International (MNN) — Around the world, education programs have had to shift online due to coronavirus-related restrictions. Teachers and students traded classrooms and in-person lectures for video calls and email threads.
The Program for Theological Education by Extension (PTEE) was no different. At first, it seems like they should have an advantage. After all, they’ve been holding eLearning courses for three years now, and most of their students do their studying at home.
Most, but not all. A crucial part of PTEE’s system relies on face-to-face discussions. Students do their learning at home, then bring questions and conversation into group sessions in person. Thanks to COVID-19, they’ve now moved even these discussions into a digital environment.
But rather than hinder their work, the pandemic has actually caused increased interest in PTEE’s programming. Because of their experience in online learning, they’re well-equipped for the transition.
“Typically, most of our classes… have had a lot of success and fun in doing Zoom conferencing using their mobile phone device,” says Rick Weymouth of PTEE.
This has sparked great interest in PTEE’s mobile learning programming. PTEE defines eLearning as the use of computers or laptops for online learning; mobile learning relies on mobile phones. It’s the latter that’s drawing new attention
As interest continues to grow, “it’s putting a lot of pressure on us as the development team to roll out these courses faster, to try to train tutors for online learning faster, and it’s putting our team under a lot of pressure, but it’s a good thing.”
And video conferences are more and more common, even when they’re not in class. Much of PTEE’s work takes place via local churches, and those groups are staying in contact via virtual meetings.
“It’s harder in some respects because the physical proximity is important for offering spiritual encouragement,” Weymouth says. “But we are making use of it and so students are getting encouraged spiritually.”
Lockdown and quarantine measures have created problems for many. At the same time, many of PTEE’s students report getting the chance to reflect on their lives, connect with their families, and rest apart from the chaos of daily schedules.
As you take your own quiet time, consider praying for PTEE and their efforts.
“The development team is under a lot of pressure now to roll out courses faster to develop them,” Weymouth says. “That takes time to think through how you do it well educationally, and so we need God’s wisdom and grace as we do that.”
PTEE also needs to train tutors, fund their work, and maintain creative solutions to pandemic-induced complications.
“It’s given us new impetus to expand our efforts in online learning and mobile learning… Despite the difficulties the pandemic has caused us, some good things are coming out of this.”
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.