Before we consider the particular manner of instruction used in our classes, it would be wise to consider what is necessary to acquire a good education, whether secular or spiritual. The process entailed in obtaining a good education is articulated nicely by Sir Francis Bacon when he wrote, “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Thus, there are three components to a good education - reading, conference, i.e. discussion, and writing.
Someone may ask the question, “How does one employ all three of these components in an online setting?” An online class may conjure up images of a professor speaking to students by means of Skype or some other form real-time audiovisual communication. This may be the way some online classes work. In the case of our classes, instruction will be asynchronous. That is, there will not be a common time that the students and the instructor speak online as a class. This may strike someone as a deficit. Yet, if one recognizes that the students, generally speaking, will be in different time zones and with different schedules, it becomes clear why the instruction should take place in an asynchronous fashion.
How do we conduct these classes?
All classes in the program are conducted using Populi, a course management system that allows students to access course notes, supplemental reading, and an online forum. Instructors will post course notes regularly. These notes will take the place of lectures. This is especially convenient for someone who works and/or has a family. The specific times of a traditional class might prevent a working adult from pursuing a degree. With our approach, students will be able to download and read the lecture notes at their convenience.
We immediately recognize a potential difficulty here - the lack of class discussion. This need is met by the online forum. Instructors will regularly post prompts for discussion in the forum. Students will then be expected to address the prompt in the forum using knowledge obtained through reading the course textbooks and the instructor’s notes. This will allow for interaction both between the instructor and the student as well as between the students themselves.
How will students be assessed?
Student assessment is key to progress in learning. Though few of us think warm, fuzzy thoughts about tests, essays, and other forms of assessment, they are essential for serious learning. The primary forms of assessment used in our courses will be essays and written examinations. In the case of essays, at various points throughout a given semester, instructors will post essay questions for the students to complete by a given due date. The students will then answer the given essay question and send the instructor their essay via email as a WORD attachment. The instructor will grade the essay, providing comments and a grade for the student via email. Should the student wish to discuss the instructor’s comments, instructors will be available for regularly scheduled office hours, either by telephone or Skype.
At the end of each semester, a final exam will be given. The procedure for completing the final exam will be as follows. Prior to final exams week, students will find a local clergyman or certified teacher to proctor the student’s exam in person. Exams will be sent out to the proctors so that they will arrive in time for the beginning of the final exam period. The student and local proctor will then set up a mutually convenient time for the exam to be administered during the week of final exams. Upon the student’s completion of the exam, the proctor will return the exam to the instructor by means of regular mail or fax machine, along with a signed document that the exam was properly administered. The exam will then be graded by the instructor and returned to the student with comments via regular mail or fax machine.
We hope that the reader finds this helpful. If you should have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our staff.