Online graduate degrees are becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. Our culture is a very busy one and fitting in classes is not an easy thing to do. I actually completed my undergraduate degree online, but in my opinion, seminary is something that should be done “on campus” and I’ve got five reasons to help you understand why:
1. Community: The online experience will never be able to supplement the experience of living and “doing life” with fellow classmates. Being on campus will allow you to truly get to know your classmates. There is a special bond that is formed between people who are going through life events together. You’ll have people you can talk to at a moment’s notice when you’re struggling with something, be it classroom related or not. From those I’ve spoke to about the seminary experience, one of the greatest takeaways they had was the relationships they formed while they were in the seminary.
2. Faculty interaction: Being on campus will allow you to physically see and interact with the faculty. Your questions can be answered quickly and you’ll get a real feel for how the instructor teaches. The relationships you form being face to face with your instructors could be a big help to you later on, even after you graduate.
The online route is different with every school on this point, but for the most part if you are seeking any interaction from your instructors it will be in email form. You will have to wait for responses and hope they get back to you in time for your assignment to be turned in correctly and you’ll never have the chance to have an instructor get to know you personally and vice versa.
3. You’ll learn to debate: The most classmate interaction that I had during my undergraduate work was in the discussion boards. While their purpose is genuine (to create discussion about a given topic) it was easy to “check out” and only do as much work as was necessary to get through the assignment. I never had to actually read a response to my original post, and even if I did get a response, I had no way of knowing if I would actually be able to get into some sort of dialog with the person responding.
Being on campus will force you into discussing/defending your viewpoints in ways that the online forum simply can’t recreate.
4. Community support: I’ll start this point with a disclaimer: I can only truly vouch for the seminary I’ll be attending, but I would feel safe in assuming that it would generally be true of most seminaries.
The seminary I’m attending has teamed up with churches in the area to provide internships for those qualified. This helps the student gain practical ministry experience while learning everything the seminary has to offer. The seminary also has relationships with area food banks that cater to seminary students because they realize that going through grad school isn’t easy and takes up a lot of time, time that normally would be spent earning a living. While you may be able to maintain your current job attending seminary online, you won’t have the support of the community around you (unless you are extremely blessed).
5. Atmosphere: Let’s face it, college towns are just plain fun. There is always something going on to keep students (and their families) as busy and involved as they would like to be. Resident life takes on a life of its own between game nights, sports outings, barbecues and all the other fun things you remember from your undergrad. Simply put, when you do school online, you’re on your own.
On campus isn’t for everyone, and that is okay, but for my money, I’ll take the on campus experience.
By Michael A. Murphy Michael is a husband and father to three children. He and his wife will be moving their family from Michigan to Colorado to attend seminary this fall. Mike and his wife, Denise, blog together at theevertree.wordpress.com