Unexpected Benefits of Military Families Learning Network


In areas of personal finance, child care, family development, and network literacy, the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) anchors its work in professional development webinars targeted to professionals who serve military families. The webinars are open to everyone though the learning objectives have specific purposes and specific audiences. Along with the webinars, this learning network is active in communities online.

Though most of the work of the MFLN was developed as the program grew, an unexpected outcome is that this learning network’s process of conducting webinars has become a model for military communities and other agencies. The Department of Defense (DoD) and others are finding value not only in the content that the MFLN is creating and the connections with Cooperative Extension educators, but they are also discovering ways to share this content openly and to develop discussions online with geographically dispersed professionals. DoD and others look for this learning network to provide support in developing best practices for conducting webinars.

Coordinating efforts with DoD, the MFLN has developed a system of offering webinars that works within the confines of the military and for the general public. Though most of the webinars are hosted on DoD restricted sites, this learning network has developed ways for others to participate in the webinars. The MFLN depends heavily on eXtension’s Learn site (learn.extension.org) to be the repository of resources, information, recordings and for publicity and marketing. This learning network also integrates various social media in educational and marketing efforts.

Additionally, military family communities are finding the MFLN resourceful. For instance, Child Trends asked this learning network to help host a Twitter chat on research concerning children of military families. The MFLN contributed to more than 30,000 impressions during this one-hour event. Recently, Stephen Judd, Network Literacy Community of Practice chair, was asked to serve on a panel discussing social media during the Association of the United States Army conference. Periodically, the MFLN staff is asked to help military professionals develop strategies around professional development and online learning.

Further, providing research- and evidence-based content to improve the professional development of military service professional, the military and other communities are learning from the models being built by the MFLN, thus bringing more credibility to the Land-Grant System. A DoD official commented recently, in referring to the MFLN, “… they are doing an amazing job on many different levels. One more shining star in the portfolio of work performed by the LGUs – what did we do before?”