Changes expected for officers’ professional military education

4 Apr 2013 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training has changed over the years. What began as a box of books officers dredged through to complete their professional military education changed to a variety of useful learning models.

“Throughout the last 15 years, we’ve developed a much more robust system,” said Cesare Cardi, the Camp Lejeune regional coordinator with Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training. “We now teach our officers in seminar-based courses. It’s like having a regional college at each one of our major military installations.”

Twenty-five percent of officers complete their military education through the resident program at Marine Corps University at Marine Corps Base Quantico, which offers the courses in nine months, the shortest available time.

Most officers use a distance program, said Cardi, where students gather one evening a week for classes over two years.

When seeking professional military education officers typically only have those two options. However, the Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training began developing a new best-of-both-worlds educational method: the blended seminar model.

The blended seminar model takes one year and includes two periods of focused education with daily classes at the beginning and end of the course as well as weekly online lessons.

“It’s not just about being able to complete a distance course in one year instead of two, but rather it allows them very concentrated periods where they can come to class every day and focus their attention on their studies,” said Cardi. “Those are typically the studies where it’s more conducive to a group environment where students are sharing ideas.”

The blended seminar allows officers to gain operational expertise while contributing to their unit and minimizing the disruption to their lives.

The blended seminar model is still in the works. It is tentatively scheduled to begin in June depending on any fiscal constraints, and its first participants will be chosen after a selection process.

“You can think of it in terms of some colleges,” said Cardi. “Some go to a college and stay there for four years, some take their courses online, and some take them in the classroom and online.”

The methods give Marines different options for learning topics important for their careers.

“It’s in an officer’s professional interest to attend these courses,” said Cardi. “I think officers understand it enhances their ability to grow in the Marine Corps. It’s a very wise decision”

Courses taught include Expeditionary Warfare School for company grade officers and the Command and Staff College Course for majors.

The Expeditionary Warfare School teaches operational planning at the battalion to brigade level; students learn how to apply all aspects of Marine Air Ground Task Force throughout the entire realm of operations across the spectrum of warfare, said Cardi. The Command and Staff College Course focuses on employment of utilities at joint level operations and teaches using complex problems requiring a higher degree of critical thinking.

One problem many prospective students run into is how to fit the classes into a limited time frame.

“One of the things we’ve noticed with Marines with fast-paced operational tempo is people put off completing their education,” said Cardi, “Oftentimes what happens is within a year to year and a half of (an upcoming) promotion they are scrambling to try to figure out how to do it. There is no simpler way to complete this course. You can’t just work faster. The course is designed like a college course. It has a set curriculum. It has the same schedule globally.”

Other Marines set their hopes on the resident program.

“Sometimes officers wait to see if they are going to be selected for the resident course at Quantico,” said Cardi “The distance education program can take up to two years to complete so it’s important to get started early.”

Marines can enroll in the distance program and if selected, attend the resident program instead, Cardi added.

Education can be a difficult road to navigate, but the staff at Camp Lejeune’s Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training is available to assist. Marines can walk-in for assistance whenever they require.

Camp Lejeune’s Marine Corps College of Distance Education and Training office is located in building 403.

For more information call 451-4796 or 451-9309.