Why Is Theological Education Behind The Curve?

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Martin, Jul 31, 2005.

  1. Martin

    Martin
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    As I look at various educational programs (just for the fun of it...there goes the theory that I have a life [​IMG] ) I am amazed at how behind the curve theological education is. While most universities and colleges are working to make their programs more accessible to students, theological schools seem to be trying to make it harder. Most schools/programs are now offering degrees at night and on week end classes, on line, or at extension sites. However it seems that seminaries are not doing this.

    I have noticed several major seminaries that directly state that a person cannot earn a degree at night and on weekends, or that only certain portions of a degree maybe earned online. However this is not the case with other programs. I see major universities putting most of their graduate programs online (fully online), and offering these programs at night and on weekends. I see technical colleges doing the same thing. Yet I don't see this with theological schools. What I see in the theology schools is, sadly, tricks.

    Thats right, tricks. What do I mean? You will read the advertisement that you can earn your degree at night, or online. So you write for information. It looks great....UNTIL you read the small print. Only a portion maybe done online, or only certain classes can be taken at night, or only a portion of classes can be taken at extension centers. That is crazy! If a person is unable to attend class during the day (due to job, etc), what makes these schools think that same person can attend class during the day? It just makes no sense. If a person can't relocate to the campus for two years, what make these schools believe they can for six months? Again it makes no sense. Theological schools should be offering quality education to students in ways that are accessible to the students. The modern graduate student is older (30 +) and has professional and family responsibilities. Many cannot attend school during the day or relocate to a far off campus. Theological schools should, like these other schools, offer degrees online, at night, or at extension centers with NO STRINGS attached. The accrediting agencies will approve of this (they do with the other schools). There is no reason to require on campus time for online students! Quality education does not require it, nor do the accreditation standards (SACS, etc).

    When I can get a MBA, MAED, etc, from East Carolina University with NO on campus requirements, but I can't get a MA from Southeastern Seminary online, and both are SACS accredited...something is seriously wrong (those are just random examples).

    Some will argue that seminary requires some on campus time for spiritual enrichment. Ok, that is a valid argument. The problem is, however, that no one can argue one must be on campus, or attending day classes, to have such spiritual enrichment. I would hope that all seminary students have a home church in which they are active and they can get spiritual enrichment from their home church (if they can't relocate to campus or attend day classes). So this is no excuse for not offering programs in more accessible formats.

    It is time for seminaries to catch up with the other programs. I am happy to see that some are. However there needs to be more. In fact I would love to see a major, accredited seminary established that would offer quality day, evening, and online degrees. Yes there are two or three already out there, but another one could not hurt. I have a real passion for this and I pray that (maybe someday) the Lord will enable me to at least have a small part in such a large enterprise.

    In Christ,
    Martin.
     
  2. JamesBell

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    Martin, I agree with you. I can think of some obstacles that a Seminary must overcome (ex. preaching or public address courses). But, with all of the intelligent people involved in Christian higher education, I am sure that these problems can be solved in such a way as to be satisfactory to all involved.
     
  3. gb93433

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    Most of the people in seminaries do not have a background in education but pastoring or other fields. Theology is their focus not education.
     
  4. GARick

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    Martin,

    As one who has nearly completed a distance MA degree [you know from where], I wish to echo your concern regarding spiritual enrichment in theological distance education programs. As I reflect on my MA distance learning experience and consider continuing for my M. Div. the lack of face-to-face interaction with professors and fellow students and the spiritual enrichment that can accompany it clearly emerges as my greatest concern.

    A few cases in point:
    -Countless graduates from Dallas Theological Seminary over the past 50 years talk of the inspirational impact that Dr. Howard Hendricks had on their lives and spiritual growth. I question if even Prof could accomplish this at the same level via correspondence or internet courses.
    -I was fortunate enough to take an Evangelism module course on campus taught by Dr. Darrell Robinson. The other eleven courses that I have taken via correspondence and online formats pale in comparison with regard to the inspiration and spiritual growth I experienced interacting face-to-face with Dr. Robinson for a week.
    -I also wonder what amount of support and accountability I may be missing out on by having little to no interaction with my peer students.

    Preparing properly for ministry involves more than acquiring knowledge of the material. I do not believe you can overestimate the importance of spiritual growth and the difficulty achieving it through distance learning formats. If I do continue for my M. Div with my current institution, I will make a point to do some of the course work on campus, even though it is not required.
     
  5. Paul33

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    So do an online program with several one week residencies (two per year?)

    These residencies would create the face to face time needed, just like in a D.Min. program.
     
  6. Martin

    Martin
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    ==Personally I would only require preaching classes for preachers. These classes could be done on week long modules or video tape of a sermon at the person's church. Either would work.

    Martin.
     
  7. Martin

    Martin
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    ==That is true, and that maybe part of the problem. However I am glad they are focused on theology.

    Martin.
     
  8. Martin

    Martin
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    GARick

    You said:
    Countless graduates from Dallas Theological Seminary over the past 50 years talk of the inspirational impact that Dr. Howard Hendricks had on their lives and spiritual growth. I question if even Prof could accomplish this at the same level via correspondence or internet courses.

    ==Probably not. This is certainly one down side to distance education. All modes of education have down sides, I guess it is just a matter of picking which down side you are most willing to live with. For me, personally, I am not likely to be helped by a prof in person any more than on tape or dvd. I tend to be very fact or academic focused so it is not that big of an issue with me. I would rather read/study books any day than listen to someone lecture for an hour (though I do like a combo of lecture/reading).

    ____________________________________

    You said:
    I also wonder what amount of support and accountability I may be missing out on by having little to no interaction with my peer students.

    ==Yea. Christian schools need to work on this. The regular universities (etc) are using forms of networking for their distance students.
    ______________________________________

    You said:
    Preparing properly for ministry involves more than acquiring knowledge of the material. I do not believe you can overestimate the importance of spiritual growth and the difficulty achieving it through distance learning formats. If I do continue for my M. Div with my current institution, I will make a point to do some of the course work on campus, even though it is not required.

    ==I would LOVE to attend on campus. However at this time that is just not a realistic possiblity. However one day I will be able to and I look forward to it.

    Martin.
     
  9. PatsFan

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    My DMin program offers the modules you described with cohorts. It's not exactly the same as being on campus, but it does give you more interaction than you'd get from DL only. I think the perfect DL seminary program would offer on-line classes and some module learning.
     

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