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Seminary Extension reports successful academic reviews

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Seminary Extension has passed its on-site course evaluation by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service, according to a report by Bill Vinson, director of the Southern Baptist entity based in Nashville, Tenn.

The American Council on Education reviews courses from non-traditional institutions and recommends credit equivalency for transfer to traditional institutions.

Seminary Extension also received approval for a new paradigm for distinguishing three- and two-hour courses. Seminary Extension’s academic council, which is composed of the deans of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, wrote a letter to the ACE team in support of the new paradigm. The ACE team adopted the paradigm and awarded credit recommendations accordingly. Thus, Seminary Extension now has 52 ACE courses of which 23 are recommended for three semester hours of credit and 29 recommended for two semester hours of credit.

The four-member ACE evaluation team was composed of professors from David Lipscomb College in Nashville; Notre Dame Graduate School in Alexandria, Va.; Clarion University of Pennsylvania in Clarion; and Rosemont College in Philadelphia.

The news from ACE in July follows Seminary Extension’s re-accreditation without condition by the Distance Education and Training Council in January. DETC is one of the few national accreditation bodies accredited by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education, the same accrediting bodies which approve the regional accrediting agencies which accredit the SBC seminaries. Seminary Extension does not grant degrees, but it holds the highest level of accreditation that such an institution can have.

When Vinson was selected by the Council of Seminary Presidents as Seminary Extension’s director in August 2001, it was with a goal of modernizing the entity by digitizing its courses for multi-media delivery and to make it self-supporting.

Vinson was recruited from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas where he directed the undergraduate and lay theological studies department. While at SWBTS, Vinson also pioneered the seminary’s first Internet courses. Before the seminary purchased its Blackboard program, Vinson ran his first courses via e-mail, and he continues to teach online courses for SWBTS.

Seminary Extension is close to the goal of becoming self-supporting after only three years, Vinson said, noting that expenses have been significantly reduced and revenues are growing. The new media of Internet courses and CD courses are gaining momentum, with Vinson hoping to achieve increased revenue via increased student counts rather than via increased tuition.

“There are 16 million Southern Baptists to be equipped for ministry, and we only have a handful of colleges and seminaries to do the equipping,” Vinson said. “Thus distance education, low tuition and quality courses are the only feasible ways to reach such a large and dispersed group, not to mention Christians of other denominations and countries.”

Vinson noted that Seminary Extension has implemented a Certificate in Lay Ministry Training in “striving for excellence in equipping the laity for ministry.” This certificate provides a five-course core of Bible and theology instruction and a two-course specialized track for a specific lay ministry. Specific ministries include Sunday School, Deacon, Nursing Home, Child Care, Social Work, Chaplaincy and Evangelism.

In addition to its Internet and CD initiatives, Seminary Extension offers courses by self-directed study (correspondence) and in approved classrooms in locations throughout the world. The entity can be contacted at 1-800-229-4612; [email protected]; or 901 Commerce St., Nashville, TN 37203.

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