December 16, 2004 - Gunnery Sgt. Kevin Shearer has traveled all over the world during his seventeen years of military service. He has witnessed history being made, and he's participated in some of our country's most defining moments. He was part of operation Desert Storm, and he assisted in the liberation of Kosovo. He's been deployed around theworld, and stationed across thecountry.
"The thing I've enjoyed most about the military is the ability to meet all kinds of people, to learn new things along the way, and to serve my country in a time of need," he says.
Shearer is currently stationed at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany as an Equipment Specialist. His job calls for frequent deployments, and he's always on the go. In the past, his constant travels prevented him from achieving one of his personal goals - earning a college degree. With his busy travel schedule, attending college seemed impossible. So when he heard about distance education, Shearer knew he'd found the right program for him.
Shearer is now an Engineering Management major at Grantham University, which is located in Slidell, La. He's never been to Grantham's campus - he'snever needed to. All of his educational needs, from taking tests to consulting professors and advisors, can be met online. Grantham is a distance education institution, and his commute is as easy as the click of a mouse.
From the high-tech systems aboard a fighter jet to the self check-out line atthe local grocery store, technology has altered the way we live our lives. It isnot surprising, then, that education has been impacted by technology as well. More and more, Americans are turning away from traditional universities andchoosing distance education instead.
Shearer is one of fifteen Grantham students at MCLB Albany, and he's partof a larger trend in distance education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, enrollment in distance education courses has more than doubled since 2000. Today's technology has allowed schools to offer more and morecourses using the Internet. This new distance learning model is ideal for military personnel who are deployed, move frequently because of temporary dutyassignments, or whose duty schedules make it difficult to attend traditional evening classes.
"This works well for me," says Shearer. "Years ago, I tried to take traditional college classes, but it didn't work because I was expected to be on the university's schedule. When you're a Marine, you're on the military's schedule. When you're in the military, you can't sit in a classroom three days a week for two hours at a time. "Because Grantham's curriculum is self-paced, Shearer is able to complete his coursework when he has time available. That allows him to balance his education with his career and to have time to spend with his wife and his ten year old son.
"I think distance educationprograms like Grantham's areperfect for military students," says Shearer. "Just like anything else, you have to be dedicated and self-disciplined. You have to set a schedule for yourself, but with distance education, if something comes up and you can't meet that schedule, there's flexibility. I'm always surprised by how many people don't know that distance education is available. Ithink if more people here at MCLB Albany knew that this opportunity existed, they'd take advantage of it."
One of Shearer's co-workers, Gunnery Sgt. Frank Ollis, is taking advantage of that opportunity due to Shearer's advice. Ollis is also an equipment specialist, and he sits next to Shearer at work. He enrolled in Grantham's Criminal Justice degree program after hearing about the university from Shearer.
"I travel so often for my job that distance education was really my only chance to get an education," says Ollis. Like Shearer, he has been frequently deployed to locations such as Japan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Australia and Thailand.
A father of two with another child on the way, Ollis manages to fit in his school work in the morning before work, onhis lunch break, and at night after his children are in bed. Distance education allows him to spend time with his family, and it allows him to take his courses with him no matter where he goes.
"For someone like me, distance education is pretty much the only way to go," says Ollis. In addition to the benefits of an education flexible enough to accommodate their unique situation, Shearer, Ollis, and their fellow students are able to take advantage of another benefit a full scholarship which takescare of ALL educational expenses not covered by the military. Their education is funded through Grantham's military scholarship program, which is available to all service men and women. The military scholarship covers all books, software and tuition not covered by the Department of Defense after Tuition Assistance or Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support is applied. Grantham University is offering an unlimited number of scholarships to all of the nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen and members of the other uniformed services.
These scholarships are available to reserve members and to active duty military personnel. Grantham has additional scholarship programs for veterans and military families.
To learn more about distance education and the many programs available to military personnel, prospective students should contact the base education office.
More information about Grantham's programs is available at Web site www.grantham.edu or by calling 1-888-947-2684.