Distance Learning vs. In Class Resident Learnng

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Rhetorician, Jul 17, 2006.

  1. Rhetorician

    Rhetorician
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    Hey Gang,

    The other thread about the explosion of SBC "satellite campuses" made me think of a new question.

    I would like a debate or just plain old discussion about the pros and cons of Distance Learning vs. In Class Resident Learning.

    I would like to keep the discussion centered on RA and ATS schools. I think it would be unfair and unwise to bring in schools like the "in house" church seminaries. Those have been "whipped like a dead horse!"

    I know what I think but would like to get some of your opinions and then I will react as the thread unfolds.

    Is in-class with the prof better?

    Do you have to have access to a grad school/seminary library?

    And there are dozens of other questions that can be asked.

    As an example: I just this past weekend talked to a young man who wants to do Master's level work. He had done about 40-50 hrs at his denominational school in Ark. which is quite a good school. He shifted and finished at a big name school with one of the premier DL programs and his take was this: it would have been better for him personally to have done the work residentially, in class, and in person with a prof.

    I know there are a lot of variables to the equation but I would still like to hear your comments.

    Letmehear'yaplease!

    sdg!:thumbs:

    rd
     
    #1 Rhetorician, Jul 17, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2006
  2. RandR

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    I took a few off-site classes that utilized live profs who made a weekly journey to the neighboring city. The classroom envirnoment was fine. But there wasn't good access to a theological library. (This was before the seminaries had good library websites.)

    I've had one seminar that met in multiple sites and was "team taught" by two profs from two of the different sites. I gained much more from the session taught by my live prof than those sessions where I watched on CIV. (But it did grow on me some...I just wouldn't want to do a whole degree that way.)

    I've never had to participate in a threaded discussion class, and don't think I would want to. Without the benefit of immediate interaction, facial expressions, voice inflections, etc. I think I would find it to be not that different than reading some academic material and discussing it here. But...I can definitely see how some people would find the idea of getting credit for reading and writing from home to be quite appealing, especially if one's goals were less about learning and more about the attaining of a degree. I know that threaded discussion has become a viable option. It's just not for me.

    And finally, the two SBC seminaries that I attended both have outstanding online library resources. Bound volumes must still be shipped via USPS, but the library staffs are trained to accomodate off-campus students. These days, academic research can be done from home almost as easily as in the library itself. (And the bound volumes are pretty cheap to ship back thanks to "library rate".)

    I still prefer sitting in a real classroom with a live teacher. But I'm convinced that off-campus and distance learning are here to stay, and will only continue to grow as viable options.
     
  3. Martin

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    I have done both on-campus studies (undergraduate degree, some seminary) and online/distance studies (finished seminary). I think both have positive and negative aspects.

    On Campus studies have several obvious strengths...

    1. Teachers are there "in person". This adds a personal aspect to the experience that just cannot be duplicated at a distance.

    2. Fellow students are there "in person" to discuss things with, listen to their questions and the instructors answers (etc).

    However on campus studies also have some huge draw backs...

    1. Commuting to and from campus (sometimes late at night).

    2. Leaving a job, church, and community life in order to move to a new town.

    3. Either working only part-time or working full time and taking forever to finish the courses.

    4. You are 100% on the instructors schedule.

    Online studies have several positives...

    1. No commuting.

    2. Staying in your local church, community, and job.

    3. Do course work when your own schedule permits.

    4. No surprises. You know what is expected of you from day one (on campus teachers can throw surprises...pop quizes).

    However there are some draw backs to online learning...

    1. Teachers are not there "in person". The instructor is contacted via a webboard and/or email. This subtracts from the personal aspect of the experience.

    2. Fellow students are not there "in person" either. Like the instructor they can only be communicated with via email and/or webboard. Sometimes, but seldom, you can talk to fellow student via telephone.

    3. Online/distance learning is self-paced. Therefore if a person is not a self starter they are likely to fall behind.

    So which would I prefer?

    I would always prefer on-campus but I will never limit myself to that option. My view is that a person should do what they need to in order to get their education. If that means online/distance, then that is what it means. Of course all such programs, religious in nature or not, should be fully accredited.
     
  4. pinoybaptist

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    I think most of these distance learning websites have some questionnaires that will help you determine which one is good for you.

    Personally, I will go for Distance Learning, provided the school is accredited. Regionally, at least.
     
  5. Paul33

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    I teach distance learning courses for CCU. The students have to be better students to survive distance learning. Yes, there is a lot of reading and writing. If you cannot write well and think clearly, you will not do as well as an in-class course that doesn't require three papers and weekly threaded discussions.

    I am thrilled with the comments of the students I teach that are learning and taking responsibility for their educations.

    The drawback of meeting with a student face to face is real.

    If you are a good student and motivated to learn, distance learning can be a viable and effective means of learning. But if you struggle to communicate via the written word, I would encourage you to study in residence.
     
  6. Humblesmith

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    Distance

    I agree with the posts above by Martin and Paul.
    There are plusses and minuses, as they mentioned. But some of it depends on the type of distance learning.
    I am currently about half way through a distance program at seminary. At ours, they video record all the classroom lectures, including student Q&A. Plus the availability of email and telephone. So while it would be better to be with the prof, it's almost like being in the classroom anyway.

