This article is written for an upcoming Autumn issue of the Receiver, the newsletter of the Civil Air Patrol’s Rocky Mountain Region chaplain corps newsletter.
by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Williams
Region Chaplain, Rocky Mountain Region
Assistant to the Chief of Chaplain Corps on Internet Technologies
As announced in the August, 2017 Receiver, we planned an online session of the Training Leaders of Cadets (Basic) course. Our original estimate was for possibly a dozen students, but that was quickly shown as an unrealistic estimate. By registration cutoff on 15 September, fifty students registered. On 30 September, twenty-nine students from four of the eight regions finished the course. Every Wing in the Rocky Mountain Region had participants, as well as the Southwest, North Central, and Northeast Regions.
The intent of offering the course via teleconference is to ensure that we have senior members who are qualified to become Character Development Instructors. This course is one of the requirements which applicants meet before they can be appointed. Knowing the difficulty that potential students have in attending a face-to-face session, Col Tom Kettell and Curt LaFond (National Cadet Programs) authorized this experiment.
Our students used two online platforms for this course. The first, Manhattan Virtual Classroom, is an Open Source learning management system which is hosted on the CAP Chaplain Corps library system. Here they discussed several questions posed by the course, plus introduced themselves. Some even provided pictures and other biographical information.
Colorado Mountain College provided the web conferencing software, WebEX (trademark of Cisco),for the presentations on 30 September. We could not have had a better system for hosting this course. Each student was able to see the presentation graphics slides while having clear audio. WebEX provides either a conference telephone bridge or the ability to use computer audio, both of which worked very well.
During the course of the day we discovered that the chat function of WebEX gave us more flexibility in asking questions. Many students were able to elaborate on their answers, provide web links, and add to the conversation.
Students were very pleased with the results of the course. One wrote, “Appreciate the online experience! I would not have been able to take the in-classroom version anytime soon.” Another wrote, “My competence level is not based on the training, but more on my perceived abilities. I now have the tools to improve my skills because of the great leaders who provided the training.” There were some unexpected benefits noted by the students, such as, “The wide variety of Wings represented also allowed for great networking and the representation of many different ideas.”
Instructors for the course, Maj Keith Christian, Lt Col Nathan VanDam (both of the Broomfield Composite Squadron, Colorado Wing), and the Region Chaplain each expressed admiration for the student body as well as the ease of using WebEX.
Will we present this course again using similar facilities? I hope so. If approved, we wish to provide another session on 20 January 2018.