As a faculty member and course design collaborator, I have to confess that I had preconceptions about what it would be like to teach in a completely online degree program, specifically the master’s in Theological Studies in Franciscan Theology (MTS-FT) program. I thought it would be an “easier” academic program than a traditional in-classroom course. However, I quickly learned that creating one course in this program was much more difficult than preparing a normal 13-week lecture and discussion course.
Everything had to be evaluated from the point of view of the learner, someone with multiple commitments such as family, jobs, volunteer commitments and others. Each piece of the program needed to be understandable and clearly explained, with specific instructions and expectations. This means that the learner would have a constant stream of feedback, weekly or more often, and they would be able to measure their progress in each course and in the MTS-FT program as a whole.
This required a huge amount of work behind the scenes and collaboration with the USD learning design center, hours of preparation ahead of the course start, designing lectures, picking reading materials, creating videos, you name it; so that the learning experience would appear seamless, progressive, and well-paced to the student.
At the virtual classroom and throughout the program, I was surprised at the level of collaboration that was necessary between students. The most successful courses were those in which students shared information, helped each other resolve problems, found resources, and coped with multiple commitments while studying, you could say live the Franciscan way as a student.
This small online community was built over time as students enrolled in the same classes and reconnected with each other. They got to know each other’s favorite topics, deeply held convictions, and even their sense of humor. What a journey it has been to get to be part of it all!
Starting at the diversity of reasons for enrolling as several already hold teaching positions at the secondary or college level, and will benefit from the focused specialization in theology this program offers. Others are involved in various forms of ministry, whether as chaplains in health care settings, in campus ministry on college campuses, or in service to a variety of local Franciscan communities, parishes and their ministries. And there are some who are deepening their own intellectual and spiritual growth through the courses offered by the MTS-FT. This diversity has enriched the classroom experience, and has affected each and everyone of us.
The students who have been most successful in the MTS-FT courses are those who are very good at multitasking. They keep one eye fixed on upcoming reading and writing assignments and make sure they have sufficient time to keep moving forward. The individual courses last for just 7 weeks, about half of a traditional semester-long lecture course. That means that keeping a constant pace is important; this type of learning is more like taking a brisk walk every day rather than running a marathon at the end of a semester.
I would say that for motivated adult learners, the MTS-FT provides a special Franciscan flavor to a challenging and rewarding graduate theology program.
5 thoughts on “The Franciscan School of Theology: Journey of Change and Growth”
These articles are good, but I think they are better suited for ST. ANTHONY MESSENGER than for the FRANCISCAN SPIRIT blog.
I have no criticism for the writer or for the articles in themselves, but when I visit the FRANCISCAN SPIRIT blog I expect to find a blog post that is a spiritual reflection rather than an informative article.
I come to this page to get a better understanding of the whole Franciscan world. That’s what I love about this site. I do feel like I have a richer understanding of Saint Francis’s legacy. Peace.
I would love to take this course. I belong to the Secular Francican Order. I have a masters in Psychology. I am 76 years old and live on a fixed income so I can’t afford to attend. My The Good God Bless those who can afford it.
Wonderful! This community seems like a great place to learn and grow!
Blessings on the MYS On-Line Course. You have made many adjustments so that it might be launched. I’m very pleased that the MYS is available in this manner. Not a quick nor easy development but so needed and important.
I continue ministry on the border with immigrants arriving in Texas. Pat Forster