The first full working day after the holidays – so why did we have to start by wrestling with one of our computers? We’re not looking for an answer to that, so don’t send one. It started with something simple (anti-virus program subscription renewal), and one thing led to another to take up the biggest part of two hours. Still, we survived, and we’re still talking to each other at the end of it!
Today is actually a big computer-based day for us, as it’s the first day of Fuller Seminary’s winter quarter classes and therefore the first day of a new online course that John is teaching on Theology and Culture. It’s been taught in class in Pasadena quite a few times now, and the last time around was filmed so that the online students can have the benefit of all the lectures and powerpoints that were used in the classroom. The Fuller online technical folks have done a great job in making all this user friendly, and the course website is looking great. There are 25 eager students who will introduce themselves to each other in the next 24 hours or so, and then begin their exploration of contemporary culture through a theological lens.
Online teaching has turned out to be one of life’s big surprises for us. It must be three or four years since Fuller first asked us to do it, and it would be fair to say that we were a bit cynical, wondering how a subject like practical theology, that is intrinsically relational, could possibly work online. The very first course we offered was one that we teach together (Theological and Pastoral Perspectives on the contemporary family), which regularly raises big issues for students in relation to their own personal history and family experience. So we were ready for a few pastorally complicated situations online, and probably thought they would be much harder to handle than face-to-face. What we discovered was that they are just handled differently. Certainly, the level of interaction and personal openness in the online context is no less than it would be in a classroom. In fact, one of the big advantages is that in an online course every student has a voice, and their voice is heard – which doesn’t often happen in a classroom, where the noisiest, most confident (and often most self-opinionated) voices crowd out the others. Watch this space to see if these expectations are fulfilled over the next few weeks for this new course.
For more information about Fuller’s online courses, go here.