Distance learning PME demands greater commitment

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ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — The Air Force’s new enlisted professional military education distance learning courses are demanding and require more study time.

That’s according to a memo from the Air Force Barnes Center of Distance Education at Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

“The new EPME is a game changer,” said Chief Master Sgt. Cameron Kirksey, command chief for Air Force Reserve Command. “Distance learning courses are intentionally more rigorous than previous courses. We know our Citizen Airmen our up for that challenge.”

The memo helps enrollees gauge the commitment required by providing a guide of the time courses may take to complete. It also stresses adjusting as individual needs dictate to “master the material before taking the test.”

“Allow yourself plenty of time to study and digest the material before you test,” said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Lohsandt, Headquarters AFRC first sergeant.

Lohsandt attended an early in-residence Airmen Leadership Experience at the Senior NCO Academy and accomplished version 6 during the built-in, eight-day window to complete the prerequisite.

“Our Airmen are now being offered DL courses earlier in their career, and the concepts they are introduced to are built on and applied during the in-residence portion of PME.”

Chief Master Sgt. Imelda Johnson, AFRC Enlisted Force Development chief, agrees.

“What Airmen are getting out of the DL course before the in-residence course is a familiarity with the actual content of the new courses,” Johnson said. “It’s more of a strategic-type level of thinking more than the tactical-level thinking. Most of our members are going earlier in their career, and they’re not quite as prepared if they would go to the course without doing the DL first.”

In addition to the increased rigors of DL courses, there are also changes in the onus of responsibility for attendance and enrollment in the courses.

“Enrolling in the proper time-in-service window and completing courses on time is the member’s responsibility,” said Eric Devoursney, AFRC PME program manager.

“However, the biggest challenge may be … and really it’ll be more for the NCO Academy and SNCO Academy … is that there used to be individuals who had a hard time with the DL and they had the fallback of going in-residence.

“Now, you have to complete the DL if you’re going in residence,” Devoursney said. “That’s going to hinder some people. ALS has remained the same. Airmen can do either DL or go in residence.”

These EPME DL courses are intentionally more rigorous than previous ones and reflect the increased leadership challenges and expectations for enlisted leaders. Students are encouraged to approach these courses as they would a college course.

“I would say treat it just like any other distance learning course, like an online bachelor’s degree,” Johnson said. “Give it the same amount of time and energy and focus you would an advanced degree. It will require the same kind of effort.”

Airmen can get more information from their career assistance advisor, education office, Air Force Guidance Memorandum to Air Force Instruction 36-2301, or www.aueducationsupport.com.