NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary announced a new approach to on-campus courses — “hybrid” courses — during the April 15 meeting of the board of trustees.
Hybrid courses combine a limited number of classroom meetings with an enhanced and expanded Internet component. While many regular NOBTS classes already include some Internet components, hybrid courses will utilize the Internet in a different way. Classes will meet once a month on the seminary campus for three hours of classroom lectures and interaction with faculty members; the rest of the instruction and coursework will be accomplished through the Internet.
“The hybrid courses are similar to our current Saturday classes,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. “They have regular periodic meetings on campus, but a significant part of the course is accomplished online between class meetings.”
Saturday classes at NOBTS also meet only four times per semester; however the Saturday courses require more time in the classroom than hybrid courses.
NOBTS will launch the pilot project this fall with four graduate hybrid courses and two undergraduate hybrid courses. The seminary will continue to offer a full slate of traditional classroom courses as well.
Two of the graduate courses will be paired on Wednesday morning and afternoon and another pair of courses will be offered on Fridays. The Friday hybrid classes will be scheduled to meet the same weeks as Saturday courses, offering students the opportunity to attend class on Friday and stay over for class on Saturday. Undergraduate hybrid courses will be offered on Mondays. Leavell College, the seminary’s undergraduate school, does not offer Saturday courses.
Lemke said the hybrid approach offers a number of advantages for NOBTS students — especially commuter students or extension center students trying to earn main campus hours. The plan also makes it easier for students to maintain full-time status. Due to the unique schedule, the hybrid model additionally opens on-campus courses to students who live farther from campus.
“Not only will this hybrid class schedule help students with busy schedules, but the hybrid courses are also less expensive than Internet courses, provide more personal interaction with the faculty member and class, and count toward campus housing and financial aid eligibility,” Lemke said. “A student could meet full-time requirements by taking one or two hybrid courses and one or two Saturday classes or night classes.
“We anticipate that this model would be particularly attractive to commuting students and those who work full-time,” Lemke said. “We believe that hybrid courses are going to be the wave of the future in theological education.”
In the classroom segment of the course, Lemke noted the “face time” with the faculty member and other class members as a strength of the program. Hybrid courses combine much of the flexibility of pure Internet course with the element of community building in the classroom.
Because of the limited amount of on-campus time required, students cannot miss any of the scheduled meetings. If a student is unable to continue with the hybrid course for some reason, the seminary will allow the student to shift to an online-only format to complete the course. However, the shift to an online-only format will cost the student more in tuition, and Internet courses are not counted toward full-time student status for financial aid and housing purposes.
The first slate of hybrid graduate courses includes four basic courses that apply to most of the master’s degree programs at NOBTS, including courses in systematic theology, Old Testament, biblical backgrounds and Baptist heritage. The undergraduate hybrid courses will include a class on Southern Baptist life and introduction to Christian education.
Seminary administrators also revised the seminary’s Internet policy, opening the courses to main campus students. Previously, main campus students were not allowed to take Internet courses. During the 2008-09 academic year, the seminary temporarily suspended the rule. The new policy allows main campus students to take Internet courses over and above the hours required for full-time status (nine hours for graduate students; 12 hours for undergraduates). Courses taken online do not count toward campus housing or financial aid eligibility. Students must meet full-time status through traditional classroom courses or through the new hybrid classes that were created in part to provide a more affordable alternative to Internet classes, with the added enhancement of more personal interaction.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.