Structured Self-Development and Advanced Leaders Course – Common Core

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The Army’s vision in 2001, was to move to a learning environment enhanced by distance learning meant to bridge the operational and institutional domains of Army learning for enlisted Soldiers. By 2007, the U. S. Army Sergeants Major Academy began development of structured self-development and on Oct. 1, 2010, Structured Self-Development Level I was offered to the force, thus setting conditions for continuous growth and life-long learning throughout a Soldier’s career. SSD began as, and remains a program with individual and leader responsibilities.

In 2004, the Army directed the transformation of the Primary Leadership Development, Basic NCO, Advanced NCO and the Sergeants Major courses. What evolved from this was the Warrior Leader, Advanced Leader, and Senior Leader courses and a completely redesigned Sergeants Major Course. The BNCOC Phase I distance learning program was transformed into Advanced Leader Course- Common Core delivered via blackboard starting on Oct. 1, 2009. Soldiers must complete both the common core and MOS specific phases in order to successfully graduate the ALC.

Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Bailey, director of Structured Self-Development at the Sergeants Major Academy, speaks with the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers about Structured Self Development Sept. 13 during his visit to Camp Humphreys, Korea.
Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Bailey, director of Structured Self-Development at the Sergeants Major Academy, speaks with the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers about Structured Self Development Sept. 13 during his visit to Camp Humphreys, Korea.

Once launched, the force experienced difficulties in executing SSD and ALC-CC, some caused by technology, others caused by a lack of unit oversight to complete the courses. Structured Self- Development was never intended to be a completely self-developmental tool, but requires leader oversight which provides purpose, direction and motivation in getting Soldiers to meet the prerequisites for every level of NCOES. Likewise, leaders must have oversight and account for Soldier enrollment, progression, and completion of ALC-CC.

As the concept of SSD evolved so did its connectivity to NCOES. Army policy established each level of SSD as a prerequisite for attendance to the next NCOES course. Automatic enrollment into SSD Level I was implemented on Oct. 1, 2010, with an adjusted prerequisite date of April 1, 2013. The implementation date for SSD Level III for NCOs who graduated ALC occurred on May 19, 2011 with a prerequisite date of June 1, 2013. The implementation date for SSD Level IV, for NCOs who graduated SLC, occurred on May 19, 2011 with a prerequisite date of June 1, 2013. The implementation date for SSD Level V, for NCOs who graduated the Sergeants Major Course, is yet to be determined with a prerequisite date also yet to be determined. Each of the SSD courses contain upwards of 80 hours of study and Soldiers have three years to complete each of the four courses. Based on established prerequisites dates, Soldiers will now be denied enrollment to WLC if they have not successfully completed SSD I.

As of June 1, Soldiers will be denied enrollment to SLC and the SMC and the Sergeants Major Nonresident Course if they have not successfully completed SSD Level III and IV respectively. Having their ERB annotated with a “G” code showing successful completion and/or presenting an unaltered completion certificate will show proof of meeting the prerequisite. It is also incumbent upon component Army Training Reservation and Resource System managers to ensure Soldiers meet all prerequisites before making reservations to attend NCOES. Too often, USASMA is seeing Soldiers showing up to NCO academies without successfully completing the appropriate level of SSD, yet a training seat reservation was made by their ATRRS managers. This problem occurs when managers override the system to make the reservation. We are working with TRADOC to close this back door problem.

How SSD and ALC-CC work

In the Fall of 2012, USASMA developed a new graphic user interface and a series of templates to deliver a new interactive multimedia instructional design which resulted in immediate improvements in ease of access and functionality, and updated course content to be relevant to the issues facing today’s Soldiers. The first and most telling impact was a reduction of help desk trouble tickets from more than 8,000 a month to well under 500 with most due to operator inexperience. USASMA is currently engaged in transforming SSD Level III and IV to the same GUI delivery system as ALC-CC and working to transform SSD Level I and V by FY14. When fully developed, these courses provide USASMA with the means for rapid adaptability to changes in doctrine, processes, policies, procedures, and to ensure content is current, relevant, easily accessible, mobile compliant, and operationally user friendly – something that is being experienced now by Soldiers enrolled in ALC-CC. The courseware is built using ATSC’s business rules and best practices as well as private sector Web best practices.

 Where are we now?

A screen shot of an ALC-CC module utilizing the new graphics user interface.
A screen shot of an ALC-CC module utilizing the new graphics user interface.

The features of ALC-CC will also be the features developed for SSD. Below are the improvements we made to ALC-CC:

• Response times are 4x faster due to optimized communication with the Web server.

• The new GUI is compatible with today’s Web browsers and platforms including: iPhones, smartphones, IOS Android and Windows.

• The source files provide the means to rapidly develop and maintain content in real time.

• All lessons include page numbers and progress bars to queue students to where they are in the lesson, and bookmarking is built-in for every page in the browser.

• The new GUI also provides an expandable closed caption box which allows students to read the lesson at their own pace if they desire to mute the narration.

