News & Insights

Online Education to Equip and Encourage

The Pathways for Tomorrow project at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in Yonkers, New York, focuses on four online programs that are being designed, developed, and implemented for current and emerging lay and clergy leaders. Clergy will be offered discrete non-credit short courses to strengthen pastoral skills. People wanting to become lay catechists will be provided a nine-month course of study. Short summer courses are being designed for laity. The fourth will focus on lay leaders who function as parish council members, parish treasurers, stewardship advocates, and capital campaign managers, or in other important roles.

Karen Stiller interviewed Arpi Nakashian, the Director of Online Education at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary and project director of the school’s Pathway Project.

Can you briefly describe the project?

Our Pathways project comprises four different initiatives. I’ll focus on the one that we’ve launched and have some experience with, which focused on the general public, who are interested in learning about orthodoxy. Our seminary faculty serve as the instructors of these four-week summer courses. Originally, we were going to offer two courses annually, but due to high demand, we’ve added two more online courses.

In order to do this correctly, we created a studio at St. Vladimir, which provides a designated place to livestream the classes. We wanted high-quality videos that would enhance student learning. Providing three-angled, high-resolution videos with clear audio gave a different standard to our offerings, which the students appreciate.

For a pre-recorded class, we host discussions with the students, instead of presenting it solely as a webinar. That adjustment was added based on feedback from students who wanted more discussion and interaction.

So far, our classes covered patristics, scripture, and iconography. We plan on adding courses on liturgy, church history, and theology.

What have you learned so far?

Our initial expectation of the need was much lower than anticipated. People are thirsty for this content. More than 400 students registered for the summer courses, and we had requests for more. We regularly receive emails inquiring about the start of upcoming classes.

Initially, our classes were lecture-based, and the students didn’t have the opportunity to interact with each other. The only interaction they had was when questions were asked during live streams or via a moderator. We got feedback that they wanted student-to-student and student-to -professor interaction. Now, we have the professor record the lecture, allowing the students to gather as a class with the professor or facilitator for discussion based on the material. We learned a lot from that and are going to see how this unfolds.

To enhance user experience, we created a distinct system on our website designed to be user friendly encompassing a web-based classroom structure.

What has surprised you?

The level of interest people have shown has been surprising with many new participants engaging. We leverage social media to connect with new audiences, employing various publicity methods, and benefiting from word-of-mouth referrals not only in the United States, but Australia, Europe, and the Middle East as well.

The entire St. Vladimir community is, in a way, a part of this project. The professors are teaching it; the marketing department is promoting it; the tech department is helping with software; the Dean is overseeing it. In an effort to include students and alumni, I have invited them to serve as facilitators for an upcoming class.

Can you share some successes?

Adding two extra classes annually for the public is already double what we anticipated. Besides the demand of people using these classes to learn, we’ve found that these classes are serving as step stools for participants to figure out if they want to pursue a degree program in the seminary.

Interestingly, we’re seeing new prospects who might want to pursue an M.Div. or a D.Min. When we wrote for the Pathways grant, we had an underlying goal to entice people who might be interested in furthering their studies.

We intentionally shaped and designed these courses so that they would have longevity. We want them to live on our website, not just as an archive, but also as a learning platform of Christian education. Students can visit the site and purchase the class for asynchronistic learning at their own pace.

What are you hopeful about?

The reason these programs are online is to counteract misinformation about Orthodoxy. We want to present the truth by offering a credible online source to prevent misquotes or misrepresentation of the Fathers. We want their faith to be based on the truth.

What have you learned that could help another school?

Our No. 1 tip is that the core of what we do is Jesus Christ, God Himself. Everything is built upon that. Reminding ourselves that whatever project we do centers on sharing the good news as our baseline goal.

Be open to listen to the people you’re serving. Be open to the ideas of your colleagues. When you bring all this feedback together, that’s how projects improve.

We made a shift in our programs by becoming good listeners and changing the design to what people wanted, and then incorporating the changes. This is very important to success.

I’m really excited about the upcoming three phases. Prototyping is important and goes hand-in-hand with listening to feedback. The first course served as a prototype to assess how it would work, discover what didn’t work, and identify what needed to change.

We are listening and we are learning.

Top Topics

Roles & Responsibilities

Challenges

Opportunities

Board Essentials

Upcoming Events

The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

I See That Hand

UPCOMING WEBINAR

Board members are typically recruited for their leadership, business acumen, and networks. Dr. Rebekah Basinger, project director of the In Trust Center’s Wise Stewards Initiative, will discuss how strategic questioning and interrogation skills are essential for effective board stewardship.

Strategic Partnerships in Higher Education

ON DEMAND

In this on-demand webinar, Rick Staisloff, senior partner of rpk GROUP, discusses essential aspects of strategic partnerships. This session delves into current trends, identification of partners, navigating the due diligence process, and common challenges.

Closing the Trust Gap

ON DEMAND

The current and very troubling condition of trust is a clarion call to action. But despite the dismal data showing pervasive organizational distrust, every organization can assess their current level of trust, learn and adopt a proven trust building framework, and then develop a meaningful and long-lasting plan of action. This webinar details the knowledge and practical next steps to strengthen workplace culture as a result of closing the trust gap.

[Module:ModuleTitle]

In Trust Center provides Resource Consulting to our members at no charge. Contact us today and let us guide you to the most helpful resources for your situation.

Contact Us