|Distance learning makes education more available |
Supporters dedicate a new satellite campus of Africa University on March 31
at the offices of the Mozambique Annual Conference in Maputo.
UMNS file photos by John Gordon.
A UMNS Report
By Vicki Brown*
July 18, 2008
Online classes for local pastors in the United States, theology classes
in Europe, and a master’s in business program in Mozambique are under
way or will be by September.
The Rev. Mary Ann Moman
Partnerships formed by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education
and Ministry with other agencies, annual conferences, seminaries and
Methodist educational institutions around the world are now bearing
fruit, said the Rev. Mary Ann Moman, staff executive in the board’s
Division of Ordained Ministry in Nashville.
“All these efforts mean more educational opportunities in Europe,
Africa and even in the United States,” Moman said. “We are using
technology to fulfill the mission of The United Methodist Church to
prepare a new generation of Christian leaders for the church and the
world, not just the church in the United States.”
Students registered July 12 for the first distance-learning classes
offered by Africa University’s first satellite campus in Maputo,
Mozambique. Classes for candidates to become licensed local pastors in
the United States go online Aug. 1, a joint project of the board and
United Methodist Communications. And 15 students are enrolled for the
first semester of the Methodist e-Academy in Europe, which starts in
“Distance education is one piece of our efforts to increase access to
Christian education around the world. We are taking classrooms to the
places where people are desperately in need of education,” said the Rev.
Jerome King Del Pino, top staff executive of the board. “All of these
new programs—online Course of Study, the Methodist e-Academy, and the
distance learning projects in Africa, Europe and the U.S.—required
partnerships that reflect a new commitment of United Methodists to work
The Rev. Jerome
King Del Pino
“The project in Mozambique, for instance, highlights how the
Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership Development can pull
together resources from many places to educate a new generation of
Christian leaders,” Del Pino said.
“This developing capacity will provide educational opportunities across
the global connection of The United Methodist Church in a way never
before possible,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of
United Methodist Communications in Nashville. “What was only a dream a
few years ago is taking concrete form. This is an exciting beginning,
and more is yet to come.”
Classes in Europe
David N. Field, coordinator of the Methodist e-Academy, said as of
early July, 15 students were enrolled from Finland, Russia, Ukraine,
Slovakia, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, France
“We are expecting more enrollments in the next month. The courses will
be offered in English and German,” he said. The course material is being
developed by a team from various European countries, plus one American.
Classes are being offered in Methodist history, doctrine, ethics, and
ecclesiology. Theological education is available in Europe, but much of
that is at state-run colleges and universities, so it does not include
classes related to Methodist history, doctrine and polity, Moman said.
Field said the classes in Europe will make use of video lectures being
produced by Wesley Theological Seminary. The U.S. seminary worked with
representatives of the United Methodist Theological Schools in Europe to
videotape lectures for the classes.
Field said there are no plans right now to develop videos in Europe,
although the possibility of some form of video conferencing is being
explored. Online discussions by means of a discussion board are an
integral part of the program.
Field said the two major challenges have proved to be fundraising and publicity.
“At this stage we have raised substantial funds, but we still require
more as most of our students come from Eastern European countries and do
not have the resources to pay even relatively modest fees,” Field said.
“We are presently looking at creative new ways to address this
Beaming from Africa University
In Africa, the Mozambique Distance Learning Project is housed in the
offices of the Mozambique Annual Conference. The classroom has 20 new
computers, with plans for future expansion. Classes from Africa
University will be beamed to the Maputo site via VSAT (Very Small
Aperture Terminal), a two-way satellite ground station with a dish
Aidilio Alfeu uses one of the new computers at the Africa Training
and Learning Center.
The project is a collaborative effort with the Methodist University of
São Paulo, Brazil, and the Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Funding comes from the Methodist Global Education Fund for Leadership
The first degree program being offered is an executive MBA in the
faculty of management and administration. Seven applicants have been
accepted to the program for the first classes. The program coordinator
is Gabrielle Clemente, who was in Maputo on July 12 with a team from
Africa University for student registration and orientation. Once the
program is under way with this first class, Clemente will begin
intensive student recruitment.
Stronger Course of Study
The classes are a huge undertaking that “moves beyond the classical
theological education done in a school,” said the Rev. Robert Kohler, a
staff executive at the board. “Classes will be far more widely
available, and anybody anywhere in the world can sign up and take a
class if they know the language.”
Kohler said the online Course of Study offerings are eventually expected
to replace the correspondence course that local pastors take now, and a
distance-education component can be added to every class offered at a
Course of Study school.
The Rev. Robert Kohler
“Online courses and other distance-education opportunities will
strengthen the entire Course of Study program by providing an
educational environment that will significantly change the learning
process,” he said.
With the correspondence course, the students complete all the work and
mail it in, while the online classes will allow professors to give
feedback as course work is completed, said Cheryl A. Hemmerle, a
technical training specialist for United Methodist Communications. She
said registration will still be handled by the Board of Higher Education
and Ministry. Hemmerle said there are also future plans for online
discussions groups among Course of Study students.
In 2007, 121 people applied for the five-year Basic Course of Study
correspondence program. The classes can also be taken on campus at
regional Course of Study schools at eight United Methodist seminaries or
at 15 extension Course of Study schools.
For more information about the Course of Study, contact Lynn Daye at firstname.lastname@example.org or (615) 340-7416, or visit www.gbhem.org. To view the Course of Study online pages, visit moodle.courseofstudy.org.
*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, with
the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.
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