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GGBTS going on-line with accredited Th.M. degree

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is accepting applications for graduate students wanting to participate in “the nation’s first accredited on-line master of theology program,” according to associate academic dean Michael Martin.
Students will participate in a preparatory seminar at the seminary’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus and in two other intensive two-week on-campus seminars, but for the bulk of the year the degree coursework will be conducted over the Internet. Internet technology, Martin said, will allow for “immediate feedback and intensive involvement” between faculty and students.
“We are planning seminars in cyberspace intended to involve participants in an international learning network,” said Martin, who also serves as associate professor of New Testament interpretation.” A combination of elements has been designed to produce a high-quality educational program accessible to nontraditional students.” As the pilot program was being developed, Martin had inquiries from prospective students as far away as South Africa, Europe and east Asia.
Because seminary officials value the “assurance of quality” provided by the accreditation process, the program was developed in consultation with staff officials of the Association of Theological Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, two of the seminary’s accrediting bodies. The result is the only fully accredited on-line master of theology program in North America. Normal standards for admission into the program are required, Martin noted, and the faculty who teach in the regular on-campus program will be the faculty for the on-line version of the degree also.
One of the catalysts behind the move to develop the on-line degree was seminary President William O. Crews. “We simply must use the technology of the information age to enhance learning and to make quality leadership education available to the churches,” Crews said. “I am proud of the way our faculty members have been energized by the challenge to think about providing information access, not simply information proximity.”
The three-year on-line master of theology is distinctive from the residential program, however, in that each of the six core seminars in the on-line program consist of 10-week on-line study segments followed by an intensive summer seminar on the Mill Valley campus. The three intensive two-week summer seminars will bring people together, provide access to research resources and help establish a community of learning.
Additional features include utilization of the seminary’s Internet-based Online Class System, threaded Internet discussions and point-to-point chat. Every effort will be made to maximize peer-to-peer and student-to-professor contact over the Internet.
An advanced research degree beyond the master of divinity degree, the master of theology presumes a high level of knowledge, skills and maturity in students who come together for research into specific areas of study.
The pilot program will use a cohort approach, with only about 15 students admitted to the program who will move through its seminars together. When the pilot program is completed, the Association of Theological Schools will evaluate its effectiveness and make a recommendation about the future shape of the program.
“This is a unique opportunity for individuals who could not normally engage in advanced theological education because of their location or because of time limitations,” Martin said. “The master of theology program is for individuals who have been in ministry for a while and sense a need for continued theological investigation into their own faith and the implications of that faith for their own ministry.”
Golden Gate is receiving applications for the on-line program until Feb. 1, with the initial on-campus orientation seminar scheduled Aug. 3-14. An application may be processed and other necessary forms downloaded on the seminary’s Internet site at www.ggbts.edu.
Martin said the on-line program represents “win-win” type of education allowing students to “remain in their ministries and at the same time engage in an educational program that promotes personal and professional growth.”
In order for students to have a quality experience, Martin said, they need to be computer- and Internet-literate prior to beginning the program. “Students should be able to focus on the course content and not on learning how to use the computer.”
For more information about the pilot program, access the seminary’s Internet site at www.ggbts.edu or call (415)-380-1504.

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  • Cameron Crabtree