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"Crossroads of the Marine Corps"

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Corps launches new, online Career Course for staff sergeants

By Ameesha Felton | | February 6, 2014


Staff sergeants can say goodbye to the dated, paper-based Marine Corps Institute Career Course and hello to a new, interactive online course that aligns closer to expectations of the operating forces.

The Marine Corps University College of Distance Education and Training, working closely with the Enlisted Professional Military Branch, developed a new multimedia Career Course that launched Jan. 15 on MarineNet. It includes a curriculum of eight sub-courses covering administration, communication, warfighting, command and control, tactical planning, training and leadership.

The 63-hour course is designed to bolster a Marine’s leadership skills in combat and garrison.

"It’s an interactive multimedia [curriculum] that leverages learning theory and technologies to improve the staff sergeant’s ability to make sound ethical decisions, influence company grade officers and guide subordinate leaders," CDET wrote in a released statement.

It’s a huge change from the previous Marine Corps Institute Career Course, where students were mailed a stack of textbooks that covered the curriculum and then took an online exam.

"Marines can now take advantage of video, audio and text," said Tim Devlin, branch head of the Enlisted Professional Military Education Distance Education Program. "There are narrations that expound on certain points, interactive buttons and Marines can easily go back and review content."

Additionally, unlike its predecessor, the improved course parallels with the learning objectives of the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy resident program, said Jeffrey Mahalak, course director of the Enlisted PME Distance Education Program.

The push to overhaul enlisted education has been in the works since 2010.

"The president of Marine Corps University, which at the time was Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, received a brief on the state of officer PME [in 2010] and there had been a significant increase in the delivery of distance education for officers, leveraging technologies like Blackboard, MarineNet and some other tools," Devlin said. "Gen. Neller said, ‘I’m happy with this data for officer PME, but what are we doing for enlisted PME? Can we leverage some of the same technologies and theories to improve enlisted PME?"

In response, the department initiated a four-year plan to enhance the program, starting with "Leading Marines," which is a reading requirement for lance corporals to be promoted, and then ending with the Career Course.

Devlin said the new course also takes into account that military installations cannot afford to send every Marine to a resident course.

"We had to enhance the program with the understanding that we’re not going to have the opportunity, with certain ranks, to get every Marine through the resident course," Devlin said.

Some students are already providing positive feedback. Staff Sgt. Brian Czech, who is currently deployed to Afghanistan, was the first Marine to finish the new course, which he did in three days.

"The course was very well laid out and the information was presented in a clear and concise manner in each sub-course," Czech said. "Overall it was a good experience and taking courses like [the online Career Course] allows the Marine to go at their own pace, giving them the opportunity to absorb information as fast or as slow as they choose."

Furthermore, Devlin said students going into the resident course will have a higher level of understanding and those needing remediation will have it as a reference tool.

The resident course is optional, but the Career Course DEP is required for promotion to gunnery sergeant. The Corps plans to implement the program in stages.

"Those who completed the MCI have met the requirement, but pretty soon the MCI will be phased out," Mahalak said.

According to Marine Administrative Message 040/14, starting March 1, the current MCI Career Course will be discontinued. However, Marines who are enrolled in the MCI course before that date will have until June 30, to complete it before they are automatically disenrolled.

So far, there have been 1,055 enrollments and 36 completions of the Career Course DEP.

— Writer: afelton@quanticosentryonline.com

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