Open Education: Global Force for Good
By Ensign Brendan McCord, U.S. Navy
A free, virtual classroom is spanning the globe, from the depths of the Pacific Ocean to the mountains of Afghanistan. Conceived by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003, a new model for dissemination of knowledge and collaboration among scholars internationally features thousands of courses complete with syllabi, class notes, homework problems, and exams. OpenCourseWare (OCW), hosted online for anyone to access, represents a remarkable paradigm shift in education. In the true spirit of a shared intellectual commons, self-motivated learners can take courses from the world's most knowledgeable and inspirational experts-for free, on demand. Some even include interactive web demonstrations in Java or MATLAB, complete textbooks written by MIT professors, and streaming video lectures.
MIT's original vision has expanded from a fledgling venture into a global OCW Consortium, which has brought together more than 200 institutions and associated organizations to create a broad, deep body of open educational content using a shared model. The classes can be watched on YouTube or downloaded to iPods. Princeton, Stanford, and other top institutions now offer similar open education resources.
This new international reality has benefitted users on every continent including Antarctica. Outside of the MIT community, the U.S. military accounts for the second largest user group in the world. This is a strong affirmation that a need for open education exists within our ranks.
Ideal Military Applications
The Navy in particular is beginning to reap the benefits of this movement. Sailors use OCW to supplement calculus instruction for underway degree programs, learn about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and grasp concepts in special relativity. Open education often provides tangible benefits to military users, because it offers instruction that goes beyond and can supplement training manuals.
Navy aerospace engineer Bill Humes uses lecture notes from MIT's "Fracture and Fatigue" course to solve real-world problems. "I have one project involving how to increase fracture resistance in F-18 Super Hornet canopies," he says. "Pilots have died due to this type of failure."1 OCW materials gave him ideas and pointed him in a new direction.
The technology strengthens Navy training and improves its leadership culture. Captain Kevin Gannon, leadership trainer at the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center, San Diego Naval Station, used OCW to improve his organization's effectiveness. "The Leading Organizations course has turned me on to all sorts of useful references," says Gannon. "We've used a bunch of books mentioned in the syllabus. And the lecture notes are also an important tool. . . . . OCW has definitely accelerated our ability to train."2
While serving in Iraq, John Shelton, a member of the Navy's Counter-Improvised Explosive Device roadside task force, patrolled while listening to physics lectures from the University of California at Berkeley. "I would take a cot outside at night," he says, "and use my night-vision goggles to look at stars and constellations while listening. . . . I'm just blown away when I think that I have received an Ivy League education in basic physics for free!"3
Free Education for All
The movement's benefits extend far beyond the self-improvement of U.S. Sailors. Open education is critical to future economic stability in developing regions such as Afghanistan, where students at Kabul Technical University study civil engineering, agriculture, and architecture in the OCW Consortium. In established nations such as Venezuela, at la Universidad de los Andes pupils access OCW to learn about public relations, philosophy, and journalism.
The program is indeed its own global force for good. It demonstratively champions the belief that learning must not be proprietary. Institutional walls are being transcended to form a continuum that is more centered on students and outcomes, less on organizations. And it is the United States that provides the vision behind this seamless, growing transformation.
U.S. Naval Leadership
Our Navy is positioned to be on the cutting edge of shaping this initiative. We have an opportunity to not only support and enable the technology, but also recognize and reward those who use it. We need to encourage OCW use and empower self-learners on every level of interest, from personal to professional. Much more information should be disseminated to Sailors and their dependents. The establishment of open-education points of contact or liaisons in the Navy should be explored, alongside a tailored consolidation of OCW's tools for ease of use.
The Navy should collaborate with this program to develop the infrastructure to support open education while our ships are under way. We should innovate to ensure maximum accessibility, even on bandwidth-limited platforms such as patrolling submarines. For example, courses could be broadcast via iPod. Commands should set goals for open-education use, so that long deployments become periods of intellectual opportunity. These steps will underscore the Navy's commitment to continuing education.
Establishing open-education infrastructure in devastated and/or underdeveloped regions overseas should be a consistent component of Navy humanitarian relief efforts. We need to create points of internet access to the worldwide knowledge consortium or iPod course libraries. Capital investments would be minimal, and the results would be life-altering for many. It would be both practical and inspirational.
Finally, the U.S. Navy and the rest of the Department of Defense should move boldly forward to structure a first-of-kind degree or accreditation based on OpenCourseWare. Working in concert with deans from various institutions and consultants to enumerate requirements and goals, the Navy could craft unique degree programs that draw from a menu of the world's top educational offerings.
