Unified Communications Featured Article

Online Degrees Make Life Easier for Returning Soldiers


November 17, 2008

Soldiers coming back from the War on Terror have much to deal with and going back or starting schooling again is something some do not want to face, especially if that means they need to be in a room full of people.
 
Diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and recovering from a grenade attack, Iraq war veteran Ian Newland wanted to pursue a business degree after his discharge from the Army last year. What he didn't want to have to do was set foot in a classroom.

 
With the help of the Internet, Newland found an online program that suited his academic and personal needs.
 
"Being online, I can work on my college work at 3 a.m. if I'm feeling rambunctious," said Newland, 28, who often does homework when he can't sleep.
 
According to Jones International University, an accredited Web-exclusive institution with a total population of 2,000 students said, there are about 350 current or former soldiers pursuing a degree there, three times more than last year.
 
"Being fully online, we go to wherever that service member goes," said Bruce Ricketts, vice chancellor for military programs for JIU. “Some students keep up with their classes from Iraq and Afghanistan. A deployment doesn't mean that your education necessarily has to stop," Ricketts said.
 
Jim Selbe, assistant vice president for lifelong learning at the American Council on Education, said about 50 percent of active duty service members receiving tuition reimbursement from the Department of Defense are taking online courses.
 
Newland was wounded while serving with the 26th Infantry Regiment by hand grenade which was thrown into the gunner's hatch of his Humvee on patrol in Adhamiyah, northeast of Baghdad.
 
According to the Associated Press, Spc. Ross McGinnis, a 19-year-old from Knox, Penn., dove on top of the grenade, taking the brunt of the explosion and shielding other soldiers. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
 
Newland said about 40 pieces of shrapnel hit his legs, arms and face. He suffered a brain injury, short-term memory loss, stuttered and started seeing words backward, as if he was dyslexic.
 
After returning to the States he found out about Jones International University after Sentinels of Freedom, a nonprofit organization that aids severely wounded soldiers, awarded him a four-year scholarship, placed him in a home in Denver and got him a job at a realty company where he handles phone calls in the information technology department.
 
Newland said he still limps, uses a cane and had to learn to type with only one hand.
 
"Yesterday, I wrote three papers and took around 50 phone calls," he said. "Plus, I'm reading about four textbooks at a time."
 
Mike Conklin, executive director of Sentinels of Freedom, said taking online courses is often the best way to go when disabled soldiers leave the military. Some have been blinded, others paralyzed, and others have full-time jobs.
 
"All of these guys have reasons for why the classroom is not where they want to be right away," Conklin said.
 
Newland, who is married and has two children, said the flexibility of being able to write papers on renewable energy sources and space exploration while working allows him to spend more time with his family.
 
"I could do it after I came home from work," Newland said about his course work, "but I'd be sacrificing something else."

Jessica Kostek is a channel editor for unified communications, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Jessica’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jessica Kostek




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