Military trends: Distance learning gaining appeal
University of Phoenix military leaders say that more and more military students are finding the time — and the Internet connection — to pursue online degrees via distance learning.
“What I am starting to hear from the military is that they [commanders] are realizing the value of online distance learning and the adult learning environment, and are interested in moving military education in that direction,” says Mike Bibbee, MBA, MS, the vice president and director of the University of Phoenix Military Division.
Bibbee attributes the military’s overall increased acceptance of distance learning within the military to some of the following smaller trends currently driving military members’ educational pursuits:
Increased online accessibility — Active military has become more mobile in the last decade, prompting military personnel, especially in reference to ground operations, to quickly set up Internet connections, says Bibbee. In fact, Dr. Garland Williams, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and current associate regional vice president for the Military Division, recently learned roughly three quarters of all U.S. military members are currently taking distance-learning courses online. Although, he and Bibbee concur there is still room to increase Internet bandwidth among more remote military branches.
Mobile apps for mobile military — Smartphone apps boost classroom participation by military distance learners although “we’re just on the cusp” of this trend, Bibbee says. This includes the recently launched mobile app (iPhone®, Android™) for University of Phoenix students, notes Stephanie Constant, senior product operations manager of University of Phoenix Product Strategy & Development. Specifically, this app allows military students, who may not have instantaneous access to laptops, the ability to always participate in classroom discussion forums, view classroom announcements, receive instructor-prompted alerts, and to view, edit and save drafts they created on the web.
Social media connections — Military distance learners are finding social media is helping them make education decisions — such as where to enroll and what degree program to pursue. It also provides a medium through which to connect with peers. The military’s attraction to this is evident by the growing usage of the University of Phoenix closed social network, PhoenixConnect®. To date, Constant says, its 500,000+ users created about one dozen student-faculty groups centered on military themes, ranging from the “173rd Airborne Infantry” to “Military Spouses and Significant Others.”
Financial incentives — The federal government recently rolled out housing stipend changes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Again, this is a trend just starting to unfold within the distance learning arena, says Bibbee, but online military students are now taking advantage of a $673.50 housing stipend that was previously afforded only to campus-based military students.
iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.
Android is a trademark of Google Inc.
PhoenixConnect is a registered trademark of Apollo Education Group Inc.