Alpha Station: Culture
“Some of our military students…already have a PhD in life.” – Dr. Todd Bacastow, Professor of Practice for Geospatial Intelligence

World Campus Faculty Development held a webinar focusing on how Penn State can serve the unique set of needs that military students present. It was emphasized early that this is an important segment of Penn State’s Student population.

“Pennsylvania State University—World Campus ranks No. 1 among online bachelor’s programs and places in the top 10 in five graduate categories.” U.S. News

What are some of these needs? Access and support are critical. Bacastow recalled situations of students with communication barriers. One current student will have only low-speed Internet access while stationed on a battleship. The tempo of the ship’s operations are hectic and can be unpredictable with regard to the expectations of the course schedule. In other areas of military life, there are situations where there are no outside communications allowed and there are some circumstances where communications need to be cleared before messages get out. This is certainly the case regarding recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Communication with students in these situations may not instantaneous or may not happen as quickly as faculty would like.

But once we can support students to work through these situations, there is a reward for everyone involved. Their experiences have an imprint on what they do and their values. Their family is often first. They don’t want to waste time and they value their education. As student Mark Kennedy said, “I’m not here to get a B. I’m here to get an A in everything I do.”

Courses need to be scaffolded to avoid frustrations and to promote independent thought and critical thinking while at the same time being clear regarding learning objectives and expectations. As Ginny Newman, Assistant Director of Military Student Services, noted, students sometimes need a “hand up” in order to make a transition from the military environment to the civilian environment.

Sometimes we need to understand language barriers. There are common words that have different meanings in the military and out of the military and learning some of that language can help us to communicate with military students.

The new OL course “Serving Those Who Serve” is opening in order to help faculty meet military students where they are by bridging the language barrier and giving participants a first-hand view of what life as a military student looks like. Kristin Bittner, Instructional Designer at Penn State Public Media and also Education Officer in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, designed the course to take participants on a mission to learn about the military student and meet them where they are. In many ways this is about building cultural and social literacy in order to improve online teaching. It is a self-paced course that should take 3-4 hours to complete with one assessment at the end.

When military members prepare to deploy in real life, often on short notice, they are required process through a series of briefing stations and complete required trainings called a “processing line” before they are sent on their final mission.  We have tried to simulate this experience in this course. – from OL 1700 – “Serving Those Who Serve”

Anyone in the Penn State community is invited to join the mission to support our military students. Are you ready?

Registration for OL 1700 is now open!

The webinar is now available as a recording if you are interested in hearing from the panel.

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