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Squadron Officer School goes virtual with VIR-remote coursework during pandemic

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, ALABAMA --

In today’s pandemic world, using remote, virtual connections via computer technology is fast becoming the norm at an ever-growing number of colleges and universities.

Recently joining that new norm is the latest class at Air University’s Squadron Officer School, which started teaching its students virtual in-residence-remote on July 9.

It’s the first SOS class to remotely access curriculum developed and initiated for virtual coursework where students and instructors can quickly communicate with one another from off-base locations.

SOS faculty are teaching from home to 869 students around the world, who are taking classes during their on-duty time. The last in-residence class graduated from SOS on Feb. 27, 2020.

“In developing the coursework for a five-week SOS virtual program, we partnered with the SOS e-school to determine how we can best deliver non-resident coursework virtually without degrading what was originally intended for students who attended SOS in-residence,” said Maj. Nicholas Narbutovskih, SOS vice dean. “A key element throughout the virtual course development phase is continually coming back to the importance of connection.”

The entire team at SOS was on a full-court press to develop the virtual coursework since the pandemic struck earlier this year.

“If the pandemic had never occurred, I don’t believe we’d be in a situation where we had to develop virtual curriculum in order to satisfy the requirements of SOS coursework,” he said.

The effort, said SOS’s dean of academics, would not have been possible without collaboration across Air University and reflects what they teach their students.

“Our ability to design a program for these circumstances is a testament to the strength of our partnerships around Air University,” said Col. Jason Trew, SOS dean of academics. “At each point, we’ve had to lean on our AU allies to create and share ideas. This is a great exercise in ‘moving diagonally’; not just replicating what we do in a virtual platform, but continuing to evolve the program in a way that provides the professional military education the force needs and that our students want. This has been a great opportunity to ‘eat our own dog food.’ In other words, we are practicing the same things we teach our students in terms of collaborative, creative problem-solving.”