Distance Education in the U. S.
Philip J. L. Westfall
Air Force Institute for Advanced Distributed Learning,
Department of the Air Force
The Air Force has used distance learning (DL) since 1950. The need to leverage new instructional technologies and to expand the use of DL to meet readiness requirements and keep training and education costs down has led to the independent development of a variety of DL programs. While the Air Force has a mature print-based DL program, the last ten years have seen a rapid expansion of DL programs using interactive television (ITV), computer-based instruction (CBI), and online courses. Each school within the Air Force developed most of its DL courses independently, with no central management. With DL receiving increased attention from the leadership in the Department of Defense (DOD), in 1995 the Air Force formed the Air Force Distance Learning Office (AFDLO). Its mission was to serve as the focal point for implementation of DL policy and emerging DL technology. In this capacity, it coordinated and facilitated DL across the Air Force and developed a DL roadmap for the future. As a result of this roadmap and the 2000 reorganization of HQ Air University, the Air Force greatly expanded AFDLO's responsibilities. In February 2000, the AFDLO merged with the Extension Course Institute and became the Air Force Institute for Advanced Distributed Learning (AFIADL). The AFIADL is located in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Gunter Annex of Maxwell Air Force Base (AFB) and is part of the Air University, a Directorate of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). The AFIADL brought three separate DL mission areas into one organization: (1) the Extension Course Institute, (2) the Air Technology Network Program Management Office, and (3) the Air Force implementation of the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADLI) and emerging DL technology.