Christian Distance Education

Christian distance education opportunities abound across the Internet for the individual who is striving to answer the call of God upon his life. While a follower of Christ can certainly receive a fine education from a secular school, there may be certain courses, programs or approaches that are more in line with an individual's goals or interests that can only be supplied from a Christian education. An online education can provide the opportunity for a person to work fulltime in either a secular setting or a church setting while preparing for a vocation that is Christ centered. Since many people are already involved in some kind of life's work when the decision to get a Christ centered education is made, the online option is the only one available. Deciding which program to choose can be a daunting task, because there are hundreds of different programs from which to choose, and over five hundred schools that offer various degrees.

When a person decides to pursue Christian distance education opportunities, there are some things that first must be decided. Foremost would be one's denominational affiliation. If a person is expecting to serve in the ministry for a particular denomination after graduation, what are the qualifications for various positions in that denomination, and what schools will be recognized by the ecclesiastical councils? Receiving a degree that is not recognized by a chosen denomination would be a supreme disappointment. Since each denomination has varying qualifications and requirements, inquiry regarding them should be a high priority.

Secondly, if a person is choosing online Christian distance education for a professional licensure other than ministry, the accreditation of that school is also of supreme importance. For example, a person wanting to pursue a course of study leading to an eventual licensure in psychology would need a Christian education course study that is accepted by the American Psychological Association. The same would be true of a study in law needing the American Bar Association's approval. The accreditation of a school can be very important, or it may not matter at all, depending on the plans the student may have. For example, if a student desires a strong Bible emphasis education such as a Bachelor's degree in Biblical studies, many unaccredited degrees may be acceptable if the student plans on starting a non-denominational church. There would be no review boards or ordination regulations restricting or dictating the student's course of study, but those unaccredited degrees could haunt the person later when seeking a Master's or Doctoral degree.

While a person might tempted to think that only "spiritual" subjects are offered through Christian distance education, the reality is that degrees in such subjects such as anthropology, American studies, Information systems, human development, business management, accounting, criminal justice, computer programming and dozens more majors are available. What will set these courses apart from state and secular school emphases will be recognition of biblical principles and truths that have shaped history and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the second person of the Godhead. Within those parameters, truth is disseminated and judged. Of course, that is the ideal. In some cases, a secular humanism has crept into many Christian distance education schools that questions the supreme truth that the Bible has always claimed. Depending on the person's own theological positions and understandings, this issue may be a deal breaker or not one at all. "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2: 10, 11)

Choosing a school that does offer Christian distance education opportunities can be tough. Since location is not a problem, finances and perhaps the strength of the school's faculty may be the next two most important issues. Student government loans do not discriminate against Christian schools and so there are a number of low interest loans and grants available for even long distance learning courses. Much will depend upon how much a load the student is carrying. Online websites can help a student sort out the financial end of things. As far as the faculty is concerned, examine the faculty roster to see how many Ph. Ds are on staff. Look to see who has been published lately and ascertain the schools that the faculty attended. Being a Christian school does not excuse it from being or attaining academically excellent standards.

One of the things that will be important to someone pursuing a Christian distance education experience will be the access to an online library. It is important to find out what libraries will be available to the student. Many online school s do have agreements with other schools' online library facilities, so make sure that there are plenty of resources for all the papers and projects that will be due. Additionally, it will be important that a student have contact with other students during their college life. Finding out how to access student forums is key to learning from other students as well as teachers. Furthermore, students must know that they have easy access to faculty members through emails, phone numbers and other communication media.

Before attempting any Christian distance education experience, understand that there may be requirements for on campus experiences during the degree pursuit. Very few acclaimed programs do not require the student to be on campus at least a few weeks during the years of taking courses. One must consider the cost of such a requirement before agreeing to a particular degree pursuit. Having a fulltime job and perhaps a family adds a great burden to any student's life. Finding quiet time to study and work will prove to be a great challenge. Yet if called by God, what can a person do but respond?

