In increasingly uncertain and rapidly changing environments, sustainment is a complex activity that Army Doctrine Publication 4-0, Sustainment, requires the “coordination, integration, and synchronization of resources from the strategic level through the tactical level.” In multidomain operations, the cognitive demands on captains required to sustain Army forces will only continue to increase. The modernized Captains Career Course (C3) for fiscal year 2023 better prepares officers to meet the increased cognitive demand of the multidomain battlefield by implementing a blended learning model for professional military education.
The Combined Arms Center directed Army University to lead the C3 modernization effort for fiscal year 2023 to better train and educate captains preparing to deal with the challenges of multidomain operational environments, now and in the future. Army University, through its Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, was the proponent of the common core for the C3, while schools and centers would remain responsible for their branch-specific curriculum.
Modernization is a continual process that involves synchronization across the Army enterprise. In educational modernization, this synchronization involves a constant dialogue between key enterprise stakeholders. Army University conducted design and deliberate planning from January to November 2021 for the C3 modernization effort. Key stakeholders included Human Resources Command, Training and Doctrine Command, the Combined Arms Center, and representatives from schools and centers.
A significant challenge during planning became how to balance standard requirements for all active duty officers while allowing schools such as Army Logistics University to grow experts in branch-specific knowledge and skills. Army University looked to various models to provide flexibility without sacrificing their education quality. Army University considered many options during planning, including temporary duty versus permanent change of station statuses for course attendees, course length modifications, and changes to online and blended modalities.
As planning continued, it became clear to the planning team that a blended learning model brought many benefits and allowed for quicker implementation of the modernization initiative. By creating interactive multimedia instruction (IMI) for a distributed learning component that complemented the instruction done in residence, Army University could implement the modernized course in fiscal year 2023 without changes to course length or mode of attendance. The schools and centers agreed to the concept, and there was a unity of effort toward three deliberate outcomes for the C3
Modernization Effort Outcomes
The first outcome of the modernization effort was to streamline the common core for all C3s. The common core for fiscal year 2022 consisted of 240 hours of face-to-face instruction. In a 20-week course such as Logistics (LOG) C3, the common core would take almost a third of the available time for instruction, which is critical time needed to educate sustainers. Army University identified redundancies and kept only necessary learning objectives.
Army University reduced the C3 common core by over a third, resulting in a redesigned common core of 147 hours. These 147 hours of instruction remained in the five-module structure from the fiscal 2022 common core. The Army Profession, Mission Command, Operations, Operations Process, and Unit Training Management modules were reduced in length, with significant reductions to the Operations Process module.
The second outcome of C3 modernization was implementing a blended learning model. Seventy-two and a half hours of the common core consisted of learning objectives at the lower levels of Bloom’s revised taxonomy of learning objectives: remembering and understanding. The related lessons were removed from face-to-face instruction and converted into IMI. Shifting to a blended learning model has the added benefit of aligning distributed learning across all components; active duty and reserve components will now take the same IMI on the Army Learning Management System (ALMS).
The new IMI is available on the ALMS as of Oct. 1, 2022, for identified officers slated to attend the C3 in residence in fiscal year 2023. The new distributed learning requirement ensures all officers have a common understanding of critical concepts before learning more advanced skills and knowledge.
Army University deliberately chose a blended learning model for the modernization effort. Blended learning is a model in which developers combine face-to-face instruction with online learning, whether asynchronous or synchronous. In the 2013 edition of Teachers College Record, Dr. Barbara Means and others found that learners learned best in blended learning environments and that blended learning was more effective than either purely online or in-person learning. By using a blended learning model, Army University expects improved individual learning outcomes for all captains.
The last outcome of the modernization effort was more time allocated back to schools and centers to teach branch-specific knowledge and skills. By implementing a distributed learning common core and realigning and streamlining learning objectives, Army University reallocated 167.5 hours of instruction back to schools and centers. This additional time allows schools such as Army Logistics University to expand the breadth of topics covered. It also allows schools and centers to investigate critical topics specific to their specialties.
The reallocation of time back to schools and centers enables higher levels of learning done in collaborative environments. Topics such as sustainment in multidomain operations, strategic base connections to the tactical level of sustainment, and leadership and management of sustainment organizations require more than rote memorization and recall. By focusing time in the schoolhouse on the application instead of simply remembering and understanding, captains are better prepared to arrive at their next unit of assignment and practically use their knowledge. In other words, the modernized C3 increases knowledge transfer from the school to the field.
Implementation and Impacts
The common core distributed learning elements of the C3 are available on the ALMS. Officers must enroll in and complete the 39 lessons before attending the resident phase of the course. Army University designed the distributed learning lessons for completion as self-development during the time an officer is promotable to captain. Officers will have 18 months or more to complete the lessons and allow officers and their leaders to balance their requirements with unit priorities.
Officers attending their respective C3s in person, such as LOG C3, will see the modernized curriculum implemented in the classroom as early as April 2023. Officers will experience a shorter but rigorous common core component in residence. Additionally, officers will go much more deeply into applying branch-specific skills and knowledge throughout the resident phase.
Multidomain operations in contested, uncertain, and complex environments demand higher levels of cognition from officers involved in the sustainment warfighting function. The modernized C3 is a significant step toward preparing captains to synchronize, coordinate, and integrate sustainment in this new environment. By transitioning to a blended learning model and creating the space needed to go in-depth into the complexities of the sustainment warfighting function, captains will arrive better prepared to fight and win on the battlefields of the 21st century.
Maj. Elvin J. Fortuna is currently serving as an instructional designer in the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Army University. Since July 2021, he has contributed to the Army’s Captains Career Course modernization effort to transition toward a blended learning model. He is a doctoral student in Michigan State University’s Educational Psychology and Educational Technology program. He holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Maryland, College Park, a master’s in management from the University of Maryland, University College, and a Master of Arts in higher education administration from the University of Louisville. Fortuna is a demonstrated master logistician who has deployed in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
This article was published in the Winter 23 issue of Army Sustainment.