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Southwestern utilizing Internet for pilot Greek, German courses

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The language that linked much of the first-century world has met the technology that links much of the world today. The results: an invaluable service to ministers pursuing a theological education.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary now offers New Testament Greek on-line to help students off campus obtain training in courses needed for master’s and doctoral degrees. Theological German also is being offered. Both courses began in the fall of last year.
Still in an experimental stage, the Greek and German on-line courses are working well so far, according to Scotty Gray, Southwestern’s vice president for academic administration and on-line German instructor.
The New Testament Greek course is a “hybrid” master’s-level course offered to students at the seminary’s San Antonio, Texas, campus. The students in the class meet on campus for one and a half hours each week and then receive one hour’s worth of work over the Internet. They take quizzes in class but receive their exams via the Internet.
“It’s given us a chance to have the best of both worlds,” said course instructor Doug Diehl.
Some off-campus students needed extra time to take other courses that their schedules did not permit and often had to take two or three exams on one day, Diehl said. The “hybrid” class addressed both problems to the benefit of the students.
“The students have been doing just as well as they would in a regular class,” Diehl said.
The German course began as a supplement to the doctoral-level German courses offered at the seminary. This semester, four full-time pastors from New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida are taking the course to fulfill part of their doctoral requirements.
Students in the courses are able to access the syllabus and assignments via the Internet. They can also access translations of German texts, group discussions on how the texts are translated and exams. Students answer tests and quizzes on the computer and send them back to Gray via e-mail for privacy.
Gray, who teaches beginning and intermediate theological German and beginning music-related German, said he asks the students to work at least nine hours a week to keep up with assignments.
And while the Internet is proving itself useful in education, Gray knows its limits.
“I wouldn’t want to offer a full degree this way,” he said, noting that part of the experience of preparing for the ministry is to build relational skills that can only be developed face-to-face.
“The on-campus experience,” he said, “is still important.”
The students who are taking Internet German course this semester met at Southwestern’s main campus in Fort Worth for a week before the course began to get to know their professor and one another.
Gray observed that New Testament Greek and theological German courses, which teach students to read the language for research, are better suited for the Internet than conversational German courses would be.
While making education more accessible, Internet courses have not made it any easier for the professor. In fact, Gray has found the task to be labor-, time- and money-intensive.
One student said Gray’s German class has helped him serve in his current pastorate one more year before beginning doctoral seminar work on campus.
Steve Patton of Graceville, Fla., said the class has been “a little difficult” but has helped him “tremendously.”
He said that being in a classroom makes for quicker response time in getting answers to problems with translation. But, he added, Gray keeps him updated and overall he has not had many problems keeping current on the course work.
Among the ways Patton keeps in touch with Gray and his fellow students are discussions about the translations that are posted on-line.
Patton said that despite that fact the lessons are being conducted over so great a distance, nearly 800 miles in his case, the students are keeping up with their on-campus colleagues “We’re on a par grade-wise and in translations with the rest of the students. I didn’t know how well we would do,” he said.
For the Florida pastor, this is a new way of going to class.
“I’ve never done anything like this,” he said. “It’s fun, and it’s a learning experience in more ways than one.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey