For a quarter of a century, Dallas Colleges Online has helped Sailors and Marines continue their education while in service for the United States military.
The Navy College Program for Afloat College Education (NCPACE) gives Sailors the opportunity to continue their college education while at sea. Each year, Dallas Colleges Online and Eastfield College provide Sailors and Marines with technology-based courses on submarines and surface ships worldwide.
Dallas Colleges Online currently offers 11 courses through the program.
At the LeCroy Center, Evelyn Wong helps coordinate the program for the DCCCD.
“I keep track of all the registrations coming in, all the forms that come in, the exams and I’m also in charge of coordinating the material for the Navy students,” she said. “Most of the time, the students are able to request their transcripts on their own, but sometimes they can’t and they’ll contact me and I can help them with that.”
Melissa Wiens, the NCPACE Distance Learning Coordinator at Coastline Community College, has worked with Navy since 1993. Wiens said it’s her job to make sure everything with the program runs smoothly.
"Central Texas College (CTC) is the primary contractor for both the instructor-led program and the distance learning program," Wiens said.
“[CTC is] contracted with Coastline Community College to run all the distance learning side of it, so my job as the coordinator is basically to coordinate with all of the institutions, which includes Dallas,” she said. “Central Texas College has site people out at all of the main bases, per our contract. So we have folks out in San Diego, in Yokosuka, Japan, in Pearl Harbor, all around different sites.”
In addition to the site people, Wiens works with 10 colleges and Navy officials.
After leasing telecourses to George Washington University in the mid-1980s, the DCCCD began offering its own college credits through NCPACE, which is coordinated with Eastfield.
“You have to meet [some] certain criteria, which is mostly deployed command, so if they’re on a ship, they can take a class and the Navy pays for 100% of the tuition,” Wiens said.
The distance learning courses are self-paced. The courses use CD-ROMs because of difficulty getting Internet access for some of the Sailors.
“The educational piece is a small portion, so they don’t get allotted a lot of bandwidth a lot of the time because it’s put more to the focus of their mission,” Wiens said. “And then we have some Marines who don’t have any contact when they deploy. So we’ve made our courses self-contained.”
Despite that, Wiens said the program has evolved a lot since she came aboard in 1993.
“When I first started with the program, we only offered about 20 to 25 courses between all of the schools,” Wiens said. “It was mostly all lower-level courses and now we have associate level courses, bachelor level courses and even graduate level courses. We went from having a very small offering to a large size course catalog.”