By Dr. Chris Reynolds, Lt. Col., USAFR
AVP & Dean, Center for Teaching and Learning at American Public University System
Whether you are a student or faculty member, being a military member brings special challenges. There are temporary duty yonder (TDY) requirements, drill weekends and exercises, operational readiness inspections, local disasters, wildfires, floods, and more that military personnel are called upon to deal with. A serving student may suddenly discover that he or she needs to request military leave from work, make family arrangements, and juggle college classes. The single most important thing that a military member can do is first to assure family readiness. With respect to your educational journey, it is critical that you notify your professor as quickly as possible that you are being deployed or mobilized. If you are deploying to the area of responsibility, check with personnel who are already in-country on the reliability of Internet connectivity—like we all learned in basic training-NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING!
Review Your Course Materials List
If you are in a college program that requires textbooks, be sure you know the APO/FPO address and be sure to let your bookstore know. Also, bear in mind that depending upon your forward location, additional time may be needed to get your materials to you.
Keep Faculty Informed About Your Schedule
Always keep your professors informed of your OPSTEMPO! I had an Army student who would always post in the class forum when he returned from patrol in Iraq. He always let me know how he was doing and if he needed additional time to complete his assignments or help. One evening while reading the class forum, I noticed that he did not complete his usually punctual post. Needless to say, I immediately worried that something had happened to him. He finally checked in the next evening and let me know that he was OK.
Your professors care a great deal about you and your safety! So, remember to let your professors know if you experience difficulty or will be out of touch for an extended time. Always ensure that your professors know that you are deployed, even if you do not expect to have any problems. Send a direct email; don’t just announce it in the intro for your class during week one!
Course Extension Options
Nearly all universities have course extension policies that address the specific long-term class needs of military students. Likewise, college registrars have processes in place to assure incomplete grades are properly managed.
“Have someone at home who is aware of the school’s contact information just in case they are in a situation where internet connectivity is lost,” AMU Director, Eastern Region and Overseas for Military Outreach Dan Roby (CMSgt., Ret.) said to me in a recent conversation. Chief Roby went on to say that it is a good idea to plan ahead to ensure tuition assistance is in place and books are ordered before leaving the continental United States.
The most important thing to remember is colleges and universities do everything within their power to help men and women in uniform. The ability to continue your higher educational goals while deployed, particularly in the online world, provides you with a unique opportunity to further one’s self while serving our great nation.
About the Author:
Dr. Chris Reynolds, CEM has over 30 years of higher education experience in both the traditional and online classroom. He currently serves as the Dean for the Center for Teaching and Learning and most recently served as the Director for the Emergency Management and Homeland Security programs at American Military University, where he developed an award winning undergraduate and graduate program. Dr. Reynolds is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserve stationed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida as an Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer (EPLO) assigned to Air Force Northern Command, 1st Air Force.