Distance learning at Calvin Theological Seminary is not always so distant. In fact, for one week each semester learning is intensely up close and personal.
That’s because the distance learning students come to Grand Rapids to be in residence for a week of intensive study every semester.
At 4:47 on a Friday afternoon, a class is just wrapping up the sixth hour of its Ethics intensive that meets for 18 contact hours over three days.
In order to finish before Sunday, students will attend class Friday night, all day Saturday, and Saturday night. For some of them it will be the second Saturday night in a row of such intensive class participation.
But the students don’t complain. In fact, they are excited to be face to face after beginning these classes in their online classrooms. For eight days they can also be intensive about relationship-building with one another, enjoying lunches together between classes or even a late-night outing to nourish connections they made in class.
Sleep drops on the priority list as they learn and live together—with great enjoyment. The seminary makes breakfast easy for them by providing an exclusive hangout room with a stocked refrigerator and a place to keep their stuff.
Think combination “personal locker” space with a kitchen whose refrigerator can be raided whenever hunger pangs strike. They named this room The Download—a welcome contrast to Google Hangout.
According to Peter Choi, director of the distance learning program at Calvin Seminary, a successful distance learner lives intensively day by day, week by week, month by month—in order to manage the multiple responsibilities many of them carry besides their studies: ministry, other career obligations, parenting, and church leadership.
Distance learning is for those who can go the distance to add seminary education to busy lives, he says.
Its advantage is relevance and applicability.
When asked why she likes the distance learning format, one second-year student said she loves to be able “to listen with the ears of application.”
She’s involved in ministry as a leader at her church, so she has a real and immediate context for her education. The ears of her heart are already attuned to the realities of ministry; her Calvin Seminary education will deepen and broaden her abilities to serve and lead.
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- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight