WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Navy is close to establishing what is intended to be an early stop on a continuum of learning, as it nears hiring the leadership of its soon-to-be-formed Naval Community College.
Creating a Naval Community College is part of the department’s much larger effort to completely revamp how it supports and arranges education for Navy and Marine Corps officers and enlisted personnel.
The community college will serve as a critical gateway to learning for enlisted personnel. It will also help set the standard throughout the ranks that learning doesn’t stop with advanced technical training, or “A” school, according to two panels speaking Thursday at the Education For Seapower Symposium, hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“We’re listing jobs for the president and the chief academic officer in the next few weeks, with the goal of getting them up and running as quickly as we possibly can,” John Kroger, the department’s recently hired chief learning officer, said during a panel discussion.
Kroger’s role as CLO, as suggested in the Education For Seapower report, is to align the department’s academic institutions. These include the United States Naval Academy, the Naval War College, Naval Postgraduate School, Marine Corps University and the Naval Community College.
The Navy intends to lean heavily on the existing network of civilian community colleges to support the institution the Navy is setting up. To make the Naval Community College accessible to the largest number of sailors and Marines possible, Kroger said courses will be online.
“I expect that our civilian partners will deliver probably 95 percent of the courses,” Kroger said. “So, the structure that we’ve imagined for the institution is to deliver that content online. Most of the majors are going to be in core areas where we think the education will be valuable for the individual sailor and Marine.”
The civilian community colleges and universities have so far been very receptive to the idea of joining the Navy’s effort to revamp its educational system, said Thomas Modly, undersecretary of the Navy. Modly launched the Education For Seapower effort in April 2018.
Online courses will not just be a cornerstone of the community college. Modly envisions Navy and Marine personnel pursuing undergraduate and advanced degrees online, through traditional in-person class settings, or in a hybrid approach using both.
“Some of these places they’re doing really, really interesting things that have high applicability to we do in the Navy and Marine Corps,” Modly said.
The Marine Corps University and Naval Post Graduate School have both developed distance learning programs that combine online and in-person classes, the presidents of both institutions said during a second panel.
The Marine Corps University has eight regional locations for classroom learning and offers nearly all of its courses online, Brig. Gen. Jay Bargeron, the university’s president, said. The Marine Corps University uses open-source learning platform Moodle and web conferencing software Adobe Connect for classes, he added.
Retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau, president of the Naval Postgraduate School, said her institution sends instructors out to the fleet. Currently, she has faculty embedded on board amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6).
As weapons systems get more complicated and the technical expertise of the nation’s adversaries increases, it becomes even more critical for all sailors and Marines to become critical thinkers, Kroger said.
“The culture needs to begin to see education as a form of a primary contributor to combat readiness,” Bargeron said. “We typically talk about combat readiness being a product of people, equipment and training. It should be people, equipment, training and education.”