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TRUSTEES: NOBTS expanding online

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Two online learning initiatives — a degree completion program and the creation of the center for online theological education -– were announced by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley during an Oct. 10 meeting of NOBTS’ trustees.

“We are passionately committed to making theological education as accessible as possible for God-called Southern Baptists,” Kelley said. “We want to strengthen our [course] offerings through the Internet.”

The degree completion program, administered by Leavell College, the seminary’s undergraduate school, allows students who have completed an associate degree through NOBTS to earn a bachelor of arts in Christian ministry. While much of the completion program can be attained through online studies, a minimum number of on-campus, short-term courses also are required.

“We are excited about the opportunity to help students complete a bachelor of arts through Leavell College while maintaining the balance of making education accessible and guarding the integrity of the degree,” said Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College.

“This process provides the opportunity for many of our students to continue to gain additional tools and encouragement for ministry. We look forward to building on the good foundation that has already been in place,” Strong said.

The program primarily will reach students who cannot come to the main campus due to ministry or other factors, including many who attended NOBTS extension centers.

The seminary also will create a center for online theological education to study, develop and implement additional online learning opportunities. The center will be led by Craig Price, who has been named associate dean for online theological education. Price, who has served as dean of students since 2005, will be charged with developing an online theological education program accessible throughout the world.

“Dr. Kelley’s vision for our online program is to make theological education accessible to anyone in the world who has Internet,” Price said. “We want to make our theological education available in ‘Jerusalem’ as well as the ‘uttermost parts of the world,'” he said, referencing the Bible’s call in Acts 1:8 to local/regional and international missions.

“I am excited and humbled by Dr. Kelley’s confidence in me to take our NOBTS online program to the next level,” Price said. “On a personal level, this transition to the associate dean position will also allow me more time for teaching and writing.”

Seminary Provost Steve Lemke noted that Price excelled in online teaching, including the utilization of innovative applications of technology.

“When many of the seminary’s classes continued in an Internet format during the year of Katrina, Craig Price was one of our most diligent and creative teachers in his online courses,” Lemke said.

In a related move, Kelley announced that Laurie Watts, associate vice president of information technology, has been invited to serve on the seminary’s administrative council. Watts is the first woman to serve on this council which directs the strategic planning and day-to-day operations of the seminary. Watts will advise the council on the growing technological needs of the seminary.

“We’ve made the commitment to be on the cutting of theological education,” Kelley said. “That, in today’s world, involves a high use of educational technology. We feel that it is critical to have our resident expert in technology as a part of our administrative planning process.”

The seminary already offers about 30 hours of undergraduate and graduate online courses each semester. In addition, faculty members are developing several new Internet certificates. Leavell College is developing certificate programs online in biblical studies, Christian education and Christian ministry. Several online graduate certificates also are under development, including apologetics, biblical studies, biblical languages, Christian school teaching, Christian thought, missions strategy and pastoral ministry.

Trustees voted to approve three new teaching sites -– one for certificate training and two of doctoral studies. The Carroll-Montgomery Baptist Association office in Winona, Miss., was approved as a site for the biblical teaching certificate. The Arkansas Baptist State Convention building in Little Rock and Blue Mountain College in Mississippi were approved as doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry teaching sites.

In other action, trustees:

— elected Page Brooks as instructor in theology and Islamic studies.

— voted to name the seminary’s new guest housing building after longtime pastor and NOBTS graduate Jim Henry at the request of the donor who is funding the project. Henry was pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

— voted to change the name of the certificate of excellence to the minister’s wife certificate.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.