Life in the military is tough, but life after the military can be even tougher. Though many vets are exceedingly employable, equipped with skills that many employers seek out, a regular job at a regular company often seems either unfeasible or unsatisfying. On one hand, it seems absurd that a veteran should find it so easy to transition into a civilian lifestyle after eating, breathing, and living military life. On the other, a day job could never be as emotionally and mentally fulfilling as work in the military.
Thus, immediately after leaving the armed services, many vets head back to school. However, traditional university environments are often as confusing or confining as employment, filled with young, undisciplined students and unfamiliar expectations from professors. That’s why more and more vets are moving their studies online.
Online College Education Offers Learning Environment Without the Stress
According to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs, about 20% of Iraqi war vets suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. These ex-soldiers join about 31% of Vietnam vets, 10% of Gulf War vets, and 11% of Afghanistan vets, who suffer from flashbacks, emotional instability, and personality shifts and worse thanks to their time in the military. After their service is ended, many vets struggle to assimilate into the civilian world due to their PTSD―and others have similar fears and insecurities that hold them back.
Online schooling offers a stepping stone back to civilian life, providing education and training that readies vets for advanced civilian careers while introducing them slowly to civilian interaction and socialization. Attending online courses gives vets challenges to overcome without overwhelming them with the sights, sounds, and stresses of traditional college campuses. It is a gentle way to adapt to the civilian lifestyle while preparing for a fulfilling career outside the military.
Even Current Service Members Can Benefit From Online Education
Veterans aren’t the only military members who have uncovered the advantages of online school. Active service members are also turning to web courses. Most service members rarely stay at one base for long: In the beginning, recruits can move every few months as they progress through commissioning, technical training, and internships; later, service members can expect to relocate regularly―every two to three years. When transfers are so frequent (and sometimes unexpected), service members cannot commit to completing a traditional university program that requires them to physically attend classes and interact with peers and professors in-person.
Additionally, military service is grueling. Even away from combat zones, service members are busy for most of their daily hours, participating in training exercises and completing assigned duties. Therefore, commuting to and from a university campus and fitting rigidly scheduled courses into their calendars is all but impossible.
Online education is not just more convenient for active service members; often, it is their only option. Online courses are accessible any time of day, so service members can watch lectures and complete projects on their own time. Plus, students can attend their classes anywhere they have internet access, which might be in their homes or in some exotic military base. To prepare service members for promotions within the military or job opportunities after their service is ended, online education is ideal.
Choosing the Right Online Program After Service
Unfortunately, not every online program is suited to service members’ needs. Some universities require students to mix online and in-person courses, and others lack the accreditations vets should expect from schools that will train them for their careers. Plus, it is important that online programs be sensitive to the needs of military members. The following steps will help active and non-active service members find the right online education opportunities:
- Determine areas of interest. Drawing upon previous experience and personal preferences, vets and service members should consider what academic fields are of highest interest to them. Programs that include these interests should be of top priority during the education hunt.
- Consider preferences for instruction style. In traditional education, students might not know what to expect from any given professor. In online ed, instruction styles tend to be clearly demarcated: live instruction, self-paced, etc.
- Determine what education benefits apply. Service members and vets can use the GI Bill to pay for some or all their online education if the university is properly certified. Military students should fully understand the bill and funding options before enrolling.
- Determine what student services might help. Veterans who turn to online ed for health reasons might benefit greatly from available student services, like tutoring, counseling, and career guidance.
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