Imagine your college class happening in the comfort of your own home.
Briercrest College and Seminary is making that easier by offering two classes in the online format beginning this January.
“I love online learning!” Shelley Wright, Briercrest distance learning instructor said.
Wright knows firsthand about the benefits of an online education. She is currently doing a master’s degree through the University of Saskatchewan that is completely online.
“One of the things I love about it is I don’t have to drive anywhere,” she said. “The weather doesn’t matter – especially in Saskatchewan! Really, you can even sit in your pyjamas and do it. I find it doesn’t take as much of a toll on family life because I take my laptop and I go into our room for an hour and a half – my husband looks after the kids. For me, the whole online option was the seller.”
Briercrest is hoping its online offerings will also appeal to potential students. The first two courses will be at the college level – Foundations of Youth Ministry taught by Ken Moser and History of Christianity taught by Brad Doerksen.
“It tends to be youth ministry and counselling (courses) that people have a lot of interest in regards to accessing it online,” Wright explained. “So you can actually stay in the context that you’re in and use it that way.”
The two courses which will run from January through April are going to be offered in different formats. Foundations of Youth Ministry will be offered in a format where students have a regular online class every week with their professor.
“There’s . . . this virtual classroom where you can all meet and talk about and discuss the week’s work that you’ve done,” Wright explained. “There are videos that we’re creating for it that will teach some of the lessons as well.”
"This is going to be a great opportunity to connect with a large number of people who may never come to Briercrest but still want to get a college education,” said Moser. “Or, they may simply want some help in thinking about youth ministry. My hope and prayer is to be able to provide this very thing through distance education.”
History of Christianity will be taught in a format that utilizes online discussion during the week based on assigned readings and questions. Students complete the assignment during the week on their own time.
“The great thing about that is it allows for a lot of reflection,” Wright said. “With this model, you’ve got that time to think and process. The discussion you can get is really quite fabulous. It allows for more than one voice.”
Doerksen shares in Wright’s excitement about the online format.
“I’ve been teaching Christian history by distance for 10 years, although this will be the first time doing so with a fully online delivery,” Doerksen said. “I really enjoy the interaction with and between students in class and am excited about online delivery making more of that kind of interaction available as opposed to traditional distance learning courses.”
An online program isn’t necessarily an easier degree. The wider discussion often opens the door to deeper learning.
“The content is still there,” Wright exclaimed. “One of the amazing things I love about it is because you’re in this virtual room, you can literally invite experts from anywhere around the world to come teach in your classroom. That’s one of the (benefits) about doing a youth ministry class this way. You can hear about ministry and life in all these contexts that you may not get if you are in Regina.”
Although Briercrest is just getting its feet wet in offering online courses, it hopes to eventually add more online options for students.
“It’s an exciting direction to go,” Wright exclaimed. “I think it makes the idea of upgrading your education that much easier.”