Sometimes, taking an online course means nothing more than staying in the comfort of one’s home.
For an American civilian contractor stationed at a forward combat location in Afghanistan, taking UC San Diego Extension's online course “Systems Verification and Validation,” taught by Don Greenlee, proved to be a life-saving experience.
The student, who prefers to remain anonymous, recently wrote Greenlee to tell his tale.
Line of Fire: One of instructor Don Greenlee’s students (at right), shown when he was assigned to a combat zone in Afghanistan.
While working on his class project — a hydrogen-power motorcycle — the fellow conferred about the project with a buddy who was a former General Motors test engineer.
They met on-base, but away from his dorm. Around 2 am, a rocket blast occurred near his quarters. When the contractor returned home, he saw the explosion had strewn shrapnel through the side wall of his room.
Luckily, no one was injured.
“You may not realize this,” he emailed Greenlee, “but I have been completing this course from Afghanistan, which has been no small feat in itself. Since this all happened around 2am, I would have been asleep in my bed if it wasn’t for that damned project…The best thing about this class is that it actually saved my life!”
Greenlee, who has taught similar courses at Extension since 1999, said the email was “the most dramatic response I’ve ever had from any student.”
He gave the student an A+, based on “performance, not sympathy.”
A former deputy assistant secretary of defense, Greenlee said he now uses the email as a tongue-in-cheek learning tool: “I want them to know that it’s possible to be successful in my class under the most extreme conditions, even faced with life-threatening danger in Afghanistan.”