By Gabriel Monte, Freedom New Mexico
Robert Elliott doubts that he’ll ever meet his students in person.
With his computer serving as a virtual classroom, Elliott will teach online courses in aviation science from Eastern New Mexico University’s Roswell campus. His students are located across the country and in South America and Africa.
The former Cannon Air Force Base airman was hired in June as the director for ENMU’s aviation science program, which was created last year. The program offers bachelor’s degrees in aviation science, according to the program’s Web site.
“ENMU-Roswell, which is our branch campus down there of about 4,000 students, has a very strong two-year program in aviation,” said Steven Gamble, ENMU president. “What we are offering is the next two years after they get their associate degree that would allow them to get their bachelor’s degree.”
Gamble said the university will also try to offer the program to airmen attending the Community College of the Air Force.
Elliott retired from the Air Force in 2004 with the rank of senior master sergeant. He spent the final 12 years of his 25-year military career at Cannon.
He said in his last position at Cannon as chief wing inspector his responsibility was to make sure all units were ready to respond to emergencies.
He pursued a career in education after leaving the Air Force and was an academic advisor at Wayland Baptist University before he was hired by ENMU. He hopes to earn a doctorate degree in higher education from Texas Tech in December.
He received his associate degree in aircraft maintenance technology from the College of the Air Force.
According to the program’s Web site, all of the courses, which include Federal Aviation Administration regulations, aviation management and information management, are taught online.
Elliott said he will use distance education software that allows him to interact with his students in real time.
“That’s what I’m really looking forward to, in an online environment, is having that additional face-to-face, synchronous contact with the students because that does make a huge difference,” said Ellliott, a Dayton, Ohio, native. “One of our barriers, though, that we have to try to knock down the wall on, is that fact that we’re going to have students in significantly different time zones.