How online college classes work for the military


Sep 7, 2007

Special to MilitaryTA.com - 07 September 2007

In the military it is as though every minute of your life is accounted for.  Deployments, unit training, and that precious and highly anticipated leave so you can go visit family and friends or just plain relax seem to suck up any down-time that you thought you had.  Sometimes it may seem as though there is little time to do anything productive during your precious down-time, let alone spend countless hours sitting in a college classroom or with your nose buried in a text book.

Although the military provides outstanding educational benefits, few choose to take advantage of them because many think they just don't think they have the time to take college.  Enrolling in a college is the first major step towards completing your degree, the second is taking a class.  Notice I said "a class", not take a "full load of classes"?  There is nothing wrong with taking one class at a time to compete your degree and in many cases this may benefit you, the student, because you can focus more on being successful in that one class.

If you were enrolled in an online college course, you could have logged in and started reading the messages from the teacher by now.

Online college classes are an easy and convenient way to take college courses without leaving the comfort of your own home or even the office.  The classes are administered online and you do not need to drive to a college or education center to sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher.  In many cases, a quick note to the course instructor telling them about your military affiliation and work schedule will give you some wiggle room when it comes to assignment due dates.

You are probably reading this because you are not enrolled in college at this time and you have no idea how online college classes work.  I am considering it my duty in this article to fully describe to you the procedures found in many online courses by describing an online course I took.  The University is not important and I won't mention it because you are free to choose the one that you feel best fits your needs.  Let me start from the beginning...

I signed up for the course and had my tuition assistance paperwork competed, turned in and approved.  Since this was my first online course taken with this university I was given a username and password so that I could log into the online classroom.  The login information arrived via email.

The online classroom:

The online classroom resembled a message board with some links to important class information on the left.  If you have ever spent any time on the message board at sites such as ArmyStudyGuide.com, then you are fully qualified to post a question or an answer to a question that has been posted by another student. 

The links on the left of the page were for information about the course schedule, required text books (if any), homework due dates and other information you would need to help you be successful in that class.

Introductions:

Introductions were basically the same as the old "my name is" style introductions that many have done in military training courses where you stand up from your chair and tell your classmates a little about yourself.  The big difference here is that it was online and you had no idea what anyone looked like. The Instructor started a topic telling us a little about herself and she asked that we all reply with information about ourselves. It was too easy, and I got to read that other military were enrolled in that class.

Homework:

Each Sunday the Instructor posted a required reading from our text books (example: read pages 2,5-7, 9 and 13 of Chapter 1) and posted three questions about the material which would be covered in the required reading.  We had until the next Sunday to respond to the questions with our own one paragraph answers and were required to comment on one other student's answer.

We had questions due each week, but because I was in the military and had training to attend, the Instructor let me be a little late on some of my submissions with penalty because she knew I would not have access to a computer and internet while in training.  I was able to read ahead during some downtime in training because I knew what the required reading was for the upcoming weeks based on the posted schedule, which made it much quicker to answer questions when I got back to a computer.

If you were enrolled in an online college course, you could have logged in and started reading the questions that you had to answer from your required reading.

Exams:

Because we were in a virtual classroom, we had a few different type of exams.  My first exam was an open book exam was not necessarily timed, but there was a time limit.  The Instructor told us before hand that the exam would be posted at midnight on Wednesday and we had until Saturday to complete it.  Like clockwork, the exam was posted and I am sure that many students printed it off so that they could start working on it right away. Me, I had physical training the next morning and waited until later the next day to print off the exam.  The exam was a piece of cake.  All the information was in the book and it was a smooth blend of multiple choice and short answer.  By Saturday I had emailed my word document with my answers to my Instructor for grading. 

My second exam was timed multiple choice.  We were told when the exam would be posted and were warned that we would have 90 minutes to complete the exam from the time the link was clicked and the exam opened in a new window.  The exam was all multiple choice and was open book.  The format of the exam was like an online form with little check boxes.  The question was listed with some different answers.  I had the wonderful task of trying to put a little check in the box for the correct answer.  Once the exam was submitted, the grade was given right away and I knew right then and there if I had passed or failed.

Essays:

We had two essays due.  The essays were relatively short, about two pages double spaced.  The essays covered material posted in the message board that we had to post our answers to.  Because we had to not only read, but also formulate an intelligent thought to post for others to read about the question, I understood the essay topic pretty well.  If that did not help, the reading of other students answers so that I could find one to respond to as required helped me to better understand the information.  I guess you can think of it as students virtually talking out loud about what they read and you just soaking it all in.

Course Completion:

The last week of class arrived and we had our final exam.  The final exam covered much of what was focused on the previous weeks, so I printed off a bunch of posts from the classroom message board to help me out a little.  The final exam was open book and I found that I had everything I need to pass the exam.  After the course ended,  I received a nice email from my Instructor telling me my final grade and thanking me for my service to our country. I was done with my first college class, and it was all online.  It was easier than I thought and all my fears of taking an online college class were unfounded.  Since then I chose many online courses and although I have taken courses with several different universities, they are all basically the same style.  You get all the information you need, you post when you can within the limits set in the schedule, and if you have a conflict with work because of training or possibly a lack of computers during a deployment, you tell the Instructor and they are usually more than happy to help out by giving you some extra time or maybe a different homework assignment.

By now you could have logged in, checked the questions you needed to respond to and responded.  Your class work could have been done for the week. Taking online classes is almost as easy as checking and replying to your emails or posting in a message board, you just need to take the first step and register for your first class. 

The MilitaryTA.com site gives you the information you need to start using your tuition assistance benefit.  Army TANavy TAAir Force TAMarine Corps TA and Coast Guard TA.  If you have any questions, contact your education center and they will be more than happy to help you start working towards a degree.  A college degree can mean more promotion potential while you are serving, access to better jobs when you separate and even the satisfaction of knowing that you completed your degree in a certain field of study.  Good luck.


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