Are there Advantages to Veterans for Taking Classes Online?

With the attention of the country focused on returning service men and women, many educators and politicians have been pondering the advantages and disadvantages to veterans taking online courses. Of course, many people earn their degrees online, but veteran and current military personnel have different needs than the population in general. What seems like an advantage to a civilian might not work well for someone returning from active duty or dealing with a plethora of GI Bill regulations. So, what are those advantages and disadvantages?

Resource: Top 15 Best Online Colleges for Military and G.I. Bill 2015

Online Education Might Work Well

An article on the U.S. News and World Report website said that one advantage for vets is the mobility of the programs. You can’t take a brick-and-mortar school with you when you are assigned to another base or deployed, but as long as there is an Internet connection you can study. You can do it at your own pace, as well. Online programs often allow you to take several years to earn your degree. Many service people are accustomed to odd schedules, and you can access online courses 24/7. Another advantage takes into account the psychological difficulties in transitioning from the military to civilian life. Vets who are still uncomfortable in public don’t have to deal with classrooms, or with questions and attitudes about combat and the conflicts in which they participated, if they study online. Universities and colleges might not have adequate accommodations for a veteran who is uncomfortable in a traditional classroom because of traumatic brain injury or PTSD.

Online Learning may be More Difficult

Military life has the structure of an iron bulwark. Service people know where they should be and when they should be there. Many vets have trouble when that structure disappears. Buying books, for instance, or registering for classes can be huge challenges and leave them feeling abandoned. If they take online classes, they know which books they need and, more importantly, which they don’t because the material is available on the computer. Plus, though online learning is more flexible, it is also more work. It is not a good choice for people who do not have great time-management skills. Veterans, who are accustomed to being in groups of other service people, may not learn well without the face-to-face contact between them and teachers or peers. That is why many traditional schools offer support groups for service people.

Online Schools are Not All the Same

The PBS News Hour website says that more than 40 percent of the dollars spent on veteran education through the GI Bill goes to for-profit schools and online programs. The Bill allots up to $21,000 a year for veteran education. Many for-profit schools are paying attention and some even went onto military bases to recruit students. The government finally enacted legislation that restricts the way for-profit online schools can hunt veteran students. The problem is that not all schools offer the same quality of education and service men and women are finding their degrees are not accepted by employers or by graduate schools. Many schools, both traditional and online, offer credit for military service. There are, however, guidelines for how this service translates to college courses. Recent information showed that some for-profit schools are giving credit for things like marksmanship. It should be enough to make certain that the online schools are accredited, but there are now many organizations that offer accreditation for profit as well. Even though it is sad to admit there are those who would take advantage of people who have served their country in the military, the old adage “buyer beware” applies here. There are good schools and poor ones. Vets must do their homework in choosing a degree program.

The flexibility and lower cost of online programs as well as the mobility make them attractive options for service people who want to earn degrees. There are disadvantages and advantages to taking online classes for veterans.