Measuring up: MCI carries Lejeune's legacy into the digital age

30 Dec 2011 | Cpl. Austin Hazard

Founded by Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, commanding general of Marine Corps Bases Quantico, Va., in 1920, the Marine Corps Institute provided vocational education for the Marine Corps, later transitioning to military education by correspondence. Today, the institute uses a revamped system where students can enroll in, study for, and take tests for courses online.

Originally at Quantico, the institute moved to Marine Barracks Washington near the end of 1920, where it evolved over the years into what it is today.

MCI started out by providing job training and skills for the civilian world, according to its website. The school’s first graduate was Lance Cpl. Walter C. Irving, who took a livestock course.

It was in 1926 that Lejeune, then the commandant of the Marine Corps, began transitioning MCI to by-mail military courses. The institute removed its vocational courses in 1953, switching solely to military education. At this time, the school also dropped its old materials and curriculum, created by the International Correspondence Schools, and began to create its own.

The institute retains its own resident experts, who write the study materials and exams Marines will use. These experts often travel to different posts in the Corps to confirm and gather information. With its own facilities and equipment, MCI is also capable of printing its own study books and test books, though it sometimes contracts its printing out to other companies.

The institute relocated to the Washington Navy Yard in 1967, moving a couple more times around the shipyard before finding its current home in 1993.

According to the institute’s website, the online transition began in 1999, when MCI accepted its first online enrollment. After the anthrax postal scare following 9/11, MCI furthered its transition to avoid the delay experienced with governmental postage. The institute completed the shift in 2005, offering study materials and exams over the Internet.

Now, testing by correspondence is only offered to reservists and Marines in special cases who cannot test online, effectively slashing the institute’s environmental footprint and expenses. Based on the exams and materials MCI would have printed to cover the Corps’ online examinations since 2005, approximately 13,000 trees have been spared.