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Attempting to take the Navy’s mandatory training courses online while at sea can be a hassle, sailors tell Stars and Stripes.

Many sailors must complete certain courses, such as General Military Training, each year. Two sailors aboard the Yokosuka, Japan-based USS Kitty Hawk weighed in on the challenges of taking such training via Navy Knowledge Online, the Navy’s Web-based portal.

Some sailors do not have access to the Internet, said Seaman Antonia Diaz, who noted that some divisions do not allow junior sailors to use computers.

“So the only access that they have is through public use, i.e. the Religious Ministries computers, but they may not have enough time to complete the courses,” Diaz, 21, of Deltona, Fla., said in an e-mail. “Some require a one-time sit down session in order to get a final grade.”

Another major challenge is bandwidth limitations, which results in slow Internet connections, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Briana Frazier, also via e-mail.

“The pages load incredibly slow and often the connection times out before you have a chance to up-load your answers,” said Frazier, 21, of Honolulu. “It took me almost a week to input answers for my BMR (Basic Military Requirements) due to slow connections … when it would have taken me 20 minutes on shore duty.”

However, Frazier said it has become easier to take online courses since the Navy offered NKO at Sea for sailors afloat, which loads pages much more quickly than the Internet version of NKO. “I have completed two to three times as many courses under way since NKO at Sea became available than I did when I had to use the original link on the Internet,” Frazier said.

The only drawbacks are the same courses are not offered on both versions of NKO, and if sailors take courses using NKO at Sea, they cannot complete those courses on the Internet-based NKO, and vice versa.

“I think that if we can get the exact same courses offered on NKO at Sea that are offered on the original NKO Web site, it would make in-rate and correspondence training courses more accessible and less of a hassle for sailors to complete while on deployment,” Frazier said.

The reason for the disconnect between the two versions of NKO is that the Internet version relies on servers in Pensacola, Fla., while NKO at Sea uses servers on the ship itself, explained Peg David, naval education and training NKO manager.

“Since these are two distinctly different environments, when a course is started in one environment, it must be completed in that environment in order to maintain bookmarks and completions,” David said in a Friday e-mail.

Some courses, David said, require media streaming technology that is not available on NKO at Sea, and some courses have content that would take hours or days for shipboard servers to update.

“Challenges we face today with access to PCs and Connectivity are being actively worked enterprisewide, so the sailor’s afloat experience will be as close as possible to their ashore counterpart’s experience in the future for training and education materials,” she said.

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