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Classroom Learning and Relationship Building Crosses State Lines


This fall, five students at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, joined 22 students from Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, Ill.) to enroll in Behavioral Pharmacology. The students are in the same class even though they are separated by hundreds of miles.

The institutions, both with roots in the Christian Reformed Church, are sharing resources to offer their students more opportunities.

Taught by Derrick Hassert, professor of psychology at Trinity, the students at Dordt watch and participate in lectures via a live audio and visual feed.

“This may be an important step for Trinity students and for our sister institutions if we want to branch out into more interactive forms of distance learning—forms where students and instructors can actually interact in real time as well as share resources on a web platform,” Hassert said.

Trinity’s president, Steven Timmermans, noted that whereas many of the distance education efforts in higher education have an online focus, the courses, which can be accessed anytime and anywhere, do not offer opportunity to develop relationships, which often extend beyond the classroom.

“Synchronous methods of distance learning preserve and enhance engagement in learning as directed by the professor without some of the pitfalls of online learning,” Timmermans said.

The pilot grew out of a conversation between Trinity’s provost, Liz Rudenga, and Dordt’s president, Erik Hoekstra.

“We agreed that with shared theological commitments and educational perspectives, we should be able to offer some courses jointly using synchronous methods,” said Timmermans, a member of Loop Christian Ministries (Chicago, Ill.). “The benefits of greater efficiencies result in cost savings, which ultimately are passed on to students.”

And for the students participating in a neighboring state? “The class is not that different for me,” said Dordt student Shae Heinrichs. “It’s nice that Dordt found a way for us to take a class that would allow us to get credit for bio-psych. It’s comforting to know that our college looks for ways to help get the best education possible and find a class that helps toward our major/minor.”

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