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Ingenius Spouse Moves Family Training Online

Sometimes the best ideas are the ones right in front of you.

That's how it was for Brandy Pearson. As a certified Army Family Team Building (AFTB) instructor currently far from a traditional base while her husband does recruiting duty, she knows what it means to be out of the Army loop. She misses that feeling of community. And she's particularly aware of what it's like to not be able to participate in classes or events typically held in base classrooms.

So when a need to help far-flung spouses who wanted to attend the AFTB classes, an information boot camp of sorts for Army life, presented itself she had a brilliant idea -- why not go virtual?

"Now I am out in the middle of nowhere, there is no military installation here so I cant instruct in a class anymore," Pearson said. "I started thinking -- you know what, there's still people out there in the US wanting these classes who are not able to go."

It's unclear whether Pearson's online AFTB is the first of its kind. Army OneSource offers a virtual training but it does not include a live instructor or other, virtual and potentially interactive students.

Pearson said many of the reasons spouses give for not attending AFTB or similar courses have to do with physical location (too far from a base?), class schedule (often during the day while people are working) and childcare problems. Holding the class online solves each and every one of those.

The virtual trainings are held on a online video conference site at times chosen by Pearson and her team. Participants can choose whether or not to have their web cams and sound on during the training.

While AFTB is always staffed by volunteers, running the classes in person does require a small budget for supplies, the meeting space and snacks or water often offered to those attending. Some locations also offer childcare reimbursement for those who attend.

As far as Pearson knows, she and her small band of virtual instructor volunteers have the only online AFTB class. And while what she's spearheading hasn't yet gotten the attention of anyone in Army leadership, she hopes it does.

"We haven’t hit the big time yet on it," she said. "We're looking forward to having more people interested in it."

But it's likely to get attention soon. In the face of downsizing and sweeping budget cuts, innovative ideas like virtual AFTB are rising to the attention of many leaders.

While AFTB is always staffed by volunteers, running the classes in person does require a small budget for supplies, the meeting space and snacks or water often offered to those attending. Some locations also offer childcare reimbursement for those who attend.

Moving the classes online addresses the budget issue.

"I think with all the budget cuts and the AFTB program being on that chopping block sometimes something has to be done," she said. "Spouses still want this information. It's current information that still needs to get out to these spouses."

 Interested in attending an online AFTB course? Go here for more information!

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