Distance Education Universities

Degrees earned at distance education universities may be just as influential in securing employment as those awarded by brick and mortar schools, especially if offered through accredited institutions. Legally, an institution of higher education cannot use the term "university" unless accredited or approved by a governing educational board. The major difference between online institutions and traditional schools of higher learning is the method in which instruction is delivered. Web-based universities are computer-assisted "virtual campuses" which cater to students in remote or off site locations. An enrollee can live across town, across the state, or on another continent and still access programs via high-tech telecommunications, such as video and web conferencing, email, and chat rooms. Because of today's Internet capabilities, online students can experience the impact of being in the classroom from almost any location in the world. Strategically placed IP addressable web cameras can display classroom activity and group discussions in real time. Program enrollees can access assignments, download syllabuses and study guides, and take exams by logging onto university websites using a unique user ID and password. Class discussions take place in chat rooms as professors and students "converse" via text messages and blogs.

Because distance education universities exist primarily in cyberspace, program offerings are more accessible to a global audience, rather than one limited by geographical area. Virtual universities can accommodate hundreds of thousands of undergraduates from all walks of life with diverse interests. And the costs of operating a cyberspace college are much less than expenses incurred by major educational institutions within a physical plant. Consider the savings in constructing and maintaining physical structures. Virtual universities require no libraries, coed dormitories, lecture halls, or stadiums to heat and cool. Lawn maintenance is nil and there is no food service in the non-existent cafeteria. But the quality of education is incomparable. Web-based curriculums offer high quality instruction by a stellar faculty of qualified educators who are just an email or phone call away should students require additional one-on-one assistance. Computer-assisted courses utilize the same textbooks as those provided campus students; however most texts will include a CD which enables program participants to download complementary instructional materials from the university's server.

And because distance education universities have very little operating expense compared to traditional schools, administrators can afford to invest a substantial amount of funds in high-tech instructional delivery and communications systems, paramount to the success of an online institution. In addition to emails, telephony, and chatrooms, virtual universities utilize satellite television to broadcast lectures and laboratory demonstrations. Some even broadcast from on-campus studios manned by journalism or mass media majors. Implementing programs offered by distance education universities requires a fully interactive web site which utilizes specially designed software programs and databases to manage student records and accounts, deliver educational material throughout the quarter, and help enrollees gain valuable skills in pursuit of an online academic degree. Distance learning students also have the flexibility to complete coursework at their own pace, within the parameters of a time-sensitive schedule of reading assignments, practical online exercises, quizzes, email discussions, and exams.

Another advantage of enrollment in distance education universities is that degree programs can usually be completed within two years online versus the typical four-year time frame for attending a traditional college. While traditional and virtual universities both award bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees; a web-based curriculum tends to be condensed and accelerated. Most enrollees are willing to invest nights and weekends at the computer in hopes of obtaining a terminal degree for better employment opportunities. They aren't concerned about the lack of a physical campus or the loss of undergraduate social activities. Disabled individuals and those who lack the finances to attend traditional brick and mortar schools also opt for enrollment in distance education universities.

While some prospective employers may prefer graduates of Ivy League alma maters, there is really very little difference between an Ivy League and a distance learning graduate. As a matter of fact, students who successfully complete online degree programs are not only familiar with a chosen field of study, but also self-disciplined time managers with strong work ethics. Some employers are often willing to foot the bill for valued employees who want to enroll in distance education universities in order to gain skills and credentials to qualify for a better job and more pay. The very nature of completing an independent online study in a remote location with little feedback or interaction with peers is a testament to an individual's ability to stay focused and on the fast track to success.

Students seeking to enroll in distance education universities should browse the Internet to compare course offerings and fees. Fees will vary depending on the program of study students choose to pursue. Reputable institutions should be accredited by the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA) or the Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA). In a tight race for a better job, the applicant with credentials from an accredited college, whether online or onsite, could hold a slight advantage. Buyers should also beware of online institutions which promise lightning fast degrees with little or no course instruction or testing. Some virtual schools award terminal degrees based on life experience, which is subjective at best. Job seekers may be able to deceive some employers into accepting bogus certification, but actually earning an online degree from an accredited university has considerably more leverage and comfort level than striving unlawfully for success. Finally, the choices for earning an online degree in a student's field of interest have never been better. Affordable fees, flexible schedules, and comprehensive web-based instruction, coupled with technologically-advanced delivery methods enable men and women from all socioeconomic strata to gain valuable skills and improve their marketability as valued employees.

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