With validating controls in place, a diploma that included world history classes from the Université de Lyon, France; calculus from MIT, United States; and economics from Oxford, England would be tremendously valuable as a career asset for Sailors and spouses, a recruiting tool for the Navy, and a crucial and transformative step in helping open education reach its full potential in all countries at all levels of society around the world.
2. "An intellectual gem," Profiles, MITopencourseware, http://www.ocw.nur.ac.rw/OcwWeb/Global/AboutOCW/profiles.htm.
3. Cathy Cockrell, "Communique from a Soldier," UCBerkeley News, 26 October 2007, http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2007/10/26_iraqletter.shtml.
Bring NAPS Back to Its Roots
By Peter Randrup
The Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) was started in 1920, during the tenure of Josephus Daniels as Secretary of the Navy. He saw that enlisted men did have the ability to undergo the course of instruction at the Naval Academy, but after several years he realized that formal preparation would enhance the opportunity for both the Sailor and the Navy. This is the intended purpose of NAPS. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the 1919 authorization establishing the Navy's fourth-oldest school.
An Enlisted Heritage
NAPS classes in the 1950s had about 550-650 Sailors and Marines. The quota for Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) appointments was 360. The essence of these appointments is that they are awarded on a competitive basis within the group of applicants, from both NAPS and those in the Navy and Marine Corps who are not already at the school. In addition to Sailors and Marines being prepped at NAPS, any enlisted service member in the armed forces holding a nomination from another source, such as congressional, was until the early 1960s also authorized to attend the program.
Today, the Naval Academy offers direct appointments to some candidates, preparation at NAPS to others, and turns down many. Those in line to attend NAPS are told to report by 1 August. After appointments are made in accordance with the various sources of nominations (congressional, presidential, SECNAV, and others), the Academy may appoint candidates who have applied and been found to be physically qualified alternates. This process brings the incoming class to its maximum allowable size.
Favoring the Naval Academy
In the 1970s, NAPS was removed from the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) and placed under the Severn River Command, the Naval Academy Superintendent. Outwardly-this appeared to be a natural fit for the Academy and NAPS, but in practice that has not been the case. Instead, what was best for the Academy took priority.
From the mid-1960s, Special Reserve Sailors at NAPS far outnumbered "real" Sailors and Marines for whom NAPS was established in the first place. The reality is that the process became streamlined in a way that most benefitted the Naval Academy seeking a balanced student body in each class. Admissions at the Academy began to serve as the control point for enrollment in both NAPS and the Naval Academy. To satisfy the connection with the Navy per se, the service was still contacted so as to draw real enlisted personnel toward NAPS and the Academy, but the way in which this was done became less effective, in the view of Sailors and Marines.
Under the NETC, upon reaching boot camp, each recruit was advised and reviewed as a potential candidate for a SECNAV appointment. That system represented 100 percent coverage of the new Sailors and Marines at boot camp. The most meritorious were urged to apply. Today, only a few admissions staff members visit the few more academically demanding service schools (such as the service's various electronic schools) and try to entice candidates to apply to the Naval Academy. Certainly this is efficient in terms of admissions' time and efforts. However, it misses a vast number of eligible candidates.
In fairness, the Academy does review each application for the forthcoming class. Most are civilian candidates whom the Academy Admissions Department has judged to have good leadership potential but be in need of some academic help. Instead of attending boot camp, they are offered a special 10-month enlistment in the Special Navy Reserve. Unlike other service members, they may leave NAPS at any time, for any reason, without any obligation whatsoever.
They are Special Reserve members, since they are younger than normal for the regular Navy Reserve enlistment. As a result, the Academy more easily gets desirable midshipmen via this NAPS pipeline. But the students that the Academy wants are not necessarily the same as those for whom the SECNAV appointment was authorized. This is the situation today. But, as history shows, candidates for this appointment were to be real Sailors, and, as of the 1920s, Marines.
A second factor in this Academy-favoring process is bringing the Brigade up to authorized strength through physically qualified alternates, as described earlier. The key here is whatever the Academy itself has established at the time. It may want athletes, singers, fife and drum players, minorities, artists, pilots . . . whatever population the Academy would like to increase in the Brigade of Midshipmen.
Return NAPS to NETC
As a result of the changes, today the vast majority of those undergoing preparation at NAPS are Special Reservists not trained to live a military life. Accordingly, enrollment includes only a handful of real Sailors and Marines, called "Priors." The tenor at NAPS is that of military staff pushing relaxed followers. That is not a good mixture for real service members, and it helps to explain why the Naval Academy finds it easier to focus on the civilian body of candidates than on Fleet Sailors and Marines.
