It’s no secret that the digital revolution has made its way into the classroom. Twice before I’ve written on how this has effected theological education (see “The Changing Nature of Theological Education” and “The Changing Nature of Theological Education, Part 2.” Yet, the embrace of technology is hardly limited to Christian seminaries.
Recently, I read a lengthy interview with Pluralsight CEO, Andrew Skonnard. You can read the 7-part series here. Pluralsight is an online training program for software developers. For a low monthly fee ($30/mo for basic and $50/mo for pro), you get access to Pluralsight’s entire online course library. If you’re serious about learning programming, it’s not a bad deal at all. And lest you be concerned about the quality of the training you get, Pluralsight began as a bricks and mortar institution that went completely digital after realizing the earnings potential was much greater with an online model.
But Pluralsight is not unique. Instead, they simply represent a growing trend in education – the move toward greater digitization. Whether you utilize free-to-learn services such as iTunes University and Coursera or pay-to-watch such as Pluralsight, it is now easier than ever to learn from the comforts of your home. But the question becomes, where is this heading?
Some have argued that online education threatens traditional university learning in much the same way that online bookstores have spelled disaster for bricks and mortar ones.. Certainly many higher education institutions find themselves in financial trouble these days. Yet, I maintain that online education programs are better compared to the advent of public libraries. Greater access to information and education simply increases the demand for all types of education – traditional and not, paid and free.
But what I’m more interested in is what this trend means for churches. How might Christian education be transformed by online models of education? Already, platform tools exist to help churches get online. For a short video learning series, Youtube offers an obvious possibility. But even better are open-source tools such as Moodle that are designed specifically for education.
The largest hurdle, though, will come in the form of communal identity. Once church studies go online, participants will no longer be doing so as part of a local church family. Something is lost when the people who sit across from you in your study are nowhere to be found on Sunday morning. Yet, the benefits may outweigh this – not in terms of numbers, but in terms of learning quality. The best learning in church studies often comes not from the teacher but from the insights of people with varying experiences in life. Having participants from all over the country (or even world) could prove very valuable.
Does your church offer or plan to offer online Christian education?
If so, what tools do you have experience with? What challenges do you see? And how might an online model benefit your church?
Leave us a comment and let us know!