Sunday, October 11, 2009

What Colleges and Seminaries will survive?

I was talking to a seminary student on Friday who chose Wesley Seminary @IWU because of the online option. The competition was another seminary in the region that has no online programs. The President of the seminary has pretty much refused to look into it. I know of other colleges who are only now thinking about online. Some aren't interested in the name of principle.

I strongly support small, quality programs. Hittite studies? Why not--even if you only have 2 students. But you had better have a whole lot of other programs that are making money. You can have any degree of quality with sufficient quantity, but you'll close if your priorities are some idea of quality with or without sufficient quantity. And thus I administer last rites to all those stubborn traditional faculties out there who would rather go down with the ship than take a lower rank among the crew. They're like that guy in Dr. Strangelove who proudly waves his cowboy hat as he rides a nuclear bomb down to the ground, about to start the annhiliation of the earth.

IWU would be struggling financially right there with all the other traditional colleges if it did not have online and extension programs. They say you don't close because of decisions you make today but because of decisions you made 7 years ago. It may already be too late, but my advice to other colleges and seminaries is to get into distance education right now if you're not into it. Otherwise, you may be signing your death warrant before the next decade is over. Don't make me a prophet.

P.S. I strongly disagree with the idea that you cannot learn as much in an online course as in an onsite one. I would strongly contend that the average learning of a well designed class online is greater than the average learning of most onsite classes.

Professors think they cover more content, but they only think this because they are transmitting more--standing up in front of the class enjoying themselves talk, usually. The students, on average, are not receiving more. The professor thinks the two or three students that engage them are representative? Not so. The rest are on Facebook.

A well designed online class, because all the students have to participate, not just only the two or three who will remember even having the professor, will end up with a greater average learning than the vast majority of onsite classes. Babbling doesn't equal learning.


David said...

I keep looking for an online graduate program in Biblical Studies (non-confessional), but haven't found one. For people with established professional lives, online education is the only reasonable alternative. So why aren't there any such programs in Religious Studies? Surely there are enough underemployed PhDs who could benefit from having an audience!

Ken Schenck said...

I have a proposal in the works, one I would love to see implemented even next year, but I have many ideas and it remains to be seen what is prudent.

In my proposal, there would be a weekly Biblical Studies Seminar in which MA in Biblical Studies students would meet together both onsite and via video or other conferencing. Depending on the number of students and their particular degree plan, these seminars would either be on a common topic or would be times for students (and/or professors) to present papers in relation to what they are working on individually.

It would be a 48 hour MA with about six possible concentrations (OT, Archaeology and the ANE, Biblical Languages, NT, Greco-Roman World, Early Judaism), each of which would require certain basic competencies. On admission you would formulate a degree plan with a specific advisor and then go to town in 8 week increments of 3 hr courses until done, with a 6 hr thesis as the culmination.

It looks like we have enough interest in one of these dual onsite/online courses in "Greek for Pastors" to have an 8 week class starting in May, probably to meet onsite in Indianapolis one evening a week for 8 weeks. The online students would submit individual work and do group work in Blackboard online, then meet via Adobe Connect for an hour or so for Q & A. Lectures would be vidcast ahead of time.

It can be done and it can be done well, I believe...

David said...

I have been looking at this too, but working a full-time job in another field gets in the way. I am also interested in developing collaborative research tools, such as wikis, to integrate with the online courses.

Looks like you are farther along.

Regards, David