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Online training aids military childcare staff

EHE News
February 05, 2014

More than 30,000 caregivers serving military dependent children and youth will receive professional training in a new, technologically savvy format as 15 core courses make their online debut over the next 18 months.

Cynthia Buettner


The Department of Defense Child Development Virtual Laboratory School (VLS) is funded through a partnership between the Office of the Secretary of Defense (DOD) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The comprehensive professional development system is being created by a team in the college led by Cynthia K. Buettner, associate professor of human development and family science in the Department of Human Sciences.

The VLS is in the pilot, or 'beta" stage, and will undergo some revisions. When complete, the VLS will be the primary training platform and record system for the military’s childcare centers and school-age youth programs.

The partnership will also make a version of the VLS available to the public, thereby tapping the expertise of land-grant universities and the land-grant mission to benefit professionals who care for children and youth, both within and outside the military system.

Thousands of children to benefit worldwide

Every day, more than 250,000 children are cared for in the U.S. military care system around the world. Those settings experience the same personnel challenges prevalent throughout the childhood care and education profession, including high staff turnover.

The military system is prone to additional challenges given that its programs often employ spouses, family members and other military community members. Spousal reassignments and deployment can easily cause these centers to experience 30 percent or greater staff turnover in any given year. New personnel need to quickly acquire additional training and expertise.

Highlights of the virtual laboratory school training

The initial core courses in the VLS correspond with the 13 competency standards of the Child Development Associate Credential (CDA). Two additional courses are offered on child abuse prevention and child abuse reporting.

These 15 courses are aligned across three functional tracks – Direct Care, Training/Coaching, and Management. The Direct Care Courses are further specialized by developmental grouping – Infant/Toddler, Preschool and School Age. A track for home-based care providers will be added in 2015.

Highlights of the VLS system are its high-quality video clips, “real world” learning materials, job-embedded activities and built-in support for coaching and administration. The goal of the VLS system is to provide anytime, anywhere access to expert-created content and resources. These materials are anchored in research and designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of child and youth educators and to improve the quality of children’s experiences.

The core courses are aimed at personnel new to child and youth care and education. The development team envisions additional specialized courses and features in the future.


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