The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) distance education initiatives in program management


Special Topics - Aerospace Industry

Robert R. Bergseth, Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Many positive changes are occurring within the Department of Defense Acquisition community including those associated with the Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP). The purpose of the APDP (as mandated by law) is to maximize the professional development and mission capabilities of the DOD acquisition work force. This is accomplished by setting forth a definitive and viable professional development program that produces broad-based managers capable of assuming middle- and senior-level management positions in support of DOD acquisitions. All the provisions of the APDP are well documented in DOD Instruction 5000.52, Defense Acquisition Education, Training, and Career Development Program, and Air Force Regulation 36-27, Acquisition Professional Development. Some of the provisions of the APDP are listed in Figure 1.

One result of the APDP is a tremendous increase in the demand for AFIT's mid-level Program Management course, SYS200/Acquisition Planning and Analysis. In late 1991, this three-week course was designated as a Defense Acquisition University (DAU)/Acquisition Career Enhancement (ACE) Course. This action redesignated the course from an Air Force-only course to a Department of Defense course. This action and the consequences of the APDP have literally tripled the demand for AFIT's SYS200 Course. Two years ago the SYS200 resident course had a yearly graduate output of 350 students. That number is now insignificant compared to the backlog of an estimated 8,000 to 20,000 students now requiring the course. SYS200, is now one of several courses required for APDP certification level 2.

Major Provisions of APDP

Figure 1. Major Provisions of APDP

Most positions within the DOD Acquisition community require certain minimum standards of education, experience, assignments, and training in order for an individual to fill a particular position. Each position has been designated as either certification level 1,2, or 3. Certification level 1 is the entry-level position, level 2 is the mid-level position, and level 3 is the senior- or top-level position (normally reserved for critical Program Manager and Deputy Program Manager positions). SYS200, is one of several courses (but the one of Air Force choice) that can be taken to satisfy certification level 2 continuing education/training requirements. This level contains the largest number of DOD Acquisition personnel being in the middle of the bell-shaped curve of population distribution. Figure 2 shows education, assignment/experience, and continuing education/training requirements for each of the APDP levels of certification for the Program Management career area.

Program Management Professional Development

Figure 2. Program Management Professional Development

To assist in satisfying this enormous student demand for SYS200, the AFIT has developed four Distance Education Initiatives which should help to alleviate this student backlog:

  • Test Out Option
  • Satellite Transmission with Trained Facilitator On-Site
  • Remote Adjust Faculty
  • Transportable Course

Three of these initiatives became operational earlier this year.

Test-Out Option. Students with significant systems acquisition experience who have not satisfied the certification level 2 continuing education/training requirements may elect to “test-out” of the SYS200 requirement by successfully passing a test-out option. This test-out option is for students with four or more years of acquisition-related experience and credit for introductory level acquisition training. There is no penalty for those who do not pass this exam. In fact, not passing this exam is an excellent indicator that a class slot can be put to good use. The option became available to students on 10ctober 1991. As of 30 April 1992, 222 students have taken the test and 67 have passed it for a 30 percent pass rate.

Satellite Transmission With a Trained Facilitator On-Site. This option was tested in the spring and summer of 1991 to six remote locations throughout the United States and proved to be very successful.

Certification level 2 and above volunteer acquisition personnel were brought into AFIT from all parts of the country in early 1991 to be trained as on-site facilitators. These facilitators then went to the remote sites during transmission of the resident course. Their task was to administer the course, answer questions, and run the exercise portion of the course (approximately 40 percent of the course).

Figures 3 through 10 present just a portion of AFIT's extensive statistical analysis of feedback from students participating in this test. The overall bottom-line results indicate that the concept of the satellite transmission of the resident course to remote locations with a trained facilitator on-site appears to be a very viable option for SYS200 as evidenced by student feedback. They also indicate that they learned from experience and achieved improved ratings with successive presentations. Our last transmission of this SYS200 test program occurred in July 1991 with simultaneous transmission of the course to Hill AFB in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Hanscom AFB in Boston, Massachusetts.

The 1991 satellite test program used an analog satellite up-link for both audio and visual transmission. Student questions from the remote sites came into the classroom via normal telephone lines. Most technical problems during the test resided in the audio transmissions back to the instructor in the form of distorted or a completely lost audio signal. In early 1992, AFIT purchased a telephone bridging system which has essentially solved the audio problems. The present transmissions use an analog satellite up-link to Satellite Space Net IV, a commercial satellite system for both audio and visual transmission from AFIT. Remote student questions come back to AFIT via a telephone bridging system with excellent results.

The Satellite test program was so successful in 1991, that AFIT has scheduled the SYS200 resident class for transmission for the next 18 months to 124 separated remote locations. These 124 locations will educate a total of 3720 students. Each remote location contains 30 students while the resident class can handle 50 students.

Figure 11 shows the 1992 and 1993 SYS200 Schedule with all distance education initiatives.

Remote Adjunct Faculty. The third SYS200 Distance Education Initiative began in early 1992 when AFIT intensely trained 12 volunteer, experienced acquisition professionals from four Systems Acquisition Product Centers (Ballistic Missile Office (BMO), Norton AFB, California; Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC), Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Electronic Systems Center (ESC), Hanscom AI%, Massachusetts; and the Armament Systems Office (ASO), Eglin AFB, Florida) in the details of the SYS200 Resident Course These adjunct AFIT faculty will present and administer the SYS200 resident course at their base utilizing local experts, and materials from AFIT. AFIT will visit the sites to certify the adjunct faculty. The classes began in April 1992 and will run about every month until July 1993 (total of 46 classes). It is anticipated that this Distance Education Initiative will educate about 1380 students through 30 July 1993.


