By CHRISTY GRAHAMGuardian editorFORT POLK, La. — The social-distancing restrictions tied to COVID-19 have affected nearly every process, office and day-to-day activity at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk. But, not every impact has been negative.Fort Polk’s Education Center quickly responded to the necessity of telework by adapting its Basic Education Program, traditionally held in classrooms, into a virtual experience for Soldiers in the midst of an on-going, face-to-face class.This class, which began face-to-face instruction on March 3, switched to the virtual format on March 23, just a few days shy of the students’ end-date.The subsequent class, starting on March 30 and ending on April 24, was the first fully virtual BSEP class offered.These two classes tested together and saw a 92.3% increase in their General Technical scores.The range of score increases was between three and 22 points. Even the smallest increase was met with enthusiasm, as each Soldier achieved their set goals.BSEP improves GT scores by concentrating on “arithmetic reasoning, paragraph comprehension and vocabulary,” said Chevina Phillips, education services officer.Soldiers seeking this class are commonly driven to raise their GT scores to reclassify their military occupation or attend specialty programs, such as Special Forces, Green to Gold or the Nurse Commissioning program.Prior to COVID-19, students attended the face-to-face course for 20 days. In the virtual classroom, it is “set up with a 20-day format, but students have access to the class over the weekend, as well” explained Phillips.This means that students actually benefit from increased time and exposure to the learning materials.Beatrice Johnson, the BSEP instructor, explained how the virtual classroom operates.“The platform we use is called Talent MLS. It’s highly rated among learning management systems, which means that it’s not a typical Google classroom or just document sharing,” said Johnson.Over the course of the class, assignments are clearly listed by each day. Johnson explains that there are “videos, guided lessons and actual lessons.”Students have two to three attempts to complete each assigned task successfully; otherwise, they are encouraged to schedule a tutoring session with the instructor to help them pass.This platform offers a reports section, progress tracker and statistical analysis to the instructor for use in ascertaining any problem areas, providing directed instruction where needed and assessing the overall success of each class.For students, the platform allows the student and instructor to seamlessly communicate, integral for any questions or tutoring requests, and an easy-to-follow interface, helping the student to stay on track.Traditional classrooms may still be the favorite among students, but this virtual learning environment provides various benefits for both student and teacher to achieve their goals.If interested, contact Kimberly Beery at 531-5269. Soldiers will be connected to a counselor that can help them register for this virtual class.