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    Emergency BLC graduates first set of Soldiers

    Emergency BLC graduates first set of Soldiers

    Photo By Spc. DeMarco Wills | Spc. Andrew Meade, a 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4/25 IBCT...... read more read more

    JBER, AK, UNITED STATES

    05.29.2020

    Story by Spc. DeMarco Wills 

    United States Army Alaska

    More than 80 Soldiers from Fort Wainwright and JBER completed the 22-day course, dubbed eBLC, which combined traditional in-class training and online training via Blackboard.mil.
    eBLC is part of an Army-wide effort by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and the NCO Leadership Center of Excellence to deliver quality professional military education while adhering to the stop-move and social distancing requirements adopted as preventive measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny Provost, NCOA commandant. Here, he said, those changes meant modifying some course curriculum and waiving a requirement for students based at Fort Wainwright to perform assessments of Physical Readiness Training and Drill & Ceremony.
    “The reason I did this was because we did not have the ability to assess those events at Fort Wainwright from JBER. Instead of disadvantaging the students, we chose to waive those two events,” explained Provost, stressing that it’s a one-time waiver granted only for the initial eBLC class. “With Class 7-20, we will be conducting those assessments through Microsoft Teams. This platform gives our Small Group Leaders at JBER the ability to evaluate students performing the events at Fort Wainwright and give those students live feedback.”
    This marks the first time BLC training has been offered online. The learning management system hosted all of the course lessons and assignments, allowing students to engage in discussions about course topics and submit assignments.
    Grading for eBLC called for different parameters. Many of the assignments were tested on a pass-or-fail grading scale. Other changes under Army policy for this course, included not awarding a Commandant’s list, Honor Graduate, and other individual accolades.
    “The other topics and lesson plans were adjusted for use in a distance learning environment, but ultimately the topics and curriculum largely remained the same,” said Provost.
    In BLC, students learn the basics of being an effective NCO. eBLC graduate, Spc. Tyler Jones, a cable systems installer-maintainer with the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, said the online learning only enhanced his learning experience.
    “I don’t think my time at the course was any more or less difficult,” Jones said. “I feel like online learning really highlighted the strengths of this course. It gave me more depth into things like troop leading procedures and team management strategies.”
    Although Jones said he was initially disappointed he wouldn’t have the larger group learning experience he expected, he found himself being just as invested.
    “BLC is one of those classes that is supposed to be done with a group of people,” said Jones. “Losing the classroom setting took away our ability to bounce ideas off my classmates face-to-face. It challenged me to be more involved when we did the online class discussions.”
    Likewise, Provost said NCOA instructors reported that students seem to be participating more in classroom discussions online with “more open and honest” discussions across the board. He said it has been one of the more surprising developments.
    “Prior to the course, I assumed there would be less communication online, but it was quite the opposite,” said Provost. “Perhaps this could be because they didn’t have the social pressures that occur in person. This may or may not be a good thing, but it was interesting.”
    NCOA cadre and staff continually gather student feedback as they seek to improve the learning experience, he said, and they’re taking note to see if students in future eBLC classes have similar responses.
    Change has been par for the course as the emergency pandemic has unquestionably created unique challenges for both NCOA cadre and staff, who had to contend with protecting the force while maintaining the integrity of the course. For students, they had to quickly adjust to the changes while grasping distance-learning tools needed to complete the course.
    “I’m sure the coronavirus is in the back of everyone’s mind. We conduct ourselves as professionals at the academy and took every precaution to keep the students and instructors safe,” said Staff Sgt. Erica Lopez, an NCOA instructor and SGL.
    For in-class training, instructors required students to maintain the recommended six-feet distance apart. If the distance was unable to be maintained, students had to wear a cloth mask that covered their nose and mouth. Also, students had to apply hand sanitizer when entering the classrooms, which were cleaned and disinfected at the end of each day.
    “An additional challenge we encountered was slow internet/bandwidth due to the large amount of personnel teleworking,” added Provost. “At times the video quality would be compromised. Teaching students how to use new technology was a bit challenging at times.”
    Being adaptable to change has helped NCOA leaders effectively respond, he said, and prepare for future eBLC classes until operations can return to normal. Provost recommends future students stay informed by following the NCOA on Facebook and the Army Career Tracker site.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.29.2020
    Date Posted: 05.29.2020 17:18
    Story ID: 371089
    Location: JBER, AK, US

    Web Views: 130
    Downloads: 0
    Podcast Hits: 0

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