There’s no doubt what you’re about to read will not come as any big shock to you, but the Internet continues to radically change the way we do things. Aside from making it easier for us to gather information, communicate with each other, do our shopping, file our taxes, etc., it has provided a convenient and cost-effective way to learn, fitting what used to be almost impossible to juggle into a virtual courseroom that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
Increasingly, college students now find themselves with other obligations beyond that of getting a degree. Jobs and family commitments make equal demands on their time, creating an atmosphere ripe for what former New York Times executive editor and Op-Ed columnist Bill Keller once dubbed “The University of Wherever.” Simply put, there are a number of advantages to broadcasting lectures over the Web and converting paper-and-pencil exams to self-graded, online learning management systems.
Although Keller was clear in his lack of overall support for online education, several he spoke with, including Sebastian Thrun, a German-born professor at Stanford and largely self-taught expert in robotics, believed that “we can probably get the same quality of education I teach in course for about 1 to 2 percent of the cost.” Thrun, who’s best known for leading the team that built Google’s self-driving car, continued: “The traditional university … serves a fortunate few, inefficiently, with a business model built on exclusivity. I’m not at all against the on-campus experience. I love it. It’s great. It has a lot of things which cannot be replaced by anything online. But it’s also insanely uneconomical.”
Which is why Tom Snyder, President of Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College, wrote in a 2013 Huffington Post article that “online learning has the potential to revolutionize higher education. Students will be able to learn at their own pace and problems as simple as finding a place to park on campus will be eliminated.” Snyder added later that he foresees “a time when there will be totally virtual colleges and universities and students will not only take courses at their own institution, but expand their scope by enrolling in courses at the great institutions of learning around the world.”
Paul Leblanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University, describes the digital learning environment like this: “Four C’s shape these adult students’ needs: credential (getting the right degree that advances their work and careers), completion (getting a degree as quickly as possible while maintaining quality), cost (being able to afford the degree), and convenience (having delivery methods that work for them). They want quality, of course, and they’d love to have more time for long, exploratory conversations. But those desires are trumped by the four primary drivers of choosing a program.”
Sure, technology has proven to offer plenty of downsides along the way. But there’s no denying its ever evolving reach, relevance and accessibility, a fact that’s compelled numerous industries to get in on the digital shift, from traditional universities and venture capitalists to media companies and long-standing ministries. In that sense, you can certainly count Calvary Chapels around the globe as part of the growing movement. In fact, the upcoming spring issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine will be devoting an entire spread to a piece it’s calling “Knowledge Shall Increase: Social Media and the Internet Create Opportunities for Ministry.”
“Online missions, blogs, social media, live-feed conferences, and online schools are just some of the latest trends,” insists Jessica Russell, who wrote the story. “From world-wide evangelism to the spiritual growth of believers, the possibilities are many.”
CCU’s Director of Admissions and Marketing, Deven Berryhill, echoed Russell’s thoughts, saying towards the end of the article that the university’s “heart is to serve everybody we can. The flexibility of online learning makes it possible to reach out to people all around the world at their convenience.”