Ian Newland – War Hero and the First E-Learning Celebrity?

The Associated Press reported yesterday on Iraq War veteran Ian Newland, who has been earning an online degree since returning home to Denver Colorado in the US. So why is online education a perfect fit for people in his position? Has it become the embodiment of the magic of e-learning?

It was December 4th when Newland was injured in Adhamiya. While on patrol, an insurgent threw a grenade through the gunner’s hatch of his Humvee. Newland and most of his teammates survived due to the spc’s quick acting. Ross McGinnis, who covered the bomb with his own body in order to save the lives of others. Upon his return, a nonprofit organization, Guardians of Liberty, awarded him a four-year scholarship.

Despite suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Newman is now studying a degree online, has a job at a real estate company, and still has time for his family and kids — and he’s not the only veteran to do so. At Jones International, an online institution accredited by the Denver Higher Learning Commission, 350 of its current students are or have been in the military. Which is approximately 20 percent of the total number of students.

The accessibility of online learning seems to make it very popular, as students can study at work, at home, or even when they are abroad. Evan Moreno also shows how more than 710,000 online and traditional courses were taken by former or current military personnel in 2007. Others estimate that upwards of 10 percent of American students take online courses.

Newland admits that an online education seemed a long way off, given his limited background in computers. But there were other hurdles to overcome as well, including short-term memory loss and the onset of dyslexic symptoms such as seeing words backwards.

But aside from the accessibility of e-learning, especially compared to traditional classrooms, the flexibility of earning an online degree appears to be most important to Newland. The Associated Press describes how Newland, “Being able to write research papers on renewables and space exploration while working allows him to spend more time with his family.” It seems that Newland – in the USA at least – has become a great example of how online education can really work, and if it continues to make headlines, there is no doubt that it will influence many more after it.

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