The Online Option

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Are you an active duty servicemember, a single parent or both? Do you serve onboard a Navy ship, a Coast Guard cutter or somewhere overseas? Does it seem you just don't have enough time to pursue a "real" college degree?

If so, then online education may just be the thing you need. It's a great way for military servicemembers to earn a college degree while serving their country. Online courses and degree programs are developed specifically to provide the flexibility needed to fit the op-tempo and duty schedules of active duty servicemembers. In fact, thousands of duty standing, single parent, and even deployed members earn their college degrees each year using online education. Most schools offer online programs that range from Associates to Masters degrees and, depending on the course, may take as little as 1-2 hours a day, 3 days a week.

How Online Education Works

Online courses follow the same format as traditional college courses, with a professor, textbooks, homework, exams, etc. However online courses have a much higher degree of flexibility and usually use a combination of message boards, e-mail, chat rooms, CD-ROMs and textbooks. In a typical online course the professor will post weekly reading assignments, study questions and schedule a group online chat time. The student must post answers to the study questions and respond to at least one other student's postings by the end of that week. Online courses typically have weekly deadlines - however, your daily/weekly study schedule is completely up to you. At the end of the course or module you will have a final exam (lower level) or written essay requirement (upper level) summarizing the context of the class.

Your Key to Success

Just like in traditional college classroom courses, your success comes from a willingness to commit to your coursework. On average, online students spend a couple of hours a day studying. It is also essential for you to have a strong desire to learn and remain focused on the goal of earning the college degree - it is your degree that will expand your career opportunities.

Are Online College Courses for Real?

Yes. Many military members share your concern about the validity of online college programs. Online programs are offered by many "big name" fully accredited and esteemed schools. However, you should remember: "Don't buy into an image, buy into a degree." Many "small name" colleges offer online courses that may better fit your needs and budget.

There are a number of questions you should ask when choosing the right school and program for you:

  • Does Military Tuition Assistance or the GI Bill cover the costs of the courses?
  • Does the school grant academic credit for Military schools and experience, as recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE)?
  • Does the media (CD-Rom, e-mail, internet, etc) fit your needs and abilities?
  • Does the school have the degree program that fits your education goals?
If you think "online" may be the best fit for you, we encourage you to begin looking for the school that meets your needs. Schools usually have free information packets they will mail you with answers to the questions listed above, more on tuition costs, and an application. You can request information from multiple schools at once by filling out a simple online form on Military.com. With no obligation or cost, learning about different schools is a great way to take the first step. Request free school information.

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GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.
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