Here’s a bit of futurism by one who is only guessing about the future of seminary education and, while I don’t think this will occur just like the sketch below, I do foresee a day when something along this line will become a genuine, if not disastrous, option:
At MOOC (massive open online course) Divinity School (Mooc-Div), the seminary of the online future, students will work with degree granting organizations (DGOs) to fashion a seminary education without ever stepping foot on a seminary’s campus, if a campus exists, or meeting any of their professors.
Here’s what could happen:
Students will ponder what kind of church or organization they will enter upon completion of their seminary degree, and in many cases the student will already be in their church or organization. They will inform that church or organization and ask for a list of required MOOCs and begin taking those courses at Mooc-Div. Online. At home. Rarely visiting a library. The church or organization will work with Mooc-Div to fashion a credentialing degree process.
The church or organization (parachurch ministry, NGO, teaching institution) will become aware of all the MOOCs available, will determine which lectures the students need to absorb, will write exams or assessments for each chosen MOOC, will grade and assess each course and, upon completion of the list of required MOOCs, will grant the student a degree.
Think about it this way: each of the major scholars on Jesus will produce, in conjunction with some production company, a course on Jesus. Say, J.P. Meier, Marc Borg, N.T. Wright, A.-J. Levine, Dom Crossan, et al. Or each of the major scholars on Paul, like J.D.G. Dunn, N.T. Wright, U. Schnelle, Seyoon Kim, Douglas Campbell,et al. No need to have ordinary schmucks producing courses when you can have the world’s finest scholars, and no reason to go to some ordinary schmuck seminary when you can attend Mooc-Div and take said SuperProfs (SPs) on all subjects in the Mooc-Div curricular offerings.
Some DGOs will determine their professors are what they want their students to hear instead of the SPs and so will produce courses for their vision, but students will gravitate toward the SPs, creating for the DGOs some tension. But Mooc-Div will be the default school because it will be the model for seminaries.
Ordinary professors (OPs), like yours truly, will become tutors in the old-fashioned sense. We will work for DGOs or for Mooc-Div itself, at reduced rates, to assess how the students in our DGOs are doing with their lectures. We will e-mail the students about their courses, perhaps in some cases Skype with them, but our responsibility will be to assess if the student is progressing in our own list of MOOCs. OPs will rarely need to lecture or teach in a classroom, reducing the size and costs of DGOs. There will probably be no reason for the OPs to leave home — ordinary professors can do all this from a computer at home. Administrators will hire and monitor their OPs and will work with their own list of OP’s about which courses in the Master MOOC Register best fit the expectations of the churches and organization where they place their students. Administrators of DGOs will also not need to leave home.
Maybe Mooc-Div is the megachurch, multi-site model taking hold in seminaries.
When this happens in the seminary, what will happen to local churches?
Maybe we should all calm down and think what will happen to churches if the MOOC model takes hold. Is Mooc-Div the next borg?