Only five more days until the seminary races start again in earnestness!

During the fall semester, I will be taking Hermeneutics (NBST652) and Ministry of Teaching (DSMN601). I am now finished with eight courses (or 24 credits) or more than half-way there! After this semester, I am within five four (just recalculated!) courses of reaching my goal of the moment: my MAR, or Master of Arts in Religion with a concentration in biblical studies.

I actually have a week between the end of the summer semester, which featured a two-week overlap of classes (that was seriously gross!) and the beginning of the fall semester, but in all reality, I am already working.

First part: write introductions on the discussion boards. Mercifully, both of my professors have asked their students to introduce themselves before the course starts. What a nice change from the last course, which I described in another post. This truly builds a feeling of community, something that is urgently needed when most of the students in the course are nowhere near the physical location of our university.

Today, I ran across a rather cool Youtube video that describes the impact of social media on the world around us. One interesting factoid is that online education is a very valid and effective way of educating:

Online education is here to stay!

Online education is here to stay!

Having now experienced a variety of teaching methods and styles, I personally believe there is good and bad online education. While some of my courses required me to spend a lot of time watching DVDs while also having to complete substantial reading assignments plus the typical discussion board activity, I walked away feeling plugged into my course and as if I was a true university grad student. Other courses had no DVDs to watch, but through the very extensive interaction provided through thought-provoking questions and a heavily involved professor on the discussion boards these were also made into excellent and enjoyable education experiences.

On the flip side, I have had some not so enjoyable courses. Most of this was caused by the lack of interaction provided. All of a sudden, I felt like I was just reading books, doing my mandatory exams and writing a boring paper with extremely limited interaction with my professor. The worst offense is then getting back a paper that lacks any kind of meaningful feedback. As a result, the feeling is one of being disconnected and alone. Grad school should still offer a sense of belonging, even when it occurs in a distance learning setting – at least in my relational thinking. It is possible to achieve this through some of the means described above. But this takes a lot of effort and hands-on participation by the professor. Some are willing to do this and seem to also enjoy doing this – others aren’t. Seems to me all professors should fall into the first category – or go find another job!

I am happy to say that some of my professors have not only provided outstanding support, but also have truly expanded my thinking and taking me down roads I would have never traveled without their gentle guidance. For that I am grateful and because of this expectation in the coming semester, I am very excited about my next two courses. It looks like I picked two “winner professors” in the good sense of the term. Both have written great introductions to the course and pointed out to their students what their expectations are, but also what we can expect out of them. Discussion boards are already brimming with introductions, and it is obvious that excitement is brewing among the students in my courses as we draw closer to the starting pistol shot on Monday. When both students and professors look forward to engaging with each other, that’s when the above statistic resounds soundly with all involved.