Corps consolidates distance learning tools amid budget cuts

Whether you need to take Spelling for Marines or Infantry Patrolling, the window for enrolling on the Marine Corps Institute online portal is rapidly closing.

The Marine Corps is are closing down its their MCI distance learning program, officials said, in an effort to save money and reduce redundancies, according to officials. Troops have until Wednesday to enroll through MCI; after that, the institute's 60 most popular courses will be available through MarineNetARINENET, overseen by the Marine Corps University College of Distance Education and Training.

The transition is designed to be as seamless as possible for Marines taking the courses, said Lt. Col. Brian Taylor, commanding officer of MCI Company at Marine Barracks Washington.

"With budget cuts coming around, our program was rolled into the budget review last year, and we had to look at different courses of action where we wanted to go," Taylor said. "Looking at that, cutting the budget, it really was the right thing to do."

Neither Taylor nor a spokeswoman for 8th and I immediately had information on how much money the transition was expected to save.

For Marines pursuing distance education, the most important date to remember is July 31, which is the deadline to complete and submit final exams for courses begun in MCI, according to a Marine administrative message. Those who don't complete by the deadline will be unenrolled from their courses and required to re-enroll on MarineNetARINENET, the message said.

As far as the process of taking the courses, Taylor said Marines will see little change as they begin to use MarineNet.

"Every effort has been made to make the transition as transparent to Marines as possible," he said.

Marines will notice one difference in the new system: the trademark red course books that have become synonymous with MCI. These are another casualty of budget cuts, Taylor said, and will be replaced by downloadable PDFs containing all course material.

"[The books are] something we always provided, and I'm sure they'll still be out there even after we're gone," Taylor said. "It's kind of a bittersweet thing."

The MCI distance learning program will go offline completely Sept. 1, according to the MARADMIN. All Marines should check to ensure their transcripts are accurate and valid before that deadline, the message said.

While a few courses – he could not immediately name which ones – will not transfer over from MCI, Taylor said this was part of normal maintenance of the distance learning program. Any course discontinuations, he said, are due to lack of popularity.

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