Thus, the first corrective measure should be to return NAPS to the command of NETC. Furthermore, no one should be ordered to NAPS who has not finished at least one full 10- or 11-week boot camp. And the military structure of NAPS must use senior personnel who are enrolled in the program.
In this regard, another aspect of the NAPS opportunity that was stopped in the 1960s should be reinstated: Any enlisted service member (including in the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard) who holds a nomination from any source must, upon her or his request, be ordered to attend NAPS, even for only a portion of academic preparation. Certainly most of those authorized to nominate candidates would be pleased to have their charges obtain even a boost in trying to enter the Academy. Some preparation is better than none.
Keeping It Real, Again
Regarding the NAPS admissions process vis-á-vis sports, the various coaches do have an avenue to boost candidates who are especially desired for athletics. Candidates who are not appointed with the next incoming class of Naval Academy midshipmen are offered the opportunity to enlist in the 10-month Special Reserve and attend NAPS.
At present, this certainly applies to minority groups who are not represented at the same level as in the enlisted forces. Of course, doing more in this vein within the ranks is not as efficient a way to meet quotas as is zeroing in on special candidates. But notwithstanding efficiency, it just seems right. Every enlisted member should have her or his equal opportunity to gain, on merit, those SECNAV appointments.
As things stand today, real Sailors and Marines are the poor cousins in competition for attending NAPS and for SECNAV appointments. Likewise, any service member holding a nomination for the Naval Academy from any source should have the opportunity to undergo the academic preparation at NAPS.
If the Navy cannot put itself through the changes needed to provide the proper opportunity for real Sailors and Marines to prepare for the Academy at NAPS, then the process should come under the purview of an organization or person more inclined to see that the intent of the law is carried out. Perhaps the Secretary of the Navy for Personnel or the Secretary of Defense-Personnel could ensure that this opportunity is open to all who are qualified, for the true benefit of enlisted personnel, the naval services, and the Academy.
Recent reports on numbers of enlisted in the NAPS program show that only about one in five are from the Navy or Marine Corps. Moreover, some enlisted personnel have requested to leave NAPS because of an atmosphere that is less military than they thought the program should be. But this is what we can expect when the vast majority of students have never even attended boot camp!
Naval Officers Must Be Culturally Educated
By Captain Mark Adamshick, U.S. Navy
In a 2009 speech addressing the students and staff at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said: "It is really important that we listen to other people, that we listen to other cultures, that we pay attention to how they see their problems. I call that seeing it through their eyes-putting yourself in a position that actually focuses on what they are thinking about, as opposed to how we think about them, or how we think, in our Western ways, we might solve their problems." Consistent with the chairman's emphasis is a commitment at the U.S. Naval Academy to graduate adaptable naval leaders who understand and appreciate global and cross-cultural dynamics.
Old Knowledge, New Applications
The acknowledgement that cultural competence stands as a military imperative to mission success is not new. In Operational Culture for the Warfighter (Quantico, Va.: Marine Corps University, 2008), Barak A. Salmoni points out that Karl von Clausewitz, perhaps the greatest military thinker in the last two centuries, concluded that French military success against the Germans was produced by changes in French society and culture as early as 1789.
Contemporary challenges of irregular warfare, counterinsurgencies, and humanitarian relief may be different from those of the battlefields of revolutionary France, but the requirement for today's young military volunteers to be competent in operational culture has never been more urgent. Culture (the customs, beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a religious, racial, or social group) and global human terrain (the socio-cultural traits of a group at a specific location and time) are critical considerations from the standpoint of theoretical and operational leadership. Human interaction forms the foundation on which leadership is practiced in organizations, communities, and societies. One cannot overestimate the operational and strategic importance of a sound understanding of the diverse and ever-changing cultural and social landscape in which the military operates.
It is widely believed that future conflicts will be "war among the people" (Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force, London: Allen Lane, 2005). But military operations other than war will also occur among people of different environments and cultures. To be successful, officers in the Navy and Marine Corps must understand the basic and operationally relevant components of various cultures.
Naval Academy Approach
To augment the myriad cultural-education and training opportunities available to midshipmen at the Academy (including language studies, study abroad, foreign exchange, international-program-funded cultural immersion, and the leadership and ethics core curriculum), the Department of Leadership, Ethics and Law developed an experimental course offered in summer 2009. Titled "Culture, Military Leadership, and Global Human Terrain," it was available to upperclassman during the final four-week summer-school period. Thirty-four students enrolled.