SYS200 Course Content Classes January - May 1991

Figure 3. SYS200 Course Content Classes January - May 1991

Met Course Objectives Classes May – June 1991

Figure 4. Met Course Objectives Classes May – June 1991

Students Perceived as Acceptable Way to Learn March – July 1991

Figure 5. Students Perceived as Acceptable Way to Learn March – July 1991

Remote Classes Perception of “Learned Same as Residence Students” Classes March – July 1991

Figure 6. Remote Classes Perception of “Learned Same as Residence Students” Classes March – July 1991

Percent of Remote Students Who Would Take a Similar Course March – July 1991

Figure 7. Percent of Remote Students Who Would Take a Similar Course March – July 1991

Student Perception: Communication with Distant Location is Easy March – July 1991

Figure 8. Student Perception: Communication with Distant Location is Easy March – July 1991

Student Indicates That Live Interaction is Important March – July 1991

Figure 9. Student Indicates That Live Interaction is Important March – July 1991

Quality of Remote Class Dependent on Competence of Facilitator March – July 1991

Figure 10. Quality of Remote Class Dependent on Competence of Facilitator March – July 1991

SYS200 1992 and 1993 Master Schedule by Distance Education Initiative

Figure 11. SYS200 1992 and 1993 Master Schedule by Distance Education Initiative

Transportable Course. The fourth and final SYS200 option will become operational in January 1993. AFIT has been building this version of SYS200 since November of 1991. It is envisioned that this option will replace most of the SYS200 Resident classes, the Satellite Transmission version, and the Remote Adjunct Faculty classes with significant cost savings (TDY, per diem, and student time away from the job) to the Air Force and the Department of Defense. Student output for this new SYS200 Transportable Course is envisioned to be between 1200 and 2100 students per year. The courseware development cost for this option is being funded by the Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP) Council. The course is envisioned to be in two parts as described below.

  • Part I (3.5months, individual, self-paced). Part I will be completely self-paced by the student at the student's location using existing DOD, AF, or personal equipment. The student will be given an entrance examination (Computer Managed Testing) via a 286AT PC computer system or higher. The computer will then automatically grade the student's examination and provide the student with the subject areas requiring study via a student study prescription. The student will then be directed to courseware to study indicated weak areas. There will be some 20 courseware self-paced modules. A sampling of module topics include Financial Management, Test and Evaluation, Contracting, Facilities Management, Systems Engineering, and Program Control. The student will then be given 3.5 months to work through the indicated modules or all the modules for review if they so desire.

    Nine of the 21 modules will utilize Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) while three will be video tape. Nine modules will be available in text format only. All modules will have text as a backup media. The course text will be available on computer via the use of hyper-text software with a printout option. After the 3.5 month period of self-study, the student will take a qualifying examination. If the student passes this examination, he or she is qualified to enter Part II of the course.

  • Part II (one week on-site). After 30 students at anyone particular location have successfully qualified themselves via the qualifying examination, the Part II team/ group exercise week will begin at this location. This week will consist of a series of team/group exercises concentrating on applying what was learned in Part I of the course. Some of the exercise topics are: Team Building, Financial Management, Cost Estimating, Evaluation of Contractor Performance Data, Work Breakdown Structure Formulation, Analysis of Scheduling Networks, Statement of Work (SOW), and Data Preparation. An AFIT instructor or trained facilitator will conduct Part II. At the completion of Part II, the group exercises will be turned in to the facilitator for grading and a final examination administered.
SYS200 Student Thruput Comparisons

Figure 12. SYS200 Student Thruput Comparisons


The Air Force Institute of Technology has developed several state-of-the-art Distance Education Initiatives to satisfy the increased demand for its mid-level program management course, SYS200/Acquisition Planning and Analysis. This increased demand has been brought about by Congressional mandate and the Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP). The AFIT Distance Education Initiatives discussed are:

1. SYS200 Test Out Option

2. Satellite Transmission of the Resident SYS200 Course to Distance Locations with a trained Facilitator on Site

3. Remote Adjunct Faculty Classes.

4. SYS200 Transportable Option (January 1993)

In 1990 and prior to APDP, SYS200 graduated approximately 350 students per year with seven class sessions. Post-APDP, SYS200 with the AFIT Distance Education Initiatives will graduate an estimated 10,000-plus students with a total of 306 classes in four years.

Figure 12 summarizes student throughput by year and by Distance Education Initiative.

AFIT and SYS200 has progressed significantly over the last year, increasing its student throughput, educating the Acquisition community, and substantially satisfying the demands of the Acquisition Professional Development Program.


Robert R. Bergseth is assistant professor of systems management at the School of Systems and Logistics at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Dayton, Ohio. He is also the course director for the Program Management Course, “Acquisition Planning and Analysis.” Bob, an MBA and physics degreed graduate, has over 10 years of program management experience in a number of high level Air Force electronic and aeronautical systems such as the AWACS, the AABNCP, and TRI-TAC. He has also taught in the academic environment for 12 of his 24 year career. Mr. Bergseth has been listed in “Who's Who in the Mid-West” and “Who's Who of Emerging Leaders in America” since 1987.

AUGUST 1992 pm network



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