11 September 2007

Free, online theological education

Check this out: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has launched a free, online learning program where you can take courses they’ve put up. As they note:

“You may wish to use the materials as a source of your own personal spiritual growth and enrichment. You may also wish to study the materials as a group. The series is especially designed as a leadership tool for churches. What more important areas of study are there for growing and deepening your congregation in the faith? We encourage pastors, especially, to use the series with the formal and informal leadership of your congregation.”

The program is called Dimensions of Faith, and can lead to a certificate. But beyond that, imagine the possibilities for adult learning. Another example can be found in the Biblical Training website.

Once again, it would appear that the evangelical world is far ahead of the mainline church movement, when it comes to making something accessible via digital tools. The only example I can think of from the “mainline” world, is the Disseminary, which was launched a number of years ago, but hasn’t quite gathered the same kind of interest as these other sites. Why is that? Are those of us who teach in mainline seminaries just too comfortable with our well-worn paths to take these kinds of risks? Are mainline church folk too “turned off” by the relatively linear form of much seminary education to even pay attention to what we might be doing? Is it that we can’t figure out how to do this without committing funds to it, and we’re reluctant to do that? What is this about?

I do know that I have colleagues who care passionately about access. Mary Hinkle Shore, who has built the fabulous “Into the New Testament” website. Dick Nysse, who’s kept all of his course materials online in the open for years. But these are scattered efforts by innovators, not a sustained, collective, FREE, process.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 at 3:15 pm. You can follow any responses to this entry through this RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Comments to “Free, online theological education”

  • nichthus says:

    Hi Mary,

    Very encouraging to see this happen. My only bone is that what is being offered here probably has more to do with content availability than interactive education through the institution… yet the accessibility is to be lauded!

    One further thought. My theory on the lack of attention given to ‘Disseminary’ lies with the lessons we have learned from the Dot Com bubble; the Web is a great extension for an existing brand or institution, but a really hard place for a new operation to break in. Existing theological Colleges will always have an edge in the online world because their reputations are already established (note also Western Governors’ and the UKeU’s experience).

    Best from Down Under,


  • hessma says:

    Hi Mark,

    What an excellent point to make — that the Web is a great extension for an existing institution, but a hard place for a new operation to break into. My hunch about that has to do with networks — which ones exist already, and which ones could be built.

    But anyway, you’re also right to note that content availability is likely a key at GC, rather than interactive education — but that is always an issue even with “typical” classes that aren’t online. And my hunch is that GC is doing this because they’ve got organic connections to communities who have said they want this. So at least, in whatever small ways, they’re listening.

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