    However, having done some classes in person, I can say that there are advantages to being with a prof, and also some disadvantages. Some of our classes are very conceptual and deep (at least for me, anyway) and I find it easier to learn by re-playing the video over and over till I get it.

    Most of the work is writing anyway, so that part doesn't matter if it's in person or not. The biggest thing I miss is that I don't have other students to bounce ideas off of.

    I live in a major city, so finding libraries are no problem.
     
  7. Rhetorician

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    Responses

    Gentlemen,

    I had no idea that this thread would provoke such thoughtful and insightful answers.

    I know for a fact that there are a few young men who are watching the BB for dialogs like this one in order to help them make life changing decisions about what, where, and how they will do their theological training.

    Keep 'em coming!

    sdg!:thumbs:

    rd
     
  8. Dave G.

    Dave G.
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    Some excellent posts. I have taken classes in residence (semester format and intensive), by audiotaped lecture, by videotaped lecture, and through online discussion, at three schools - 1 RA/ATS, 1 RA/TRACS, and one unaccredited but substantial. Let me add the following, starting with what to me is the least of the options.

    Online classes: This option allows students who are not adequately prepared to fall behind fast. The structure is usually minimal, which provides the advanced student the least benefit as well. "Read these books, write a paper, participate in a lowest-common-denominator threaded discussion" doesn't prompt much for the students who have some background already. My subjective feeling after such a class was that I took an extended challenge exam on the material.

    Taped lecture distance learning classes: This is a good option. Being able to hear the full lectures opens up avenues of interest, even for those that have the reading material mastered. It also helps the beginning student, who may benefit from having the material presented in a different way than it is in the texts. It also gives the student a feel for having been a part of the school. Video is better than audio.

    In-person classroom lecture & discussion: This is the best option. Yes, it has drawbacks of logistics, but if possible, it is the route I would always recommend for coursework-based degree programs. It is especially important for seminary. It is possible to learn the material on one's own, or to learn it through a DL mode, but sometimes the important thing is to learn it from the men chosen to teach at that seminary. That formal and informal interaction with godly men is difficult to quantify, but very valuable. This can also be achieved during a non-traditional "intensive" format class within a distance learning program.

    None of the above applies to a thesis/dissertation based program, such as the UK model M.Th./D.Th.
     
  9. SBCPreacher

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    I have done both in-class and distance learning. The in-class situation was much better for me. You can ask questions, discuss with fellow students, etc. The distance learning was taped lectures and reading/research. There was no opportunity to ask questions other than e-mail or possibly phone calls, but the face-to-face interaction would have been better, IMO.

    I do think that distance learning has allowed many more the opportunity pursue a higher level of education that was not as available a few years ago. Many currently in the ministry cannot drop everything and go back to school. That was my situation. So, althougth it may be the best option, at least it IS an option.
     
  10. Rhetorician

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    Another Option!

    To all who have an ear:

    I sent off and received a catalog for the Thomas Edison State College in NJ. They have several DL master's degrees. My wife was a little interested.

    Any way, as I was looking for the program on line I found a young man who had done challenge exams, life experiences, portfolio classes by class work experiences, work certifications, et al, etc.

    An example might be: if you have certification in CPR, then find it in college catalog, do the portfolio deal, then get college credit @ TESC.

    He claims around 100 hrs via the different methods of "portfolio presentations." This sounds incredible but claims it can be done. TESC is one of the foremost at this type of deal and is "RA all the way." The reason for TESC's existence is that Edison did all that he did w/out college. The philosophy is that you should get real life academic credit for what you have already learned.

    It would not be easy, but would be doable for someone who wants an accredited BA/BS in order to go on to grad work or seminary.

    For those of you in this boat I would encourage you to look at the program. Get back here on the BB and on this thread and "letme" know what you think!

    Go to:

    http://www.degreeinfo.com/article2_1.html

    for the personal thread and comments. It is quite interesting. If I needed to finish a degree I would certainly consider it. They even have a BA in Religion.

    sdg!:thumbs:

    rd
     
  11. Paul33

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    Dave G.

    The Threaded Discussion is truly what the students and professor make of it. I get in there with my students, ask additional probing questions, and expect a response backed up by reading. Show me your sources!

    But I fear that many threaded discussions may be rather lame.

    Two of the online courses that I teach incorporate OT/NT Foundations (CD/DVD lecture series with Stewart, Blomberg, and Yancey). This is a great approach.

    I also teach 5 week intensive classes (one night a week for four hours). These also work well.

    IMO, email actually facilitates more discussion then the typical classroom situation.
     
  12. El_Guero

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    I agree with the others especially Martin.

    Quality of learning - to be fair, I felt that I could learn as much with DL as I could in class. I had looked forward to the experience. I had had positive experiences with regular university DL, and expected a couple of years later that the seminary experience would at least be equal.

    What got me was the negative grade for the positive work. Simple seminary IT infrastructure problems should not cost students grades.

    I think that I would have enjoyed a program like LIberty's, or Rice. But, I do not have personal experience, yet.
     

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