In my last post I discussed the three blessings that stem from earning a degree online. Each of those were tied to the practical application of the material in various courses in the context of a community the student has already set roots in. Building from this desire to nurture the student’s practice from what is learned, an online Christian Ministries degree will focus on information transfer as well as application of those principles learned. It is far too easy to assume that what is regurgitated is learned. In fact, we see Paul encouraging his children in the faith to practice what Paul preached and modeled for them (Phil. 4:9).
One of the greatest drawbacks typically highlighted in online education is the lack of physical or personal interaction. After all, we also sees Paul (Rom 1.11; 15.23; 2Tim 1.4). It is surely the case that God has made us souls and bodies. That is, we cannot avoid the fact that we are called to see, hear, and taste that the Lord is good and to live in his community with others. It would be wrong, however, to assume that the technological advancements even over the last five years do not seek to bridge this gap of interpersonal interaction. How many of us have used Skype or FaceTime? What is more, there are stories of students all over the world who are able to meet up at a coffee shop midway between where they live so they can grow and interact.
I remember that when I was dating my (now) wife while serving in Argentina, I longed to have our weekly phone call. While I would have enjoyed seeing her face to face, I am thankful for those months of phone calls of long distance dating. You see, we were able to not get sidetracked with the clothes we had to wear to impress the other. Instead, we were able to focus on deep conversation that opened up the door to knowing each other in an intimate way. I knew her views on any number of topics because we talked with purpose.
So it is in an online education. I have witnessed students interacting in person who seem to already know each other in a profound way because they have had the opportunity to talk directly and specifically about a myriad of topics. It’s also true that the practical nature of our program encourages students to put together teaching tools for Sunday School classes, prepare and critique other students’ preaching, and collaborate on group projects.
While it is good to be in the same room with a classmate, it is also true that technology enables you to be in the classroom in your own time. While you’re at work, others post their thoughts on the Discussion Board. While they are preparing for the Bible Study they will lead with the youth group they have been leading for the last three years, you will be posting your responses. What a gift to live at such a time as this!
Dr. Matt Wireman
Dean of Christian Ministries