The Surge in Online Military Education

by Evan Jones

The military has always been a great opportunity for advancement. In 2009, 375,000 service men and women were simultaneously pursuing a civilian degree. What many people find surprising, however is that three out of four students in the military were enrolled in some form of distance learning.1

The number of people taking online college courses is expanding nearly fifteen times faster than the number sitting around in traditional classrooms.2 Why is this? Customer satisfaction. As the widely cited Sloan Report shows, nearly all students like distance learning as much as or better than listening to a professor drone on and on.3 Not to mention the convenience – and empowerment over one’s own pace and schedule. That’s especially important for military education.

In the past, educational options while on active duty were severely limited. Correspondence courses proved a poor, partial solution. There was little if any student-teacher interface, and issues such as test taking were never properly addressed. And without the Internet, communication time was lengthy and often uncertain. Online learning solves these problems.

Operational awareness

A college education is more important than ever in these competitive times. The unemployment rate is twice as high for those without a degree.4 There are more and more people going to college with every new generation.

Not only does a soldier have to think of life after the military, but non-military studies can translate into promotion points if he or she wants to “go career”.5 And there are lots of military education benefits available through the G.I. Bill (even military spouses can receive up to $4000 towards higher education).6

The military is even expanding its own online programs into high school. The Dept. of Defense Virtual High School is now offering 48 courses in math, science, social studies, language arts and physical education. The current intent is to fill in gaps and requirements, enabling students to graduate, but they are planning on expanding to cover a complete high school curriculum and even special education. Fifteen advanced placement courses are already available.7


1 Distance Learning and Online Military Schools, gibill.com http://www.gibill.com/education/schools/distance-learning.html

2 Ibid.

3 I. Elaine Allen, Ph.D., Jeff Seaman, and Ph.D., Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, Sloan Consortium, 2006, Feb. 2007, p. 13 http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/pdf/Making_the_Grade_Southern.pdf

4 College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2009 High School Graduates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Apr. 27, 2010 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm

5 Distance learning and Online Military Schools, gibill.com http://www.gibill.com/education/schools/distance-learning.html

6 Military Spouse Career Advancement, Military OnceSource.com, Oct. 25, 2010 https://www.militaryonesource.com/MOS/FindInformation/Category/MilitarySpouseCareerAdvancementAccounts.aspx

7 Elaine Wilson, Virtual High School Opens ‘Doors’ to Learning, American Forces Press Service, Washington, Aug. 27, 2010 http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=60634