July 1, 2004 - Master Sgt. Andrea Fisher, an Information Manager at Air Force Space Command, can defend her country, earn her degree, and still be a mom even when she's thousands of miles away.
This wasn't always the case. Two years ago Sergeant Fisher, a college student and single mother of four, was sent on a short-notice Temporary Duty. At the time, she was taking courses at a community college, and she asked a family member to call the school and drop her classes for her, because she wouldn't be able to complete the semester. But, there was a mix-up and she was still officially enrolled. At the end of the semester, she received a transcript with an "F" on it.
"I was so upset," Sergeant Fisher said. "I had never received a failing grade in my life."
Three months later, Sergeant Fisher was deployed to France, forcing her to drop her new classes. She missed her children, and she was upset that her education had once again been derailed.
The Internet proved to be the solution to both problems.
In addition to allowing Sergeant Fisher to keep being a mom while deployed, technology allowed her to keep being a student.
Three weeks after she arrived in France, Sergeant Fisher enrolled at Grantham University. Grantham is located in Slidell, La., but it didn't matter to her how far away the university was. Grantham is a distance education institution, and all educational needs can be met online. She communicates with teachers and advisors with email and tests online. Now that she is back home at Peterson Air Force Base, distance education continuesto give Sergeant Fisher the flexibility she needs to complete her responsibilities to the Air Force and to her children. She can travel the world, no longer interrupting hereducation. She's well on her way to earning a degree in Business Administration.
Sergeant Fisher is part of a growing trend. According to the U.S. Department of Education, enrollment in distance education courses has more than doubled since 2000. In the past, distance learning meant taking courses through audio or video feeds. Today's technologyhas allowed schools to offer courses using the Internet. Distance learning is ideal for many military members.
"Distance education is perfect for the military student," Sergeant Fisher said. "It's so wonderful that I don't have to worry about dropping classes because of my duty schedule anymore. Part of being in the military is that you have to be prepared to leave at any moment. You have to be ready to go where you're needed, sometimes on really short notice.
"Grantham is self-paced, so there are no preset times when you have to be online. This way, deployment doesn't stop your education. Even in Iraq right now, there are computers available to the soldiers. With distance education, you can keep going, no matter where you are," she said.
In addition to the benefits of an education flexible enough to accommodate their unique situation, Sergeant Fisher and her fellow students are able to take advantage of a full scholarship that takes care of all educational expenses not covered by the military. Their education is funded through the university's military scholarship program, which is available to all service men and women.
Sergeant Fisher also recommends distance educa-tion programs to parents. Now, she said she can fit her schoolwork in late at night or on her lunch break whenever she has the time.
"It allows me to be a mom and be a student when I have the time," Sergeant Fisher said.
Prospective students interested in learning moreabout distance education programs available to the military can call the Education Office at 556-4064. To learn more about Grantham's programs, visit www.grantham.edu.