As Airmen head home to telework due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Airmen at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have responded to this crisis by developing an online learning platform to bring people across the Air Force together.
“We started brainstorming a way to communicate with our Airmen that are teleworking across our base but quickly realized that this same need existed at other bases,” said Master Sgt. Chad Hardesty, 412th Test Wing Command Chief Executive. “We then developed a process to crowdsource this idea so that it could more easily scale across the total force. We launched Air Force Quarantine University with the hope that a few dozen Airmen would join but those dozen Airmen quickly grew into thousands.”
Air Force Quarantine University leverages the social media website Facebook to network together Airmen from around the world. Airmen are able to watch videos on a variety of topics spread across seven units.
“Air Force Quarantine University is a platform that allows instructors and experts of all shapes and sizes, across the Air Force, to teach any subject from their home,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Ian Eishen, 412th Test Wing Command Chief. “It started with an idea to ensure Airmen could still reach out to a Career Assistance Adviser or Airmen Leadership School Instructor but then Airmen stationed at other bases asked if they could teach yoga, woodworking, and breathing techniques. That is when we realized the power of our network and community.”
Airmen from any base can volunteer to teach via livestream, which then makes the course accessible to any other Airmen to watch in real-time and ask any questions they may have. The courses are also recorded so any user may watch the videos on their own time.
“The real-time aspect provides some of the community connections and interactions that are necessary in times like these and these contacts will hopefully grow into professional and personal networks for each Airman,” Hardesty said. “This platform now enables Airmen to learn from subject matter experts from across the world. The community is growing by hundreds, every day and the content and number of categories are growing just as fast.”
Quarantine University may also serve as a test bed for future classroom operations in a health protection compromised environment.
“We don’t know how long this COVID-19 situation will last and can’t assume that things will blow over in the next few weeks,” Eishen said. “We have to build processes and systems that can pivot with the community and ensure we continue to develop and learn over the next 12-24 months.”
With current professional military education such as Airman Leadership School and the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Test Wing is researching and testing ways to help further develop Airmen and DOD civilians when a typical classroom environment may not be available.