Active military learners enjoy online education due to the ability to complete their functions in the military and move forward with their career goals that would not be possible in ground-based school settings. David Starr-Glass completes a phenomenological study of military learners and how instructors can help them engage with their classmates more and raise their learning levels (2013). The findings have implications for both online and off-line schools.
Active military members in college are 1% while veterans are 3% of all students in higher education (Radford & Weko, 2011). Military students have similarities with the general population but also remarkable differences. These differences require additional effort by instructors to ensure that the learning environment is conducive to student development.
Military students live in a hierarchical world of chains of command. They deal with hot situations and cold situations while bouncing between them. Hot situations are combat related where survival and achievement of objectives is important and the cold situations exist in the barracks where socialization and daily life take precedence. The student could be jumping between these two extremes.
Instructors are not often aware of the hesitancy of military students to explain their situations. They may have just left a combat situation, had a media blackout, or were engage in heavy exercise leading to late work. Professors will need to be aware that the civilian world of open, egalitarian, and normal daily stress may not exist at the same level for active duty members and this may impact their learning.
The report offers some tips for effectively encouraging military students and very well may apply to other students.
Encouraging the Presence: Instructors need to be engaged in the classroom and may need to gently coax military students to engage more because they come from a world where information is on a need-to-know basis and can be verbally restrictive.
Awareness of the Said and Unsaid: Military students may be dealing with various hot and cold situations that the instructor may not be aware of.
Withhold Judgment: All students are facing difficult situations. Adding on top of normal stressors are more profound stressors faced in combative situations.
Being Accepting: Military students live in a different world and have differences in experiences and it is not the professor’s place to judge.
Be Flexible and Responsive: Situations change for military students and lateness may be a function of duty and not procrastination. Be flexible in the educational approach and timeframes depending on circumstance.
Be Empathetic: Understand that the student has rights to full integrity and should be treated as an individual.
Starr-Glass, D. (2013). Experiences with military online learners: toward mindful practice. Journal of Online Learning & Teaching, 9 (3).