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My Coast Guard
Commentary | March 8, 2021

Sector Commanders moves to virtual training to protect workforce, and increase efficiency 

By Janki Patel, MyCG Writer

Sector commander and department head courses have transitioned to a virtual learning environment. The most recent graduating cohort moved from the classroom to their laptops out of necessity in response to pandemic restrictions in March of last year and served as the unplanned inaugural online only group. 

Online training has experienced significant growth in the last decade, as FORCECOM and technology combine to provide the workforce with the opportunity to gain new skills. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, online learning has become more centric in the training and readiness. 

The effort to convert a 12-week in-person course into an online format in just two days sounds like the stuff of a stress induced nightmare, but retired Capt. Mark Ogle and Capt. Larry Brooks tackled the task as course administrators. As the recommendations to remain “safe at home” took effect, the decision to protect the health and safety of the workforce was prioritized, and both courses were moved online. Repackaging classroom sessions to the new, webinar format required innovation in education, risk-taking, trial-and-error, evaluation, all while keeping operations going and students on board. 

Both courses have been merged into 12 webinars over a 12-week span, respectively. 

2021 will see significant upgrades as the course – and the workforce – have become accustomed to working virtually. Future cohorts will see a user-friendly DCS 2.0, self-pacing options, and virtual networking opportunities with breakout rooms.  

Each week includes time for both courses to learn from a chief of staff panel, officer in charge panel, sitting commander, department heads, and a host of other experts. 

Students can upload homework through a learning management portal, connecting to webinars, technical videos, assigned reading, and quizzes. As a culminating event, the sector commanders complete an individual Capstone assessment and department heads take a final exam.  

Course administrators Ogle and Brooks are committed to implementing lessons learned from the pilot course to ensure the continued improvement of this virtual course. The revamped design rivals any online university or other service war college cohort. Through creativity, flexibility and the use of technology, instructors around the Coast Guard have ensured members receive the necessary training to remain mission ready despite significant operational hurdles and have laid the groundwork for the future of training by converting these courses to virtual formats.   

“While I do miss the interaction with classmates during the resident sessions,” said Capt. Kristi Bernstein, deputy commander of Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach and a 2020 participant, “I do ultimately like the flexibility that virtual learning offers.” 

Sector Commander Course: 

All Sector commanders, deputies, O6 ashore commanders, and O5 deployable specialized forces units will log in to the pipeline training.    

Department Head Course 

Lieutenant commanders and commanders that will serve as future prevention, response, logistic chiefs, as well as base executive officers. 

Questions? Email Mark S. Ogle, Course administrator.