Since its pilot course in 1914, the College of Distance Education at U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, has celebrated more than a century of education, graduating more than 145,000 military and civilian students worldwide.
It is the goal of CDE to provide NWC’s superlative education to students around the globe, helping develop leaders and encourage excellence the world over.
“Not everybody can physically come to the NWC and attend in residence,” said Timothy Garrold, deputy director of CDE. “There are so many qualified students and a very finite number of seats in Newport. CDE greatly expands the opportunity for people to get this education, fulfill the Joint Professional Military Education Phase I (JPME-I) requirement, and share the NWC experience.”
The three main CDE courses are Strategy and War, Theater Security Decision Making, and Joint Maritime Operations. In CDE programs, these courses are adaptations of the curriculum offered in residence; the main difference is the method in which the materials are presented.
Students may choose any of four methods to complete their coursework: The Fleet Seminar Program, composed of faculty-led seminars provided at 19 select locations across the U.S.; a web-enabled program; a CD ROM-based program; and the Naval War College-at-Naval Postgraduate School (NWC-at-NPS) program in Monterey, California, which is a partnership between NWC and the Naval Postgraduate School through which students may complete their JPME-I qualification while earning a NPS master’s degree.
“The four programs we offer now really give prospective students an opportunity to assess both what they have time to do and how they want to learn,” said Garrold.
NWC’s CDE is open to U.S. officers of all military services and to eligible U.S. federal government civilian employees, in addition to a limited number of foreign officers. All prospective students can enroll by filling out and submitting an application for review. Applications for each CDE program can be found on the NWC website at usnwc.edu/Academics/College-of-Distance-Education.aspx/.
Capt. Todd Gaston, a Marine Corps officer stationed at the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, opted for the Fleet Seminar Program. Despite being in the area, Gaston decided to enroll in CDE instead of going through NWC’s resident program.
“The resident course is great, but CDE allows me to do my job as a lawyer and still better my education,” Gaston said. “Especially in the legal field, you need to be on site, doing your job to get better at providing command advice. CDE is a very beneficial option for me.”
Lt. Cmdr. Leslie Councilor, a recent CDE graduate, agreed. Councilor participated in the Fleet Seminar Program in both Bremerton, Washington, and Norfolk. She now works at U.S Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk as the Navy’s only Fleet Medical Laboratory scientist.
Being a leader in Navy Medicine, Councilor had a desire to learn more about the Navy as a whole, knowing a better understanding would assist her in her medical work. Councilor studied from fall 2013 until spring 2016, constantly learning from the positions and experiences of her military and civilian peers.
“I now have a better understanding of how the Navy enterprise accomplishes its purposes of maritime protection and governess of U.S. interests worldwide,” Councilor said. “Now, as a medical professional, I can assist that demographic with their proper health care needs. The knowledge I gained cannot be overstated; I am a better Sailor and naval officer from my NWC experience.”
Though the Fleet Seminar Program most closely resembles the experience of resident NWC students, the faculty and staff in CDE have worked to make sure the web- and CD ROM-based programs are as engaging as possible.
“Originally, our distance education program was a box of books and a test that arrived on your doorstep,” said Garrold. “Students in this day and age are not going to be satisfied with that. They’re used to being challenged, multi-tasking and interacting.”
Educational specialists, web designers, and programmers on the CDE staff do research to find out how technology can be used to better the learning experience. Both the web-enabled and CD ROM-based programs have evolved to include embedded videos and other multimedia presentations in addition to readings. Students are also encouraged to contact professors at the NWC directly if they have questions.
Regardless of the program, CDE students participate in graduate-level research, reading, essay writing, active learning opportunities, and exams that extensively prepare them for their future careers. Though the courses may be completed in any sequence and through any program, only students who complete coursework via the Fleet Seminar Program are eligible for the NWC Master of Arts Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies. Otherwise, students who complete the program requirements earn graduate credit, a NWC diploma, and JPME-I credit.
For more news from Naval War College, visit navy.mil/local/nwc/.