Online soldier-student

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Online college courses are changing the concept of how people earn a degree. University students, regardless of whether they're first-semester freshmen or nontraditional students, seem to enjoy the freedom that online courses offer.

Southeast Missouri State University is seeing an increase in its online enrollment, which proves how important an aspect of higher education these classes are.

But few people would have guessed that an online course would keep one university student on track while he's serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

Neil Guinn is stationed on an air base north of Baghdad and is part of the 1106th Aviation Division, working in tech supply and helicopter maintenance. A Southeast sophomore from Columbia, Mo., he was already enrolled at the university when he was activated for duty.

But in what spare time he has overseas -- only about four hours a day -- he's completing two online courses at Southeast. And he is already enrolled for the fall semester.

Taking the online courses will ensure that Guinn won't be behind when he returns from Iraq, something that was important to him. And the university has created a Web page just for military personnel who want to enroll in courses.

University officials acknowledge that soldiers want to continue to learn even as they serve overseas, and online courses offer that opportunity.

If a soldier in Iraq can keep up with his schoolwork and his military duties, then it shouldn't be too hard for anyone else to do the same. Guinn offers us an example of the dedication it takes to be both a successful student and a citizen-soldier. He should be applauded for his drive and determination.

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