papers with
synthesized relevance to their individual leadership styles and units,"
Because v6 is constructed at the comprehension and application levels of
learning, ALE students have the knowledge they need to jump right into
the heart of the curriculum from the start.
"Students are expected to arrive to ALE with a comprehension level in
all lesson principles previously taught in the old course," he said.
"From day one and in daily writings, students engage multiple lessons in
every module and integrate those lessons into their leadership
development plans. This work is translated later in the course to an
action plan for further development and refinement of leadership skills
well beyond attendance at [the academy]."
Currently, students selected to attend ALE and who have not completed v6
arrive eight days before the start of class to complete the
prerequisite, said Robinette.
"This will continue until the requisite completion rates are high enough
to support removing the need," he said. "Those few students who have
completed version 6 arrive in time to attend the 25-day ALE only."
By setting a solid foundation with v6 and dovetailing it with the new
ALE curriculum at the academy, the Barnes Center's objective is to
graduate senior NCOs with sound leadership skill sets, he said.
"The course goal is to develop adaptable senior enlisted leaders to
operate critically, strategically and jointly in complex and ambiguous
environments," said Robinette. "Important to achieve this is a rigorous
design that challenges the leadership development of every student and
is relevant to the force."
The Barnes Center provides cutting-edge education to develop the
leadership ability of enlisted Airmen and to professionalize the corps,
said center officials. The EPME transformation at the senior NCO and NCO
levels represents the most significant change to EPME programs since
the "Year of Training Initiative" in 1993.
In 2011, Air Education and Training Command, Air University and the
Barnes Center planned to design a more efficient and effective education
system to take advantage of the available technology to enhance the
reach and delivery of enlisted education programs.
The Air Force SNCOA blended learning education program represents
completion of phase one of the approved plan. For phase two, the Barnes
Center will begin beta testing its new NCO Academy course at Keesler Air
Force Base, Miss., later this year, with a scheduled implementation at
all NCOAs beginning in the spring of 2015.