Video conferencing allows global Nazarene schools to educate beyond borders
Friday, June 8, 2012
Global Ministry Center
By Sarah Glass for NCN News
Receiving real-time instruction from a school hundreds of miles away is becoming commonplace in the Church of the Nazarene's network of institutions. 

Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, Nazarene Theological College-Brisbane, European Nazarene College, and Nazarene Seminary of the Americas are just four of the Nazarene higher education institutions using video conferencing technology to educate beyond their facility walls.

"We began development of the [video conferencing] system in 2006 with traditional video conference equipment," said Brad Firestone, Global Mission I.T. coordinator. "With the addition of easy computer access via the Vidyo component in 2011, usage has increased dramatically."

Among the four institutions, Nazarene higher education is available in more than 15 countries, including Fiji, New Zealand, and Argentina. Some of these areas are more than 4,000 miles away from the host institution. These efforts are possible through support from the Church of the Nazarene's World Evangelism Fund and Global Mission, with training provided by individuals such as Bob Woodruff, former coordinator of educational development for the denomination.

Asia-Pacific Region 

Based near Manila, Philippines, Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary strives to prepare men and women for Christlike leadership and excellence in ministry. The seminary began using video conferencing technology in November to maximize their education opportunities.

"[Video conferencing] is beginning to enable students to receive education who might otherwise be disenfranchised or marginalized," said Darin Land, dean of students at APNTS. "Bringing education to these constituencies empowers them. As these technological resources are harnessed more and more, we can expect to hear more powerfully from voices long silent in the church and in the world."

The region's seminary first used a combination of Skype and Moodle, a classroom management system, before switching to the system used by other Nazarene schools, Vidyo

The students who participate via video conferencing are mainly engaged in work and ministry in their home countries outside of the Philippines. But it's not just these students that benefit from the experience.

Land taught two PhD classes using the video conferencing system and said typical classroom relationships, between the students and between the instructor and students, formed as usual.

"In the case of the PhD courses, our on-site students were able to learn from the remote students, and vice versa," he said. "I felt that I came to know the remote students in much the same way as I would with students who are physically present."

In Australia, NTC-Brisbane's mission is to make Christlike disciples through quality, practical, holiness education. In addition to the college's on-campus classes in Thornsland, the school offers education via video conferencing-equipped classrooms in Auckland, New Zealand, and Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, Australia.

Principal Bruce Allder said the seminary hopes to enter the Kimberly Region, a remote area in northwestern Australia, in the next few weeks. 

"I am particularly excited at the possibilities of reaching the indigenous communities of Australia that have for a long time suffered from isolation and a lack of resources in theological education," he said.

Vidyo's individualized software even makes it possible for students who cannot visit a satellite classroom to still participate in classes.

"One of the difficulties we have is that we span four different times zones with a four- and sometimes five-hour time difference," Allder said. "When a class runs very late in one centre, the student can connect to the classroom from home rather than travel to a classroom very late at night."

Allder believes using this technology has many benefits.

"The synchronous teaching allows for connectedness, relationship-building, and immediate feedback and interaction," he said. "It does not take a student long to feel part of the class no matter where they may be situated."

Eurasia

European Nazarene College aims to enable disciples of Christ to participate in the mission of God and serve local communities of faith. The college recently went through restructuring with the implementation of the "Moving Beyond" strategy in 2011, which shifted the college's focus from its campus in Büsingen, Switzerland, to its 15 learning centers for 17 countries with more than 40 teaching locations

The college uses the video conferencing system in several ways. The system can connect a teacher and students in two different locations, but can also be used in conjunction with face-to-face classes. For instance, EuNC uses the system when a teacher can only give a few intensive, in-person classes, but needs to further guide the students to finish the course. The system is also used for administrative purposes, such as meetings, which involve persons in numerous countries separated by up to nine hours time difference.

"Video conferencing along with Web-based technology has enabled EuNC to build a decentralized school that is still focused on providing a learning community to its students and building a team spirit among its workers," said Antonie Holleman, academic dean.

"EuNC is able to do far more with less financial resources."

Mesoamerica

Located in San Jose, Costa Rica, Nazarene Seminary of the Americas (Seminario Nazareno de las Américas; SENDAS) is one of the only graduate institutions in Latin America. SENDAS has made the most of this fact through its Master's Beyond Borders program and its Virtual Nazarene Seminary.

In 2009, Mark Maddix, dean of the School of Theology at Northwest Nazarene University, introduced seminary and regional leaders to traditional online education.

"We heard for the first time about this technology in 1996 and we said, 'One day we are going to have that,'" said Ruben Fernandez, SENDAS president and Mesoamerica education director. "Those were the days of slow dial-up connections in Latin America. We were far away from that possibility."

In 2010, the first Master's Beyond Borders class was held via video conferencing. The region's seminary now has 16 satellite campuses in 11 countries and educates more than 250 students at the Master's level alone using this system.

"We can reach more students in Latin America using better-qualified professors on our continent who have expertise in different areas," he said. "Sometimes they teach from their own countries...in front of a camera they teach four to five centers at the same time."

In addition to helping students, the use of this video conferencing system has helped further the gospel.

"This is having a great impact in the different ministries to the neighborhoods and communities, developing local churches and districts to a new level," Fernandez said.

USA/Canada

Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Nazarene Theological Seminary use Vidyo to connect with students in the U.S.

MVNU offers classes via video conferencing as a part of their Master of Ministry program at several locations across Ohio.

NTS also offers classes in several locations, using the system to connect not only students from different areas, but also professors, such as Tom Noble from Manchester, England. In the two years NTS has offered the classes, the number of students has grown to 60.
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  • I welcome this new means of communication, it is not only usefull for the educational purposes b... BLESSWITHFIVE on 06/08/12