Continuum of Learning 2.0: Reserve Citizen Airmen now have more flexibility to achieve their career goals

  • Published
  • By Tyler Grimes
For many Reservists, keeping up with required military training and education while also pursuing a college degree can be very challenging. With the new Continuum of Learning, however, Reserve Citizen Airmen have much more flexibility to achieve their personal developmental and career goals.

The Continuum of Learning involves the process of combining training, education and experience to equip Airmen with current and future competencies, said Reservist Col. Timothy Owens, Headquarters Air Education and Training Command director of staff. The redesigned Continuum of Learning, or CoL 2.0, was approved for implementation in February 2017.

“I think that the redesigned CoL is important for Reservists because it reshapes the traditional Air Force learning structure, equipping and encouraging Airmen to become lifelong learners,” Owens said. “It leverages opportunities to break education and training courses and programs into manageable portions so Airmen can access material when and where they want. This convenience and flexibility is important as Reservists are balancing their civilian and Air Force jobs. It also aims to value what our Reservists already know and can do.”

The CoL gives credit to Airmen in the form of a certification or badge for the skills and knowledge they have demonstrated in performance both inside and outside of the Air Force. This can specifically benefit Reservists as many have civilian jobs from which they have garnered a wide array of skills and knowledge.

“For example, if a Reservist has a finance degree, then the redesigned CoL will give them credit for the degree, provide them the opportunity to advance or opt out of unnecessary training and to show all learners that this knowledge is highly valued,” he said. “This will be tracked in an Airman’s Learning Record that essentially is a ‘one stop shop’ report where learners will be able to access and keep track of their specialized training programs, on the job or off-duty.”

Dr. Matthew Stafford, vice president of Academic Affairs at Air University, explained that in the past Airmen worked through the CoL components of training, education and experiences in isolation.

“The redesigned CoL initiative attempts to integrate the three components in ways that allow Airmen to learn – and get credit for learning anytime and anywhere. It directly supports lifelong learning and, indirectly, the move to recreate the Air Force as a learning organization.”

The goal of CoL is to develop competencies as a common currency among the three areas of education, training and experience so that achievements in one area are valued in the other two. Lessons learned through experience, for instance, should allow Airmen to bypass classes where those lessons are taught.

Owens said he believes the redesigned CoL will help the Air Force Reserve’s recruiting and retention efforts in a few ways.

“In recruiting, we can assess a learner’s skills, knowledge and abilities, and give them credit for what they know and can do,” Owens said. “This will allow the Air Force the opportunity to match Airmen more closely with the needs of the Air Force mission. As for retention, CoL 2.0 through the ALR will put Airmen in charge of their development and will better align passion to mission.”

In the next two years, Reserve Citizen Airmen at every level will experience some elements of the redesigned CoL with the ultimate goal of creating an Air Force culture of life-long learning. Other developments are coming in the future as well.

“AETC is developing an Air Force Learning Services Ecosystem that will provide a common framework to support Air Force learning at the enterprise level,” Owens said.

“The ecosystem will provide access to learning services providing student and faculty management, course content development, management and delivery, testing, evaluations and feedback,” he said. “It will provide a collaborative environment for Airmen’s learning needs, as well as data analytics, to understand how Airmen are learning.”

The major command will begin testing the new system this summer and Owens projects the system will replace the Air Force Advanced Distributed Learning System or ADLS within three years.