Through exploring the theories and concepts of culture from multiple perspectives, the primary goal was to provide future military officers with a broad understanding of the role of human terrain in communities, societies, and the armed forces. Students were expected to develop knowledge and skills that would assist them as officers to operate in complex military environments around the globe.
Six faculty members-Commander Tony Doran, Professors Clementine Fujimura and Joe Thomas, Marine Corps Captain Andrea Stover, Captain Steve Trainor, and I-collaborated extensively during spring 2009 to develop a teaching model that would meet these expectations in an innovative way. Drawing from a wide field of professional competencies, the team consisted of a civilian anthropologist, a military sociologist, a military psychologist, a retired military historian and leadership professor, a military officer specializing in applied leadership and organizational behavior, and a Marine Corps captain intelligence specialist.
The pedagogical approach was designed around an experiential and personal-mastery learning model, comprising conceptualization, experimentation, reinforcement, and reflection. Through a process of independent learning, classroom instruction, and interaction complemented by professional experiences as well as opportunities for reflection, students were expected to understand the concepts of culture and leadership more deeply. The course had four distinct phases:
- Defining, understanding and studying culture
- Transmitting, learning, and enacting culture
- Culture and competition: social, military and global contexts
- Culture and leadership: organizational and personal contexts
How We Did It
The first two weeks focused on the foundations of human society and the principles, concepts, and theories of culture. Students learned the basics of cultural ethnography and discussed the key concepts underlying culture, such as religion, art, language, race, gender, and ethnicity. The intent was to enhance their ability to function among people and in cultures unlike their own, emphasizing an officer's need to move between and within diverse societies to enhance mission effectiveness.
In week three, we investigated the role of competition and conflict in interactions between societies. Through a consideration of influential writers, students explored the hypothesis that competition and conflict are natural and unavoidable aspects of human nature. Main themes covered were the clash of civilizations; the history, future, and management of competition and conflict; and the scarcity of resources and failure of societies.
The final week was devoted to understanding culture as it relates to the type of modern military units that commissioned officers will lead. Students learned the value of leading change by studying the organizational culture and leadership models of leading scholars such as Edgar H. Schein and John P. Kotter. The integration of this knowledge into leadership was emphasized, along with operational planning and mission execution.
The classroom experience was conventional in the sense that students read assignments before class and were prepared to participate in daily lecture and discussion sessions. However, the faculty took an unconventional approach to the traditional discussion-based paradigm.
Students were assigned to a faculty-led discussion group of six or seven midshipmen, who met at the end of every day. This allowed them to engage their faculty leader and one other on subjects that emerged from the larger sessions. The arrangement created a space-mental as well as physical-that was more conducive to thoughtful and effective learning. Additionally, students kept personal journals designed to facilitate reflection on a variety of instructor-assigned prompts.
Into the Real World
Part of experiential learning is praxis: the integration of learning with practice, work, or service. The Naval Academy course provided several opportunities for this. Each week concluded with group or individual praxis. Out-of-classroom experiences included two ethnographic fieldwork assignments on the yard at the Academy, a cultural community ethnographic field trip to New York City, and a military and operational culture ethnographic field exercise at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
In New York, each student group conducted a faculty-led exercise in a culturally distinct area of their choosing. Students deployed cultural-ethnography skills learned in the classroom to Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Chinatown, Brighton Beach, and Williamsburg. Each group prepared a 20-minute presentation on their findings, with results presented to the entire class during week four.
This experience received great reviews. One student observed that it "taught me to ask questions never thought of and how to cope with a different culture." In August midshipmen spent a day in Quantico experiencing immersion in Marine Corps culture. Major General Melvin Spiese, Training and Education Command, welcomed them, after which they were briefed by staff members representing the Center for Advanced Operational Cultural Learning, Marine Corps Information Operations Center, and Marine Corps University. Additionally, they toured the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The day provided "essential military knowledge in this century," wrote one midshipman in his course evaluation. His opinion validates the Academy effort to prepare young men and women for safe and effective navigation of cultural challenges that define today's operational terrain.
In this highly interdependent world, the modern military needs leaders who can continue to perform selflessly, securing our nation's freedom while protecting the universal values of liberty and justice. Preparation for this requires a tireless commitment to enhance the cultural competence of officers corps tasked with leading the most diverse military in our nation's history, on the battlefields of an increasingly complex and unpredictable world.