WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is breaking ground in theological education by providing Massive Open Online Course studies beginning in its Spring 2013 semester, with registration starting Jan. 14.
MOOC is an innovative way by which students can view lectures from top-ranked universities without charge. MOOC students will receive the same information, content and resources as those who physically attend Southeastern's campus in Wake Forest, N.C.
John Ewart, Southeastern's associate vice president for project development, said the seminary intends to accomplish this "by providing high quality theological training to every global Christian learner and leader who has the means to access it.
"A MOOC allows us to exponentially increase that access through innovative delivery, pace and cost," Ewart said. "It allows those who could not normally attend a traditional seminary class due to location, time, money or vocation to obtain valuable content while remaining in their context of ministry."
Like other SBC seminaries, theological education from a distance is not foreign to Southeastern Seminary. It has several extension centers throughout the South and East offering classes often taught by the same faculty and adjunct professors who teach at Southeastern's main campus.
Jerry Lassetter, Southeastern's director of distance learning, said Southeastern is "committed to providing the highest quality theological education and training to as many people as we can. The idea of a self-paced open-enrollment online class like MOOC supports that mission."
Students will be able to enroll in MOOC courses directly from Southeastern's website.) MOOC courses are self-paced so the student can proceed apart from deadlines or scheduling conflicts. If a MOOC participant watches all of the lectures and completes some additional assignments, Southeastern has provided a way to transfer the completed MOOC classes into undergraduate or graduate-level credits.
"In the future if students choose to work toward a degree, we will provide a leveling course to turn their MOOC experience into an undergraduate or graduate-level course," Lassetter said. "I hope everyone from pastors to families in the pews will take the MOOC classes."
Students involved in MOOC through Southeastern will be able to enroll in SEBTS President Daniel Akin's hermeneutics class on reading and interpreting the Bible. His class, which begins Feb. 1, will introduce students to various interpretation methods and provide tools for reading Scripture well. It will be the first of many future Massive Open Online Courses originating at Southeastern.
"Southeastern Seminary believes it exists to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission," Akin said. "This means we have the assignment of teaching disciples of Jesus to observe all that our Lord has commanded, which also means His followers must know how to rightly handle the Word of truth."
Akin said his class would train students to raise and answer three fundamental questions: 1) What do I see in the biblical text? 2) What does it mean? And 3) How does it work? "The purpose of hermeneutics," he said, "is to equip disciples of Jesus to rightly interpret and teach the Bible. These key questions are examined within the framework of what is called 'The Grand Redemptive Story of the Bible' (Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation). No class is more basic and fundamental to a well-rounded biblical and theological education.
"We at Southeastern want to extend our service to the church as far as we possibly can and MOOC provides a delivery system to make this possible," Akin said. "We are commissioned to extend God's truth to the ends of the earth. MOOC is one avenue to help make this happen."
Michael McEwen is Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's news and information specialist. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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