I had already ordered my books, and they arrived in time for the start of the class. But what else was expected of me as a student?
As I entered Blackboard anxiously for the first time, I realized I would need to spend a few moments understanding what I was looking at.

There were many areas to click on, but I quickly learned the meat of where I needed to be looking: the Course Content, About Your Course, Discussion Board and My Grades sections. I could neglect the Announcements section as these, as I found out, were sent out to my university e-mail account, so I couldn’t miss them. My Grades would have to wait for another few days.

Under About Your Course, the course have-to-knows were outlined in the syllabus, course chart and grading system. I made sure to print out this information to have on my desk for future reference. This section also explained better what was expected in the Discussion Board (DB) Forum. For this particular class, I would be writing quite a few entries here. It also provided further guidance and help around writing the course’s major paper.

Under Course Content, I found all the information for each week, including instructor’s notes. It also informed me about when which DB entry was due when, when I would have to take a quiz by, etc. I was pretty nervous whether I would do all this right, but you have to start somewhere!

The meat of the course was my reading, which was outlined for me in a reading schedule. In order to drive a continued effort at reading, a student was required to participate in weekly DB discussions. The requirement was to complete two DB entries (i.e. answer two questions) with no less than 400 words each and based on your reading by Thursday night of that week. By Sunday night, you had to also reply meaningful to two other students’ posts in the DB Forum. Here is an example of what the first week’s DB Forum looked  like:

DB Forum 1 (Module 1)

In this forum, post your threads in answer to two of the questions provided below by Thursday at 11:59 pm (ET) and replies to at least two other classmates’ threads by Sunday at 11:59 pm (ET).

  1. Present an overview of the evidence for determining the date of the writing of Acts.  What indicators of historical reliability are found in Acts?  What role does Luke as author play?  Why are the issues of date and author important to a proper interpretation of Acts?
  2. Give the evidence to support Luke as author of Acts.  How could Luke become aware of privileged information such as found in Acts 23:25-30; 25:14-22; 26:30-32?  How important are the “we” passages in Acts to determining authorship?
  3. Provide an overview of Paul’s story of his conversion as found in Acts 9:1-19; 22:3-16; 26:8-9.  Are the differences in these accounts normal variations found when someone retells an important event, or are they clear indicators of a fabrication?  Give evidence for your view.  How can Paul’s story of his conversion be used as a model for Christians today?
  4. Describe in chronological order the various events and locations in Paul’s missionary journeys.  Why did Paul change the focus of his preaching from the Jews to the Gentiles?  What historical evidences are found in the book of Acts that help us give specific dates for Paul’s mission activities?  How did Paul use local culture to relate the gospel to his audience? How can Christians today learn from Paul’s example?

It sounded daunting, but at the same time, I do enjoy writing, so it was also something to look forward to. For now, my first task was to get throught the 150 or so pages of reading for the week! I was wondering how this class interaction might work, but without doing the required work first, I wouldn’t find out. The first week was a bit slow as everybody was trying to test what was expected and get first feedback from the professor. In this course, the feedback came mostly via a grade and some initial brief guiding comments on DB entries. As it turned out, I would get to meet my classmates quite well through their thoughts expressed in their posts. While not seeing them physically, I was able to develop a mental picture for each.  While it was very different from a classroom setting, I realized along the way that my learning was quite extensive, especially as I contrasted what I had learned to that my fellow students added to the discussion. I realized that it wasn’t so much a contrast, but rather a complementary picture that was coming together.