"Many veterans are coming back with transition issues, whether it comes from traumatic brain injury or PTSD," says Ball State's Hannaford. "Those cause problems in the classroom and make you feel uncomfortable."
Hannaford says he's worked with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who face a range of challenges. Some, recalling explosions, refuse to sit in classrooms with or without windows. He says one of his students ran out of a class when the government tested tornado sirens because they reminded him of Scud missiles.
Despite the various benefits of online degree programs, veterans and service members should also be aware of their potential drawbacks.
Some veterans, for example, say they learn better when they have face-to-face interaction with peers and instructors. Others want the camaraderie and networking that come with student veterans groups.
[Learn about efforts to help veterans choose the right college.]
Some online programs, such as Excelsior, do have discussion groups and mentor programs for current and former service members seeking advice and assistance – but those tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
Finally, an online degree program might not be a wise choice for a veteran who doesn't have strong time management skills.
Online courses tend to be more work than traditional courses, experts say, and students need to be motivated and capable of developing their own work schedules. That could be challenging for some veterans used to the military's regimented approach.
"Everything in the military is very structured," says Barth, the Navy veteran enrolled at Excelsior College. "This is just 'you're on your own.'"
Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.