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RF Transmission Systems course tunes to an active learning approach

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Suzie Plotnikov
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

There are approximately 450 students that graduate the Radio Frequency Transmissions System course a year and with nearly 5,000 Airmen in the career field, it is important for instructors to make sure the students are prepared.

With this career field being responsible for the initial communication for a base, the instructors have been integrating student centered learning activities which has shown better scores and comprehension of course materials.

“With radio, most people only know how to tune the radio on their cars and that’s pretty much it,” said Master Sgt. Gilbert Barrera, 338th Training Squadron RF Transmission Systems flight chief. “A lot of the stuff we talk about is brand new to people. We bring them in and teach them the basics.”

The course is 73 days long with roughly 653 academic hours where students learn and teach their peers the course material.

“What we’re doing now is having the students download the material onto their laptops or tablets and they’re responsible for highlighting and studying it,” said Barrera.

Eve Redd, 338th TRS Electronics instructor, said throughout her 20 year time as an instructor here, the course has changed six times.

“The course material is the same but how we’re presenting it has changed because our students have changed,” said Redd. “When I started teaching, cell phones weren’t as advanced as they are now. The mindset was different. The students that come in now, they’ve had computers since they were kids, they have cell phones, smart watches and how they learn has changed so we have to change with it.”

The course has transitioned from passive learning to more of an active learning approach.

“We’re giving the Airmen more responsibility for their future,” said Barrera. “Instead of having an instructor teach in front of the classroom, they get in little groups and teach it to their peers while the instructor monitors them.”

Barrera said with these types of activities, the students’ grades have increased by 10 points throughout the course.

“A lot of them are very enthusiastic because they like the ability to be a part of their learning,” said Redd. “What I have seen and what others are seeing is the classes with the new teaching style has more interaction and more energy.”

With this course, retaining information is important due to the nature of their career field.

“They learn how to operate on radios, how to set up antennas, networking, read schematics, learn technical orders and how to do things safely because in this field it is very easy to get hurt if you don’t do it right,” said Redd. “In some parts of the course they learn how to climb an antenna, how to orient an antenna and these are all parts of what they do.”

The RF Transmission System instructors aspire to leave a lasting impression on the students during their time in the course.

“We hope they get a really good understanding of what the radio career field is going to have coming forward,” said Barrera. “If they understand the basics of it they can operate almost any radio that is out there. Hopefully we’ve given them that inspiration or that one little thing they remember and take it with them everywhere they go. It’s awesome when somebody tells you what you taught them later on that they still remember to this day.”

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