Candler takes learning online

Candler School of Theology

Steven Kraftchick, associate professor of the Practice of New Testament interpretation, is helping to lead Candler School of Theology’s efforts to offer more core courses online. The Goizueta Business School offers a Modular Executive MBA and mixes intense on-campus learning with distance learning and the Rollins School of Public Health offers a distance-learning program for career professionals, but this is the first time that online classes have been offered as part of the core curriculum within a school’s primary degree program, says Kraftchick.

So far, five Candler professors have trained (online, of course) at the Sloan Consortium, which is dedicated to integrating online education into the mainstream of higher education. Another seven will train this summer and five more the summer after that. At the end of the experiment, somewhere between 15 and 20 faculty will have trained in online pedagogy and about 12-15 courses will be offered in some form of distance or hybrid format, Kraftchick says. Core training includes rubrics and potential pitfalls associated with online learning, creating an online course, along with real-work experience in what it’s like to attend an online course.

The first graduates have incorporated both synchronous and asynchronous elements into courses, including chat, videoconferencing and audioconferencing. Two have created hybrid classes that incorporate asynchronous elements with face-to-face meetings, while another used Adobe Connect to hold virtual classes. Two others, Anne Burkholder and Bill Daniel, have offered fully online versions of their courses.

Kraftchick does not describe himself as a technology innovator. But he had the idea to explore online learning in response to the changing way students learn and received support from the dean and provost. His fall class on the Gospel parables featured a blog site where Kraftchick posted artwork and students submitting projects, some writings and discussion questions prior to class. He also tried holding virtual office hours to supplement face-to-face meetings.

“Submitting questions and discussion topics online primed the pump and freed up time in class to do other things,” Kraftchick says. “It allowed me to focus on what students wanted to talk about to expand their learning.”

For inspiration, Kraftchick also credits Burkholder and Daniel, along with David Pacini, professor of historical theology, who’s been recording lectures on church history since 2009 and posting them on a dedicated iTunesU site. Students watch lectures outside of class so face-to-face time can be spent in small group discussions.

“This has been a learning experience for us, but we’re doing pretty well,” Kraftchick says. “People who have been trained are better at incorporating technology into their classes. I’m pleased and surprised by how many people have taken this on.”

Steven Kraftchick will discuss his experiences with online learning during Faculty Connect, a technology showcase on Wednesday, March 28 from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third floor of the Woodruff Library. Read more.

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