COVID-19 protective measures have changed many aspects of life, one of which is how educational facilities operate to ensure the safety of both students and teachers. In the face of this challenge, Kapsuun Group (KG), at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB) in Wichita Falls, Texas, has turned to distance learning to continue its unsurpassed English Language Training (ELT) for Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) Cadets.
In mid-March of 2020, it became apparent that escalating Health Protection Control Measures at Sheppard AFB could change how KG conducted traditional in-person training. The ELT program assembled a team to look for alternative platforms to transform its high-quality face-to-face English Language Training Program (ELTP) into one that could be conducted remotely.
Many potential platforms were discussed and tried, and one stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Since the ELT already conducted a vast part of its daily operations using Google-based applications, transitioning to virtual face-to-face classrooms using Google Hangouts seemed the best option. Ashley Carroll, an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor, facilitated the transition to virtual instruction by creating online programs, student accounts, and transformed material from static language books into “cloud-ready” learning modules. She ran a comprehensive test of the entire program ensuring the ELT staff and the customer’s students were ready for the transition. The planning team successfully conducted a proof of concept tests with ECL qualified students with plans for wider-scale testing to follow. However, the tempo of increasing COVID-19 safety measures escalated at Sheppard AFB faster than previously anticipated, so KG began virtual ELT in less than ten days after the planning began.
Every facet of the ELT program was required to launch this endeavor:
>> Highly flexible ESL instructors to provide virtual language training
>> Lead supervisors managing numerous virtual classrooms to provide needed support to ESL Instructors
>> Military Acculturation Advisors who were on the ground providing 24/7 operational support using required Health Protection Control Measures to keep students online and on-task
>> IT Tech who provided local and virtual support to address connectivity issues
>> Project coordinator who maintained normal administrative flow with Contracting Office Representatives at Sheppard AFB and AFSAT at Randolph AFB in San Antonio, Texas
Most certainly, there were transitional issues that arose, but given the high degree of flexibility and amount of preparedness KG had already achieved, virtual ELT at Sheppard AFB took off. ESL instructors conducted live video language training utilizing a host of online apps and resources such as Schoology, Nearpod, Quizlet, ManyCam, YouTube videos, Google Slides, PDFs of the American Language Course curriculum, and additional supplemental materials created by the instructors. One ESL instructor said, “Despite the tech issues in the beginning, it was like being in the classroom apart from doing almost everything online.” Another commented, “I like it a lot even though I thought I wouldn’t. I am covering as much material as I would in the classroom, and the students are very receptive.”
Like the old adage, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words,” the truest test of success is measured on student performance on the English Comprehension Level (ECL) exam. After nearly three weeks of virtual training, five students successfully achieved ECL qualification to graduate from the English language training program. While the physical locations of ELT classes have changed, the quality of instruction the program is known for has not. Students have continued to achieve their English Comprehension Level qualification scores to transfer on to their follow-on technical training courses.
The Sheppard ELT program continues to exceed all required levels of language training in the face of current challenges, not only to achieve basic requirements but also to continue its unparalleled language training and support to our U.S. Government partners.