Online offerings make seminary available worldwide
One Christian seminary, with the power of four, has gone worldwide. ACTS Seminaries is a multidenominational partnership between Trinity Western Seminary, MB Seminary, Northwest Baptist Seminary and Canadian Baptist Seminary. In January the schools expanded their reach with the launch of ACTS World Campus, a distance education program with plans to offer an extensive seminary experience anywhere in the world (www.ACTSWorldCampus.com).
Initial enrollment was 47 students, three times the expected number of 15, and the program continues to exceed expectations.
World Campus lectures are recorded in a studio specifically for use as online content (video or audio podcast). While professors may never meet their students in person, organizers say the online forum allows them to foster the spiritual development of their students, central to seminary training.
"We use [the terms] professor or faculty mentor interchangeably," says Randy Wollf, World Campus director. The faculty mentors use the discussion forums not to "continue the lecture, but to ask mentoring questions of the students to develop new understanding" of the course material. The goal is a "two-way reciprocal learning environment."
Many courses expect students to use their local ministry to apply new skills. A few courses require them to process learning with a mentor they can meet in person, while they also receive direction from their professors on how to live out the gospel in their community.
Wollf sees the World Campus as a "café that would bring together people from all over, not just Canada, into a common space where we can actually engage with one another in a deep and meaningful way." In the future, ACTS plans to employ professors not only from their member seminaries, but from around the world.
Recent reports by the Association of Theological Schools, the accrediting body for academic seminaries, stress the importance of online education and releasing competent students. "We are working to bring what others have to offer into one common learning space," says Wollf.