News: Airmen now learn in high-definition with Guard’s NCO Academy
Story by Master Sgt. Michael Smith
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Air National Guard’s center for training and education is leveraging live high-definition, high-bitrate video to develop airmen with the high quality associated with an in-residence experience – but at a fraction of the cost.
Currently the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center, or TEC, is in full swing delivering a blended learning Noncommissioned Officer Academy course to 115 airmen at 11 installations across the nation. Blended learning consists of facilitated distance learning, followed by a short period of in-resident learning to complete the course.
The class is broadcast live from TEC which is in its 18th year of providing blended learning NCOA via its “Warrior Network” satellite broadcast system. The Center will celebrate 45 years of professional military education on its campus this year.
For this course, six of the field sites are using a new two-way, high definition, high-bitrate video-to-video tele-training extension to its Warrior Network.
While these students still get live video instruction, video tele-training technology allows students to see and hear their instructors, and vice versa, over a dedicated internet protocol line.
The new method is simply a test for this course. So far, it’s proving to be a vast improvement over the tried-and-true one-way satellite method where students can see and hear their instructors, but the instructors can only hear students when they have questions.
“The sites are seen in a grid-like display, say like on the old TV game show ‘Hollywood Squares,’ and instructors and the sites queue up larger during interaction,” said Tech. Sgt. Matt Schwartz, the production manager who works evenings here to handle the broadcasts.
Instructors said video tele-training allows them to see classrooms in detail, including facial reactions and attentiveness among pupils.
“This helps us help them to understand their instruction better,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Traugot, the Center’s director of education, satellite EPME.
Instructors teach from a broadcast desk at the TEC’s Media Engagement Division, calling up information and explaining lessons.
Traugot added that the students and instructors alike are from across the Total Air Force.
Compared to the traditional six-week NCOA course held here, the 13-week blended learning class reduces on-campus attendance to two weeks.
To Center officials, it’s a clear alternative to traveling for fully in-resident schools.
“For a student to attend our NCOA course completely in-resident, it costs the government just over $7,000,” said Traugot. “Whereas with the blended learning course, it only costs $4,800. The great thing is that they still get in-residence credit.”
Officials said that’s popular with National Guard members because it helps them attend training from their hometowns, with reduced time away from their families, employers and missions.