A Christian Imagination about Online Education?
Teaching in an online context, especially for those who have taught exclusively in traditional, classroom settings, requires a shift in imagination.
How might we bring a Christian imagination to online teaching and learning? Here are a few things to consider and questions to ask:
Online education is new, but also stands within a long trajectory in Christian history of learning “at a distance.”
For example, there is a long tradition of letters in the Christian story. Jeremiah wrote a well-known and oft-quoted letter with instructions for the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1–23). The Apostle Paul likewise wrote letters to instruct and form churches and individuals from a distance.
Indeed, the very identity of Christians as a “people of the book” highlights an element of distance in Christian instruction. We learn from authors even across temporal, spatial, and cultural distances.
As you plan your course, look anew at your institution’s mission statement. Here, as an example, is Baylor’s. Then ask:
What key notions or animating ideas might be taken from your institution’s mission statement and given fresh expression in your course?
How can an online course expand the “mission field” of teaching and learning in a way that is true to your school’s identity?
Consider your and your students’ imaginations about the course:
What is your imagination for the course? Simply put, what are you doing as the instructor? Why are you doing it?
What are your students’ imaginations about the course? What do they think they are they doing? Why are they doing it?
Understanding the differences and points of convergence between these imaginations is important for any effort to teach and learn.
- Nathan Alleman and Perry Glanzer's The Outrageous Idea of Christian Teaching
- David I. Smith’s On Christian Teaching
- David I. Smith’s “Practices, Pedagogy, and Life Together” (video)
- Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, especially his discussion of the two stonecutters, p. 176.