20 January 2017
Army Education is Going Online
On a happy day in mid-2016, Major Fredrick Mumali of the Kenya West Territory graduated with a Diploma of Christian Studies from Booth College in the Australia Eastern Territory. Major Mumali is one of millions of people around the world today who are benefiting from an explosion of distance and online education.
Booth College has dreams of serving many others like Major Mumali. ‘At this stage we offer three options for distance students,’ explains Erik Lennestaal, Director of Distance & Online Education. ‘For students without good Internet access we provide hard copy notes, CDs of lectures and sometimes textbooks as well. We have seen a number of students complete their degrees in this way, primarily from Africa and Papua New Guinea. We also support incarcerated students to study through this programme.
‘Where Internet access is not a concern, we offer a full online learning programme. In this second option, all resources are made available online. Students also have the opportunity to interact with their lecturer and with other students through video conferencing and other activities on Booth Online, the online learning portal for Booth College.
‘The third option is one we’re very excited about. It leverages the strengths of online study and complements it with face-to-face interaction. In this model, students study online and also attend live classes for week-long intensive teaching periods. Or they get together for local facilitation sessions near where they live.’
Booth College is already holding facilitation sessions in other parts of the Australia Eastern Territory. Last year it commenced evening sessions in Brisbane, 1,000 kilometres from the main campus in Sydney. Previously, young Brisbane Salvationists wishing to learn more about God and the Bible had frequently enrolled at colleges from other denominations. One young man who had done that said recently, ‘Now the Army is teaching here, I am going to switch and finish my course with Booth College.’
The college hopes to see similar outreach happening in other major centres in the territory. But it also dreams of offering opportunities to overseas students. Erik Lennestaal adds, ‘We can certainly see the day when we might partner with another territory or command, or even with a division or a corps, so their people could study with Booth College.’
Education is going online, and Salvation Army education is going with it. The coming decades could see hundreds, even thousands of people studying online with Salvation Army colleges.
Right now Booth College offers online degree programmes in theology at both Bachelor and Master levels. And it offers several practical courses online, including community services work and financial counselling.
‘There are massive benefits for students studying with Salvation Army colleges,’ says Major Peter Farthing, Principal of Booth College. ‘First, they get a genuine education with a strong Salvation Army theology. At Booth College, for example, we are blessed to have PhD-level lecturers in Bible and theology. Both studied with major Wesleyan institutions.’
‘Second, the students get a strong emphasis on Salvation Army-style mission. They can receive down-to-earth practical education. We have a dean with a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) and 18-year experience as a missionary in Turkey and Bulgaria with a major global mission organisation. She has helped to shape a mission-focused curriculum.’
Distance and online education offer exciting potential for Salvationists around the world to network and study. As partnerships grow, so will the opportunity for colleges to have a global impact.Written by Major Peter Farthing, Booth College Principal
Published in The Officer January-February 2017