Soldiers take e-university by storm

More than 600 soldiers enrolled in the Army's multimillion-dollar online educational program during the first week, and some even camped out overnight to be first in line to get equipment.

The program is designed to enable soldiers to continue their education online no matter where they deploy. Army University Access Online eventually will be available at all Army installations and deployment locations and to officers, reserve forces and family members.

The Army kicked off the effort Jan. 15 at three locations: Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; and Fort Hood, Texas. Those posts were chosen because much of the needed infrastructure is in place and the bases have large numbers of "permanent station" soldiers, as opposed to trainees or others on temporary duty.

The effort was announced in July. PricewaterhouseCoopers won the five-year, $453 million contract in December.

"The staff at Fort Benning that came in at 4 a.m. were amazed literally to see hundreds of soldiers waiting in line to enroll," said Susie Johnson, online program adviser with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

Participants will be able to work on academic certificates or degrees free of charge. All costs — including tuition, books, lab fees, Internet access, technical assistance, tutoring and mentoring programs — are covered.

Accepted soldiers are issued a laptop computer, a printer, an Internet service provider account and an e-mail account. Then, AUAO staff members help them register for classes via eArmyU.com.

Soldiers are required to complete 12 semester hours during their first two years of enrollment.

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