MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Staff sergeants now have an opportunity to participate in a resident-like Professional Military Education with the new Career Course Seminar, developed by the College of Distance Education and Training at Marine Corps University.
Previously, the multimedia distance learning version of the course was the only option available for staff sergeants who could not attend the course because of filled seats or work obligations. The new seminar will allow staff noncommissioned officers to stay local, with a shorter-term residential experiences and virtual learning.
Marine Corps Base Quantico is the first base to pilot the 15-week course, which began Aug. 6. The second pilot will run in January at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, and again at Quantico.
The curriculum parallels resident course material and allows students to interact virtually, using Blackboard and in person, once a week, with their instructor and peers. The onsite meetings are three hours long, to allow ample time for discussion that stimulates critical thinking and illuminates ideas, according to Paul Vanderwater, course director at the Career Course Seminar.
“All of [the students’] work leads up to what they’re going to discuss and do in terms of group projects on Wednesday nights when they come together,” said Vanderwater. “It’s a Socratic method of learning.”
Courses of study include: professional communication, expeditionary operations, professional military ethics, warfighting, and planning and leadership development. The class size ratio is 12-to-1, students to faculty member. Marines must complete the online MarineNet Interactive Multimedia Instruction Career Course DEP, as a prerequisite to both the resident and seminar course. Marines must also must be recommended by their command to attend the course.
“Our intent is to make sure Marines fit the mold for the seminar program because some may need to attend the resident course away from their peers and just focus on that,” said Vanderwater.
The goal is to improve PME for all enlisted Marines, according to Tim Devlin, branch head of the Enlisted Professional Military Education Distance Education Program.
“The amount of burden that we put on SNCOs versus what we used to 10 years ago is significant,” Devlin said. “The amount of time we invested in young Marine Corps officers was predicated to the way we operated — an officer was always there. The way we operate now with distributed operations, that’s not the case, [as] there will not always be an officer there.
The Career Course Seminar is scheduled to take place three-times a year. The next course will begin in January.