Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Online Orientation: The Seminary Edition

For months I have known that I would need to do an online orientation before I was allowed to take seminary classes.  The orientation is not set up so that one can do it way far in advance; for fall term, the online orientation opened Monday, five weeks before classes start.

It's a class that's set up in Blackboard, a Learning Management System, which helps us all learn how to use the system.  Even students who are taking face to face classes in person may need to know how to use the system, so it's good to get us all some training.  And what's even more important about doing this orientation through Blackboard is that we can do this orientation on our own timeline.  When I try to think about how this orientation might once have been done, I imagine having to report to campus a few days early or the week before classes started.    This year, I'm glad we don't have to do that.

For the past few days, I have worked my way through part of the modules.  I have spent the last few months exploring the extensive website, so much of the information wasn't new to me.  One of the modules covered the information that was discussed during the Academic Planning Session that I did back in June.  One of the modules talked about ways to be successful in online classes.

As I watched, I thought about how useful these modules would be if I had never had an online class--I find the whole format overwhelming at times, and I have had many years of experience with a variety of online platforms.  I'm impressed with the way the Office of Community Life has thought of all sorts of things I will need to know as a student taking online classes.

I have made my way through the modules on plagiarism and sexual harassment, through modules that gave me a student handbook and the catalogue. I am intrigued by the information given in the Writing for Seminary module--they must have gotten some pushback on expectations here, as they give lots of information about how the seminary is a graduate school and grad school writing is different from undergraduate writing.

Again, if I hadn't spent so many decades in higher ed, maybe this would all seem new to me.  But even if it isn't new, it's pleasant to be exploring these modules.

And I'm impressed by the depth and breadth here.  I remember the orientations that we put together a year ago as we were pivoting from in-person new orientations to ones delivered virtually.  We did not cover nearly as much, but in some ways, we didn't have as much to cover--some of it had been handled during the Admissions process.  We also didn't have a flexible platform, like Blackboard.  And we didn't have a lot of time. 

This online orientation for Wesley Theological Seminary makes me realize how much better it could have been.  And it makes me grateful that so much care has been taken on my behalf as an incoming MDiv student.

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