JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
To continue partner nation support across combatant commands and execute the global security cooperation mission amidst a global pandemic, the Defense Language Institute English Language Center piloted a one-week virtual training team program with Puerto Rico in July 2020. This VTT trail is a virtual version of DLIELC's mobile training team program lead by the International Nonresident Flight, 637th International Support Squadron.
At the start of COVID-19, DLIELC transitioned from a completely in-person schoolhouse to a fully capable distance learning facility in two weeks. VTT is yet another success story of DLIELC’s creativity and ability to adapt to accomplish the mission.
“Today’s multidimensional-threat environment is a catalyst for innovative thinking and forward progress,” said Col. Kouji Gillis, DLIELC commander. “The goal of this pilot was to test our current capabilities and determine the potential challenges of delivering English Language instruction in a virtual setting, a capability that was previously accomplished through the deployment of our Mobile Training Teams.”
DLIELC’s MTT mission paused in order to protect the health and safety of its instructors and the members located at the deployment location. Although there are no current plans to make this a permanent part of DLIELC curriculum, this pilot provided a great test of DLIELC technological reach and capability.
Puerto Rico was selected for this virtual language learning test because it is a geographically separated environment that is home to an existing DLIELC Language Training Detachment. Five instructors from DLIELC’s 332nd Training Support Squadron volunteered to support INF’s effort to instruct 26 students in Puerto Rico’s U.S. Army Cadet Summer English Program.
“This truly was a collaborative effort across DLIELC and service branches,” Gillis said.
DLIELC instructors spent a week collaborating with the LTD instructors stationed in Puerto Rico to plan effective distance lessons that correlated with on-the-ground instruction. A week later, resident instructors began their roles as primary instructors for three classes of cadets using online platforms including Zoom, Google Classroom, Blackboard, and others.
After evaluation of the feedback provided by instructors and students, INF was able to make recommendations on best practices for the development of future VTT capabilities. Currently, DLIELC is working to identify the other candidates and students with appropriate English language training needs.
“Virtual Training Teams are still in the piloting stages but may be a viable option for how to support our partner nations across the globe long term,” Gillis said. “This pilot test shows a viable hybrid distance learning option and offers workable solutions for continued safe operations in a COVID environment.”