How Will I Learn? Interactive Learning at its Best
Distance learning was once a poor substitute for other forms of education, being restricted chiefly to private reading and occasional essays or examinations submitted through correspondence. This format, we are happy to say, is a thing of the past. The Institute’s Certificate Program brings your studies to life in new and creative ways.
Since our Institute was founded, we have consistently worked to be at the forefront of Orthodox Distance Learning, and this has included developing and refining an extraordinary set of resources and tools, each of which helps to make the Distance Learning experience rich, interactive and a powerul medium for in-depth study of Orthodox Christianity.
Beginning with Reading…
The modules on the Certificate Program by Distance Learning begin as any good course, offered in whatever environment, must: with a core set of texts, chosen by the lecturers and instructors, that will serve as your bedrock for exploring the material under review. These readings might include texts by the Church Fathers, Scriptural readings and commentaries, transcripts of notable lectures, articles, and various other materials.
Preference is given to readings that have an on-line format available, reducing the need to purchase hardcopy versions for those who do not wish to do so; but the master reading lists provided for each module also include printed books with instructions on purchase and ordering.
We know that core studies often inspire new interests, and so our reading lists go beyond the requirements of the modules themselves, providing additional reading on connected themes. Where your interests lead, there, too, the resources.
Extending to Lectures…
With your reading in hand, our Distance Learning modules then provide you with expert instruction in the form of special lectures provided in either audio or video format through the Institute’s interactive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
Each module includes features multiple expert lectures created, prepared and recorded especially for our students, which include slides and other visual elements. One of the great features of these recorded lectures is that, unlike live lectures, you can listen again and again, returning to key sections as your interests dictate. Some lectures are also provided from Institute symposia, conferences or other educational contexts specially selected for our students. You can listen to all these at your own pace, in your own setting.
Video lectures allow speakers to employ visual aids and other visual materials as best suit their topics.
The readings are linked to the lectures, providing you with an opportunity to reflect on the texts being considered and commented upon by the speakers. You can listen to a lecture then read the texts; then return to the lecture to hear it in a new light.
Moving Into On-Line Classes…
Once you’ve listened and watched the various lectures and begun engaging with the assigned reading, your studies begin to turn truly interactive with our on-line, live classes. It is here that any relation to an old-fashioned ‘digital correspondence course’ truly vanishes. Our live classroom environment allows a full cohort of up to fifteen students and instructors to be on-line at the same time in a simple-to-use yet fully featured video classroom environment: everyone sees and hears each other, and classes / seminars take place in real time in as close an approximation to being together in a classroom as is possible at a distance. Students raise their hands to ask questions, engage directly with lecturers and peers, and generally spend 90-minute sessions receiving an extraordinarily interactive, interpersonal enrichment to their education.
Instructors generally lead the discussion for such seminar classes, and you are able to ask questions, make comments, seek clarification and share your own thoughts as the class takes place.
When a Forum is So Much More Than a Forum…
How do you make assignments interactive and interpersonal, in a the context of a program where students are studying from home over an enormous geography? One of the answers comes in the Institute’s creative employment of ‘forum-based assignments’, which draw students into dialogue and conversation with one another over detailed questions at the heart of their current studies.
These are assignments that bring you into direct interaction with your fellow students: for example, you might be asked to post a critical response to the issues of Christian apologetics in the early Church, to which another student will be assigned to offer a reflective response — and you a response to another. Just as in a classroom setting, group conversation allows your thoughts to interact with those of your peers, so the Institute utilizes these technologies to make your study a cooperative, interactive experience with other students.
Personal, One-on-One Tuition via Video Chat: An Old World Experience in a New Medium…
Our Certificate Program by Distance Learning goes a step further. In addition to audio and video lectures, on-line and off-line reading, live video classes and interactive forums, every student receives multiple one-hour, one-on-one ‘tutorial’ sessions with the course instructor, as part of each module. These are carried out by live video- or audio-based conferencing through Skype, meaning you have the opportunity to have live, personal discussions with your teachers form the comfort of home (or if you are in the area of one of our intstructors, in person). Is there something you just don’t understand? Something you want to discuss in more detail? Concepts you’d like to bring up for reaction and response? These tutorials are the perfect opportunity: your instructor is at your disposal, to guide you personally towards the advancement of your studies and learning.
Assignments that Assess Your Learning in Various Ways – And Draw You Into Parish Life
Finally, no course of study can advance without assessment. The Certificate Program by Distance Learning offers a module-by-module assessment program that draws out the fruits of your learning in a variety of ways. These include traditional essays, which are submitted electronically and reviewed, marked and commented upon by instructors; highly interactive forum contribution and response assignments; short-text based assignments with opportunities for feedback from your instructors; and other assessment types that provide you with a wide range of means to hone your learning as you progress.
We also feature assignments that deliberately draw you into interaction with Orthodox parish life. These include assignments that bring you into dialogue with your local parish clergy to discuss themes of your study; encourage interaction with parishioners about the matters you are discussing, and other ways of bringing your ‘academic study’ into the pastoral context of Christian life lived in the parish setting.