The Army plans to nearly double the size of an e-learning program that provides free online degree courses to soldiers around the world, the program's officials announced recently. EArmyU.com, an online portal that connects soldiers to degree programs at universities across the country, enrolled 12,000 students in its first year of operation, according to Barbara Lombardo, eArmyU.com coordinator for PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is managing the program for the Army. The Army plans to enroll another 10,000 students by the end of fiscal 2002. Under the program, soldiers enroll in degree programs with universities and certificate programs that offer courses online through eArmyU.com. The Army then provides soldiers with free laptops, Internet connections and printers so they can complete their coursework. The program is in part a recruiting tool, aimed at potential soldiers who don't want to have to choose between enlisting in the Army and completing their college degrees. It's also a retention tool, since soldiers have to remain in the Army at least three years beyond their initial enrollment in the program. In its first year, eArmyU was open to soldiers at Fort Benning, Ga., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas. Soldiers who are relocated can continue in the program. Soldiers are now logging on to eArmyU courses from throughout the United States and 15 other countries. Some soldiers who were deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom had to withdraw from the program. This year, the program is expanding to Fort Carson, Colo., and Fort Lewis, Wash., Army officials said. Eventually, officials hope to offer eArmyU enrollment to soldiers at every installation in the Army. The eArmyU program is one of the largest employer-sponsored e-learning projects to date. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization based in New York that funds studies of new education techniques, maintains a panel of education experts to monitor the program.
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