Air University
Staff and faculty members from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., visited the Air University Nov. 16 to learn about distance learning capabilities.
Samford University Visits AU, Shares Distance Learning Experiences

by Staff Sgt. Sandi Percival
Air University Public Affairs

11/26/2012 - MAXWELL Air Force Base, Ala. -- Staff and faculty members from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., visited the Air University Nov. 16 to learn about distance learning capabilities.

The Air University and Samford University have common goals in their pursuit of education through distance learning programs, particularly the ability to expand their geographic reach and provide a more customizable learning venue.

Samford has been using distance learning in their graduate nursing program for more than five years and is looking to expand that capability to their other programs.

"We have representatives here from education, pharmacy and business as well as from our arts and sciences departments," said Mary Sue Baldwin, associate provost at Samford University. "We're looking at this for all levels - undergraduate and graduate."

Col. Jeffrey Smith, commandant of the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, said the Air University has had various forms of distance learning programs since the 1940s. The success of these programs is based largely on the flexibility they provide for Airmen.

"I think distance learning respects Airmen's time. It allows Airmen to determine when they allocate hours to develop themselves through distance learning programs," said Smith.

In addition to schedule flexibility, distance learning also provides the capability for students to learn from virtually any location.

"Samford has a distinctive education we'd like to share with students beyond our particular region and distance learning would be the venue to provide that," said Baldwin.

According to Baldwin, Samford University chose to visit the Air University because AU has a history of success with its distance learning program.

"You've had to validate outcomes for your students, and you have extremely vested interest in their learning and their ability to perform," said Baldwin. "Because of the sheer number of students you've had, you've developed processes for how to admit students, how to assess them, how to graduate them and know that they will perform accordingly."

Smith said Samford's visit was also beneficial to AU as an opportunity for both institutions to share their unique perspectives.

"Outreach is important. Anytime you have common goals it's good to communicate and you can learn from one another. We surely are learning from Samford, and I think Samford probably learned some things from us as well and that's the goal," said Smith. "Air University has a real desire to reach out to civilian institutions and to develop relationships because it makes us a better university. We want to be the best university we can be, and one of the avenues of obtaining that level of program is to have a good relationship with the people that share our educational profession."