News: Deployed Marines hit the books during their down time
Story by Cpl. Michael Curvin
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Many colleges and universities offer online and distance courses allowing military personnel to pursue higher education, even when deployed.
Personnel with Marine Expeditionary Brigade—Afghanistan choosing to take college-level courses here have two options. Either they can go online and work at their own pace, or they can learn in a traditional classroom-based environment.
The difference between web-based classes and traditional courses are vast, but both offer flexibility for deployed service members.
"It's been working out pretty good so far," said Cpl. Chad Tucker, a financial management resource analyst with MEB—Afghanistan, about his online courses. "My program is pretty military friendly."
Tucker, who is enrolled in an Information Technology and Security program, has completed two classes since deploying here in May, 2009. He said he is three semesters away from receiving his Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Technology.
"I'm anxious to complete my remaining courses," said Tucker, a native of Davie, Fla. "Online courses have been a great way to supplement my education while away from home. I plan on taking online courses when I get back to the states as well."
Flexibility varies between institutions, but most colleges and universities understand the difficulties service members may encounter when attempting to access to their online classes.
"When I'm not able to turn something in or I have to turn it in late, I can just shoot an e-mail to my teacher," Tucker said. "They have no problem extending my due dates for anything."
Classroom instruction may not be as popular as online courses, but many service members take advantage of the classes offered here.
"When you go to school and you're deployed, it gives you two things," said 1st Lt. Enrique Rivera, MEB—Afghanistan's ground watch officer and distance education instructor. "It gives you time away from your job during the deployment cycle and you also get into a school environment. It increases bonds between students."
Rivera started teaching here to give Marines a preview for what they can expect when they return to their bases and start taking courses in a classroom. Even though his instruction took place in the classroom, Rivera had to adapt to the needs of his students.
"When I started teaching, I had to set up two classes," Rivera said, "One to accommodate day workers and another for night workers. It was tough, but at the same time, it was enjoyable to start seeing the learning curve and self thought coming into play."
For more information, service members can go to their base's education center. If deployed, Marines can contact their unit's education officer.