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(Not) Being There: The Auburn study of online distance education

UTS administrators often attend Association of Theological Schools (ATS) events. Experience shows that it is important for UTS to stay current with the conversations which are part of the theological landscape in North America. UTS has affiliate status with ATS.

UTS introduced distance education in the late 1990s. Since 2011, UTS has offered a large number of online courses, both for graduate credits and continuing education units.

UTS launched UTS-Online using the Popular CANVAS LMS plattform in the Fall 2017 and is gearing up for two more Online courses, currently open for enrollment.   

Robin James Graham, UTS Director of Advancement and Communication

I just finished reading (Not) Being There: Online Distance Education in Theological Schools by Sharon L. Miller and Christian Scharen. It is a newly-released report in the Auburn Studies (No. 23—Fall 2017) that “highlights the changing features of online distance education within theological schools.”. 

Among the more interesting statements in the report are these excerpts:

– Increasingly, the professorate [of ATS schools] will be populated with teachers . . . who have never known a world without computers and who have never known classroom teaching as an experience solely of “being there.”

– This report comes at a fulcrum time when the field is moving from elective participation in a few set [educational] models . . . to a much more integrated range of digital realities used for teaching and learning . . . there is no longer a clear demarcation between online students and residential students, as students move back and forth between the two formats as their work and life commitments dictate.

– The Auburn survey results . . . show: regular faculty [not adjuncts] teach most online courses . . . However, the shift in the center of gravity from classroom to congregation changes the role and identity of the faculty.

– [Given the high proportion of commuter students among most residential seminaries,] one professor commented, “What is distant about distance education? Some students are closer to you online than on campus.”

Continue reading…. (Not) Being There: The Auburn study of online distance education

Tom Tanner is Director, Accreditation and Institutional Evaluation at ATS.