FAQs about Distance Learning
1. What is distance learning?
Learning from a distance, or learning that happens where you are, versus in a brick-and-mortar institution. Distance learning transcends distance through technology to create a common learning experience for people in different locations and time zones.
2. What degrees are available for Calvin Seminary distance learning? Are they accredited?
At this time, we offer the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), and the Diploma for Ministry via Distance Learning. We are working to make other programs available as well. Calvin Seminary is approved for a Comprehensive Distance Education program by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Both the M.Div. and the M.T.S. are accredited degree programs. The Diploma for Ministry is not a degree program and therefore is not accredited, but its courses are graduate-level and can be transferred to M.A., M.Div., or M.T.S. programs at Calvin Seminary or elsewhere (as long as you meet the admission requirements for those programs).
3. How is the distance M.Div. calendar different from the residential calendar?
The distance M.Div. program follows the residential calendar, with two exceptions: (1) on-campus intensives for distance students that occur usually four or five weeks into the fall and spring semesters; (2) a 9-week online course during the summer (mid-June through mid-August).
4. What are on-campus intensives? How does the seminary support students attending them?
Intensives are eight days on our beautiful Grand Rapids campus. Students will spend face-to-face time with faculty and fellow students. Coming together as a learning community is a vital part of the distance program. Intensives will emphasize student interaction, collaborative learning, and the application of course materials.
Arrangements and expenses for travel, room, and board are the responsibility of each student. The Distance Learning office will provide general resources (e.g., listing of local housing options, online forums for finding roommates, etc.) to facilitate the planning for intensives.
5. How does online learning happen in the distance program?
Students will use Canvas, a sophisticated Learning Management System, to access a unit of learning each week. Each unit will consist of readings, assignments, projects, conversations, and a variety of learning tasks. Students can move at their own pace to complete all activities, but must finish them by the end of the week.
6. Can I transfer credits I’ve earned elsewhere into the Distance M.Div. program?
Once a prospective student has submitted their application with a full transcript, our Registrar will conduct a thorough analysis of the transcript to determine which courses and credits will transfer. At times, syllabi and other additional info will be requested.
7. How many hours of work per week does the program entail?
Like the residential program, the distance M.Div. program involves three hours of work per week for each credit hour (e.g., 24 hours per week for 8 credits). During intensives, the workload increases to about 40+ hours per week. Students will be in class every morning and afternoon, plus some evenings, every day but Sunday.
8. How flexible is the distance M.Div. on a day-to-day basis?
Besides the on-campus intensives, the program is fluid in terms of time. While there are due dates for assignments as well as test dates, pacing remains the responsibility of each individual student.
9. What are some key differences between the residential and distance programs?
The distance program is designed to accommodate a variety of life circumstances. Students who can’t relocate or commit to time-bound programs due to work and family demands may find the distance program particularly appealing. At the same time, distance education places a high emphasis on collaboration and communication.
The residential program has structured meeting times and regular face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. It also allows flexible access to faculty office hours and regular opportunities for corporate worship and residential community life that are not as available through the distance program.
10. How much does the program cost?
The tuition cost of the distance program is identical to the cost of the residential program. Please see further details (including estimated cost of attendance sheets) here.
11. Is there financial aid available?
Generous scholarship awards are available. Scholarships will be awarded on a rolling basis. Prospective students are encouraged to apply as soon as they can.
12. What kind of tech support do you provide students?
13. What are the minimum tech requirements?
Our Learning Management System (LMS) is completely web-based and requires no special software to install. However, for the smoothest possible experience, we recommend a high-performing computer with high-speed Internet access, as well as updated versions of your browser and Flash. Many courses also require the use of a webcam.
14. What is a cohort?
A cohort is a learning community of students that generally follows the same course sequence and will be interacting online and during intensives. It is similar to a graduate class. Cohorts provide contexts for close-knit community and support systems as members share their learning experience.
15. How available are the professors to distance students?
Professors will provide same or next day response to emails and will be available for online office hours. Since online classes are equivalent to residential classes in workload, professors will provide the same amount of time for grading, interaction, etc. as they would for a residential class.
16. How will ‘formation for ministry’ occur in a distance program?
As in the residential program, formation is the foundation of the curriculum rather than the result of a particular learning environment (e.g., traditional classroom). Key elements such as Mentored Ministries groups, internships, and shared theological reflections are required keystones in the distance as well as residential programs. Thus, the emphasis on formation will be equivalent whether a student is sitting in a classroom or watching a lecture online. Additionally, the careful use of tools such as blogs, forums, and social media can foster relationships of mutual accountability and lifelong learning; we are committed to tapping these pedagogical instruments in thoughtful and creative ways.
17. Whom do I contact for more information?