Many soldiers are new to online learning and some are new to college entirely. They may need extra flexibility, course orientation and support from their instructors. This is especially true when service members are deployed.
For 2019-20, UAF is providing a scholarship to waive admissions and courses fees for Ft. Wainwright and Alaska National Guard service members who deploy. In conjunction with the military’s Tuition Assistance program, soldiers stationed in Alaska can now attend UAF at little or no cost while deployed. This fall, 24 soldiers signed up for the program and started taking online classes with UAF. In the spring, as more soldiers deploy, we expect to see even more soldiers taking online courses.
Soldiers from Fort Wainwright started deploying at the end of August/early September 2019, and in this teaching tip we’ll provide some suggestions for working with military students.
Strategies for Online Classrooms
The following strategies are good practices to have in place for all military students but are especially important to those who are deployed.
- While deployed, students are likely to be sent on missions during which time they will have limited or no internet access. UAF eCampus has asked them to reach out to their instructors in advance, if possible, to make arrangements.
- Students may need additional help with course navigation in Blackboard, WordPress or other LMS used for the course.
Evaluate Course Structure
- Include language in your syllabus such as “Active military personnel with special circumstances or potential issues are welcome and encouraged to communicate with the instructor (in advance if possible).’
- Consider alternative assignments to group work or discussion forum participation. Structured course activities could be difficult for a variety of reasons including their timezone and unpredictable work schedule.
- Be clear about policies regarding missed assignments and absenteeism including expectations for times when military duties may keep students away from the online classroom.
- Ask your student for updates throughout the semester.
- Provide constructive feedback regularly.
- Have frequent discussions about the student’s standing in the course.
Other Ways to Help
eCampus student support staff are communicating with deployed students about how to contact their instructors, tips for getting started with online courses and how to set up proctoring if it’s required in their course. You can direct students to the Student Success Guide (PDF) if they need more details. Students who want more coaching can also connect with the eCampus academic advisor.
If a military student is not able to complete the course by the end of the semester, an incomplete can be granted. An incomplete gives a student a temporary grade (“I”) until the remaining coursework is finished. A statement of work required to complete the course will need to be submitted with the faculty form. Note that incompletes must be resolved within 120 days (rather than the full year UAF allows) for military tuition assistance to pay for the course. Additionally, the incomplete will automatically change to an “F” if a student does not complete all remaining coursework.
Thank you for all that you do to support eCampus students and for your help making their educational journey possible.
Smucny, D., & Stover, M. (2013, March/April). Enhancing teaching and learning for active-duty military students. ASA Footnotes, 41(3).
Jessica Armstrong, MS, is the Recruitment Coordinator for UAF eCampus and works closely with the Northern Military Programs office and the Military and Veterans Services Department.