GBHEM's new guidelines
Via a friend on facebook, it came to my attention that the GBHEM has clarified its requirements of online MDivs and now require that only a third of a MDiv may be done by remote learning, throwing enrolled seminary students into disarray who might be seeking ordination in the United Methodist Church.
The University Senate of The United Methodist Church has published a new guideline for candidates for ordained ministry, limiting the use of online theological education to one-third of the courses for a masters degree. According to Dr. Wanda Bigham, Assistant General Secretary for the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church, this new guideline will become effective July 1, 2011, so that “students enrolled prior to that date are grandfathered to complete their programs.”
Students who enroll in [an online MDiv program] prior to July 1, 2011, are therefore to be assured they will be eligible for ordination in The United Methodist Church.
FYI I can’t find any published records from the GBHEM on this topic as of yet.
Note that neither United or Iliff offers a completely online MDiv…contrary to what Jon Stewart says, we aren’t the University of Phoenix. Rather they are both hybrid degrees, requiring a mix of online and person-to-person classes. But for people who live hours away from the closest UM seminary, having to attend class only once a semester (United) or 4 times a year (Iliff) is a blessing indeed. However, both of these degrees are more than 1/3 online.
The GBHEM’s new guidelines require a maximum of a third of a degree to be distance-learning. While that is their right, it certainly makes hybrid or online-MDivs very difficult as far-away candidates would have to relocate their families for a few years to finish the degree, and throws into worry the current class of hybrid MDiv students.
I’m torn on this decision. On the one hand, classroom experience is not replaceable or replicatable online or in hybrid formats. I learned so much from discussion and engaged lecturing. However, if we really want more qualified candidates, and they have a learning style that makes up for the disadvantages of distance-learning, then most classes could be done online. Absolutely. A preaching class can be uploaded as a video for critique, an internship class in their field could be supervised online, etc. Some classes (like pastoral care) would need to be face-to-face for role plays and such, but the bulk of the reading could be done online.
Hybrid education (online and face-to-face) has been emerging for a long time and I’m interested in how the GBHEM deals with it in the future.
Thoughts? Could a MDiv be done mostly online? Or is 1/3 of the degree program about right?
Thanks for your comments!