Higher education has a long-standing relationship with veterans. Under the auspices of federal funding such as the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Act and the 1944 GI Bill, scores of veterans and active duty personnel have used their educational benefits to earn a college degree. In the 21st century, the 2009 enhancements to the post-9/11 GI Bill amounted to $53 billion in education benefits for servicemembers and their families. In addition, the military is increasing its education plan for servicemembers to include more frequent and more specialized training since the demands of 21 st century warfare requires agile tactical teams to be able to act independently from large troop mobilizations or command centers. Both higher education and the military are increasingly gravitating toward online learning. Therefore, Gulf War II-era student veterans—individuals who served after 9/11—are more likely than any previous student veteran cohort to have undergone extensive military education by the time they return to civilian life and pursue college degrees. Although Gulf War II-era student veterans pursue educational opportunities as much or more than earlier cohorts, they also struggle with transitioning to civilian life.
The purpose of this exploratory, qualitative study was to explore the intersection of military education, postsecondary education, online learning, and transitioning in one context. The overarching research question was: What are the lived experiences of student veterans who have engaged in online learning in two capacities: (a) during active duty within the military education system, and (b) after separation within higher education? The study employed Knowles, Holton, and Swanson’s adult learning theory and Schlossberg’s transitioning theory. The study used a phenomenological approach to examine the lived experiences of Gulf War II-era student veterans who have engaged in online learning while on active duty and after separation. A purposeful sample of 16 student veterans was used, and open-ended interviews were conducted to answer the research questions. Using the Modified Van Kaam method of data analysis proposed by Moustakas (1994), the interview data yielded 14 emergent themes.
The study revealed that participants had different experiences with online learning during their active duty service than they did as civilian student veterans in public colleges and universities. Participants found that the military education system’s online courses were repetitive, but they had clear objectives and structures. Failing online military courses was nearly unheard of and could lead to direct reprisal or loss of life. As civilians, many found online learning to be overwhelming and alienating. College online courses were of better quality but were easier to fail. Participants also reported that online learning was not a direct part of their transitioning experience, but their prior experience with it had provided them basic technological literacy that was useful. The research findings were reflective of transitioning theory but did not fully support adult learning theory. The findings suggest that a deep-rooted military persona or identity is probably developed by active duty military personnel and that such an identity is likely related to a military-specific learning style that does not align to traditional andragogy within higher education (e.g. group versus individual learning). The findings also posit that a new theory should be developed that centers on military learners, their styles and their unique system of postsecondary education.
|Advisor:||McCrink, Carmen L., Whitford, Heidi|
|School Location:||United States -- Florida|
|Source:||DAI-A 79/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Educational technology, Higher education, Military studies|
|Keywords:||Afghanistan War veterans, Higher education, Iraq War veterans, Military education, Online learning, Student veterans|
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