• A lesson menu is provided so that students can travel back and forth to the section they desire

• Three learner preferences are addressed: auditory (through narration), visual (text and images), and tactile (through mouse interaction-clicks, hovers and drags)

• Doctrine 2015 reference material was updated and is accessible on each page and in the help menu. Students have the ability to check the exact page being referenced with one click

• There are Checks-on-Learning in every lesson with practical exercises built into the lesson courseware

• Fifty-seven critical tasks are taught.

For all the new features and a comparison to the old course, you can click on the following link: https://usasma.bliss.army.mil/faculty/downloads/ALC/ALC%20Courseware%20Comparison.pdf

 Where we are going

The initial 2001 vision to implement SSD as a distance learning delivery method still holds true today. Structured Self-Development links to NCO professional development by ensuring the self-development domain is well defined, meaningful, and integrated into the leader development process. Distance learning is the way of the future and more emphasis is being placed on it as a viable tool for self-development. The content of SSD I, III, IV and V was developed to link to operational needs and institutional training and education. The USASMA conducted extensive gap analysis, looking at each level of SSD to ensure it is linked progressively, sequentially and with relevance to the next level of NCOES. In conjunction with TRADOC’s ATSC and the Army G6, USASMA is working to improve the capabilities of ALMS functionality and accessibility of SSD. ATSC made significant progress in eliminating frustration associated with maneuvering through SSD courses. In addition, ATSC added additional help desk personnel to provide rapid response to trouble tickets. It is USASMA’s goal to eliminate frustrations experienced with ALMS with the delivery of the newly designed SSD to IMI by second quarter of FY14.

USASMA is also working towards virtual and gaming content, developing more challenging examinations which assess each Soldier’s skills in becoming a critical-thinking, problem-solving adaptive leader where the emphasis on learning falls on the Soldier. A complete list of each level of SSD can be viewed at https:// usasma.bliss.army.mil/page.asp?id=9.

How do you get enrolled?

Photo by Sgt. Mark A. Cloutier, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Sgt. Dariusz Krzywonos works on an SSD course to increase his knowledge base at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Photo by Sgt. Mark A. Cloutier, 5th Mobile Public Affairs
Sgt. Dariusz Krzywonos works on an SSD course to increase his knowledge base at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Human Resources Command has appointed an individual to assist with all SSD enrollment and disenrollment issues and has also established a mailbox at usarmy.knox.hrc.mbx.epmd-ncoes-ssd@mail.mil for requests. For Army Reserve Soldiers, the USARC is the resource manager for enrollment. Army National Guard Soldiers are managed by their State’s quota managers. Once a Soldier has been identified as not being automatically enrolled, the schools or training NCOs send an e-mail and roster of all those who need to be enrolled to HRC who will ensure Soldiers are enrolled. Automatic enrollment into SSD is accomplished by HRC based on:• Completion of AIT or OSUT, Soldiers are enrolled into SSD I.• Enrollment into ALC-CC is automatic. Human Resources Command Schools Branch is the proponent for enrollment.

• Upon completion of all phases of ALC, Soldiers are enrolled into SSD III.

• Upon completion of SLC, Soldiers are automatically enrolled into SSD IV.

• NCOs are automatically enrolled into SSD V upon graduation from the SMC.

Once a Soldier has completed WLC and their completion certificate or graduate code is inputted into EDAS or eMILPO, HRC builds an Army Order of Merit list. The OML is refined every 30 days against flag codes, reduction codes, deployments, PCS, categories by grade, and each NCO is prioritized for attendance. Human Resources Command sends the class roster to the ATRRS to reserve each NCO’s training seat. Once the reservation is made, ATRRS generates a message through AKO or enterprise e-mail to the NCO with the class attendance date. The NCO opens up the message, which gives instructions to pre-register for his/her designated class. In some situations HRC will contact the individual who may be sitting on OML directly through AKO or enterprise e-mail with instructions to pre-register in order to fill potential vacant seats.

Note: Soldiers can also enroll through the Army Career Tracker at https://actnow.army.mil.

 Additional requirements

IAW AR 614-200, dated Feb. 26, 2009/Rapid Army Revision, dated Sept. 3, 2009, Para 3-12. Subject: Warrior Attributes Inventory (WAI) assessment, each NCO is required to enroll into the WAI assessment to evaluate each NCO’s individual capabilities and potential for future assignments in the Institutional Army. Completion of the WAI assessment is mandatory for all active Army NCOs upon promotion to the rank of sergeant. Any active Army sergeant with a date of rank of Dec. 31, 2007 and earlier are not required to complete the WAI assessment. Reserve component NCOs (SGT through SFC) must upon entry into an Active Guard or Reserve Program take the WAI. The RC NCOs (SGT through SFC) accessed into an AGR program prior to April 1, 2008 are not required to take the WAI assessment. Active Army sergeants with a date of rank of Jan. 1, 2008 and later and RC NCOs (SGT through SFC) assessed into an AGR program on April 1, 2008 and later must complete the WAI assessment as a requirement for ALC graduation. Active Army Soldiers will be notified of the requirement to take the WAI assessment through the ATRRS within one month of their promotion effective date. The RC NCOs will be manually enrolled into the WAI assessment in ATRRS by their respective component and will take the assessment as part of accessions in-processing.