UW offers online courses for active-duty soldiers
by Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel
Matt Beilfuss is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this summer, but you won't see him hanging out at the Memorial Union terrace after classes.
Beilfuss isn't in Madison or Wisconsin. He isn't even in the United States.
The Wisconsin National Guard major is stationed in Kosovo working as the deputy operations officer for Multinational Battle Group East, and in what little free time he has, he's taking "International Political Economy."
Beilfuss is part of a group of active military members enrolled this summer in online UW courses in foreign policy and international relations geared to troops. Students are stationed overseas, on an aircraft carrier at sea and at military bases around the country.
Many are repeat students. Beilfuss, 42, of Cedarburg, previously took "History of U.S. Grand Strategy and Problems in American Foreign Policy."
"What has helped most is gaining an understanding why and how the world order we take for granted evolved," Beilfuss said in an email interview.
"Prior to being stationed in Kosovo I had very little knowledge of the Balkans. The coursework at UW provided a framework for understanding how the events of the 20th century impacted a region like the Balkans," said Beilfuss, who has been in Kosovo since November.
Classes begin Monday and last until Aug. 10. Set up in a flexible, online format, audio lectures are made available at a specific time each week along with a short video introduction by the professors. There are assigned readings, online chats and class discussions and virtual office hours for the professors. Assignments and essays are emailed and exams taken online. If bandwidth is a problem - not unusual for troops stationed overseas - all of the videos can be listened to even if students can't get a picture.