Westminster's Online Educational Experience
August 25, 2023
What's it like to be an online student at Westminster?
Online education often carries a reputation of neglect– needs that feel forgotten, coursework that slips through the cracks, or impersonal classes where students simply feel like a number. Our aim at Westminster is to eliminate these common concerns by offering personalized support, pliable online programs, and opportunities for community, all designed with the unique needs of fully online students in mind. So whether you work a full-time job, are parenting kids, have entered retirement, are re-entering academic pursuits after a long time away from school, or have found yourself in an uncharted season of life, we strive to make our courses manageable, organized, and engaging.
In light of this, we’ve repackaged Westminster’s renown curriculum into a fully online format that is designed to be accessible wherever you are, allowing you to stay rooted in your community as you pursue rich theological training. You will receive lecture content from our world-class faculty and have access to our highly qualified online instructors, a majority of whom are also seasoned pastors. This dedicated team of online instructors offers a more intimate learning experience as they relay and explain lecture content, and are available to provide subject matter expertise in response to your questions.
User-Friendly Course Design
Since the logistical details of each course are designed by professional course developers with input from full-time Westminster faculty, our online instructors are dedicated to engaging with you and provide substantive feedback in a timely manner. This also means that each course is supported by a dedicated support team and is designed for your ease of use as a student. So no matter what course you enroll in, you will know just what to expect regarding format. This translates to a better experience since you can focus on the task of learning without wasting time navigating various different course structures.
Our online courses are not just video lectures, discussion boards, reading, and papers, though. Apart from engaging with other classmates (more below), you’ll also have the ongoing opportunity to connect with our friendly Dean of Online Students, Jerry McFarland, for personal pastoral care, prayer support, and counsel through any stress or spiritual needs. Jerry also hosts several live “coffee houses” over Zoom each month to foster fellowship and care for one another. This provides students with a chance to talk through different topics in a casual environment oriented around socializing together and applying the Word of God. Should you encounter any academic or administrative concerns, our steadfast student support team is also always just an email away.
Curtis Patrick, a student in the online program, described his experience this way:
“I live almost 3,000 miles away from campus, so Westminster Online is a dream come true for me! Not only do I get to take courses with the level of depth and rigor that WTS is renowned for, I am also connected to brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe. Course small groups give me the opportunity to meet other aspiring pastors, counselors, and theologians as we pray and study together. Virtual coffee houses are the perfect venue for me to engage with students and alumni outside of the classroom. I would highly recommend WTS Online to anyone who desires a flexible, high-quality seminary education with a vibrant community of students, faculty, and staff.”
Lisa Huck, a student in Australia, described her experience this way:
“My experience to date has been a glimpse of Heaven — brothers and sisters around the world joining to worship, confess, learn, and care for one another, with sincere love, in covenant community.
Precept upon precept, together we’re learning to watch our lives and doctrine closely and to persevere in them both. And with the comfort with which we’re comforted, we’re able to comfort others. What joy!...
With just a few clicks, I’m there in the classroom with godly and endearing faculty, exchanging ideas in a small group from across the globe, grounded in a weekly chapel service, casually connecting with new friends and old at Coffeehouse, being inspired at a CCEF conference... My life has never been this relationally full and multi-faceted with so many iron-sharpening iron friendships.”
How much coursework should I expect each week?
We classify the workload of each course as either light, moderate, or heavy. A light course might look like 0-70 pages of reading per week with 0-3 hours of assignments per week and 0-30 mins of lecture content per week. A moderate course might look like 40-90 pages of reading per week with 3-6 hours of assignments per week and 1-2 hours of lecture content per week. A heavy course might be 100-150 pages of reading per week, 6-8 hours of assignments per week, and 2-3 hours of lecture content per week. Of course, all of these timelines will vary from student to student.
What platforms are used?
- Canvas – This is where you will spend the majority of your time. Here you’ll find your course syllabi, watch recorded lectures, submit assignments, etc.
- Workplace – Engage with your classmates and your online instructors. This is where most of your social interaction will be fostered. The interface feels familiar and easy to navigate for most people given it is akin to Facebook’s layout.
- Populi – We also use a platform called Populi. This is where your student records are found and where you can pay tuition.
- Cerego & Anki – These are quizzing apps. They are mostly used for Greek and Hebrew courses and are not relevant for programs like the MATS and MAC where language classes are not required.
Will I be able to talk with my professors or my classmates in real time?
Students in each course are divided into small groups that are organized by time zone to ensure that you can engage with each other as easily as possible. You will have pre-recorded lecture content that you watch each week and your online instructor will provide you with discussion prompts to talk over as a small group. Your small groups will be accessible on Workplace, where you will find a time to meet as a group. Most groups meet via Zoom, but some groups have been geographically close enough to meet in person. No matter the format of your meeting, you will typically submit your discussion question answers to your online instructor for feedback. There are also coursewide forums and chats on Workplace of which you can take advantage.
Additionally there are monthly “Coffee Houses” with Jerry McFarland, the Dean of Online Students where you are encouraged to meet with Jerry, additional faculty, as well as your fellow classmates. We also occasionally attend conferences with special student and alumni events and host regional meetups across the US in places like Nashville with additional locations hopefully coming soon.
What advantages might an online experience offer me?
Our online format offers many advantages to those wishing to remain rooted where they are while they study. A few key benefits include:
- Continue to work while you study. No need to look for a new job, or postpone your current career path.
- Avoid the logistics of relocating yourself and/or your family.
- Take classes wherever you go— near or far. Online studies allow you to remain flexible with your schedule, whether that means killing time in the airport, visiting a new place, or simply being able to listen to lectures on a walk.
- The majority of lectures are pre-recorded, meaning you can pause, rewind, and review lectures with ease. This allows you to study at your own pace without having to worry about taking copious notes during a teaching session.
- Remain nearby friends, family, church community, mentors, and others in your support network as you undergo this intense season of training.
- Experience unique pedagogical opportunities and chances for direct life application as you remain in your home or ministry context. This is of particular benefit for many of our students who are already ministers, counselors and elders, since they can directly implement, test, and apply what they are studying in an immediate and practical sense. In this way, your ministry can shape your education, and your education can shape your ministry in a fruitful and exciting way.
- Save time and money by eliminating a commute to campus.
The online student experience at Westminster is one that is carefully crafted to overcome the typical pitfalls of online education. Our goal is that in entering an online class at Westminster you feel that you are entering an active community of brothers and sisters around the globe that are desiring to grow in their knowledge and understanding of Christ and his Word. You will have a dedicated student support team ready and eager to assist you, expert faculty willing to serve you, and likeminded classmates learning alongside you. You will be welcomed into the Westminster family and receive an unparalleled theological education. If you think that online education might be the right choice for you, or have questions about what it might look to enroll as an online student with us, we encourage you to learn more about our online student experience and to apply to one of our online programs.
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