NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When it comes to long-distance learning, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is “virtually” doing it.
Beginning as a pilot program this spring, the seminary will offer a “virtual classroom” — three courses on the Internet, two undergraduate and one graduate.
Also, the seminary will provide live streaming video of its Tuesday-through-Thursday 10 a.m. chapel services through the Internet.
The courses were developed in accordance with a November 1999 meeting in which the presidents of the six Southern Baptist seminaries adopted “The Point Clear Accord,” which acknowledged their consent to develop Internet-based courses for students restricted by geography. According to NOBTS President Chuck Kelley, several of the other seminaries also have begun their process of developing Internet courses.
“Literally, classes are now made more available to Christian leaders all over the world,” said NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke about the Internet classes, which are designed for extension center students and non-credit students who want to brush up their skills in ministry.
“Our aim is to make quality theological education accessible to anyone in God’s service regardless of their location — not only ministers, but also lay church leaders,” Lemke said.
“Our commitment is to provide theological education via the Internet that is comparable in quality to our on-campus classes,” he said. “The difference will not be in quality but in the delivery of the classes.”
As an alternative to regular extension classes that rotate on periodic cycles, “the Internet provides the freedom to work according to the student’s schedule, rather than the seminary’s,” Lemke added. In the rotational system, students may miss course work necessary toward their degrees.
The requirements for the courses will remain the same, said Tim Searcy, professor of the graduate Internet course, Philosophical Foundations. By his course design, students will still interact with each other via the Internet, albeit through threaded discussions, a series of messages that have been posted as replies to each other.
Like regular classes, Searcy’s exams will be timed, papers will be turned in (as attachments to e-mails) and grades will be posted. Tests are designed in such a way that students are free to use their notes, but they will not be able to exit the test to look up answers on the Internet. Other instructors use essay questions to test students.
The undergraduate classes are Elementary Greek taught by Thomas Strong and Integrating Academics and Ministry, a course requirement for baccalaureate and associate level students, taught by Jerry Barlow. The Philosophical Foundations graduate course is a requirement for all master of arts in Christian education and master in divinity in Christian education students.
NOBTS has entered into a business relationship with eCollege.com which will provide the technical framework and services for the courses. Registration is handled through an on-line application via the seminary’s website, www.nobts.edu/internetcourses.htm. Once approved, applicants will be given an enrollment code that will enable them to access the individually designed web classes.
Although the on-line classes officially began on Jan. 18, the registration deadline for on-line courses for the spring 2000 semester is Friday, Feb. 11.
Those students interested in pursuing degrees will be charged a graduate tuition rate of $125 per credit hour plus a $50 technology fee per credit hour or an undergraduate tuition rate of $90 per credit hour plus a $50 technology fee per credit hour for the class. Non-credit students will pay $75 per credit hour plus the $50 technology fee per credit hour.
On-campus students are not allowed to take the Internet courses unless they are already taking at least 12 hours or have received approval from the provost in cases in which students need a particular course for graduation.
The seminary plans to develop other Internet courses. Currently seven other professors are working on Internet courses for the coming fall semester, including several certificate courses. Eventually whole certificate programs will be available on-line.
Some courses naturally lend themselves to on-line learning, Lemke said. “Certainly, interpersonal skills would not be a good candidate for an Internet course,” he remarked.
The Internet courses supplement NOBTS’ effort of reinventing seminary by providing theological education through extension locations and other ways so that a greater number of church leaders can be trained. The seminary currently operates 16 extension centers throughout the Southeast.