My virtual seminary experience

Ok, before I was just a guy going to seminary I was just a virtual guy going to a virtual seminary. Yes, I was an online student. The journey for me began about 7 years ago when I was trying to determine if God was calling me to seminary. I’m not so much sure how much of it was God and how much was me just looking for an excuse to skip town… either way, after looking into lots of seminaries and talking it through with my pastor, I decided to give distance education a shot.

Now, the first thing to note is that the education I received via my distance program was great. I loved sitting down and listening to the lectures, reading all my textbooks, writing my papers. I felt like these exercises truly helped me in my job (I was a campus minister). However, as time went on I discovered what I believe is the greatest challenge of distance education… life.

My wife and I moved to a new city, we had our first baby (little man), I went through 3 jobs (eventually getting back to campus ministry), we bought our first house, our basement was destroyed by a flood (3 times), we had our second baby (sweetpea)… and on and on… All while trying to find time to sit, read, and study. Needless to say, it didn’t really pan out.

Over the course of 5 years I purchased 6 extensions ($50 each) and withdrew from 3 classes (meaning I paid a lot of money for the class, didn’t do the work, and then bailed at the last moment). For me, there always seemed to be something more pressing than the classes… besides, they’d always be there tomorrow.

So, my experience ultimately led me to the decision that I’m going to have to do a residential program if I ever want to finish this degree. Now, please don’t take that to mean I think distance education is a bad idea… quite the contrary. I think it is amazing. However, I believe that it requires a certain type of person, with a certain personality, a certain discipline, and a certain situation. You might be that kind of person.

Anyone out there had any luck with the distance program? Let us hear your success story.

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Ryan Burns
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  • I’m a distance ed student. It is not for everyone. You have to decide that your on-line classes are as real as a classroom with walls and other people. It helps that I have friends who are also distance ed. students and live nearby. For me, time was an issue. And moving was not. Money of course is an issue. Getting a loan was not.

    Sooo… I am taking a max of 9 hours a semester. It’s all we can afford without student loans and a kid in college. It will take me 3 years to do an 18 month program. That’s life.

    Just keep pursuing where God leads. And it might be on-line.

    Walking by faith…

  • Thanks for the input Deb. Good to hear it is working for someone. Surely there are lots of people who do really well with a distance program… I just wish I was one of them! Oh, well…

  • Since attending the DLP at Liberty University (LBTS) it has been a blessing and not attending as a resident. The courses that I have taken have been spiritual beneficial to me in knowing Yahweh’s Words and Truth for my ministry to others.
    The professors are great and interact with us through the discussion board forum, question on exams, etc. On our part it does requires a lot of reading, discussion board input, papers and exams within a 8 weeks course. The key is time management and be disciple in completing the assignment for each week.


    • Yes I agree Humberto. I am also on Liberty’s DLP program and I must say that they do a lot to include their distance students. I’m even on the prayer ministry. It’s definitely been a good experience so far.

  • Ideally, I would love (and hope to) get to a campus. I know I have issues of discipline, but I also know if God is calling me to this (which He is), He knows that about me, and will help me to figure out a schedual. I really like the classroom enviroment, b/c it is more personable, you have real interactions and discussions, but right now as a single mom, I have to start out this way and let God lead me to whatever campus he chooses to. Prayers would be appreciated 🙂 Robin

  • I am currently enrolled in Moody’s B.S. in Bible, which is 100% distance learning/correspondence. I think I am the kind of person that you mentioned in your article. I enjoy distance learning, but it is not my preference. I was enrolled at Philadelphia Biblical University in their B.A. in Bible program, yet I chose to get married after my first year of school (I am crazy, yes). Then a buddy of mine requested that we move from Philadelphia back to my home town in Newnan, Georgia, to assist him with a church plant through Acts 29. So, here we are in Newnan, and I am now in distance learning.

    Although a DL education teaches me a great deal (it truly is how much you put into it), nothing can trade the in class experience with a professor, especially at a Bible school. I loved my previous professors, and developed very meaningful relationships with them. They taught me much more than textbooks could have taught me.

    Yet, for this phase of life, distance learning is necessary. I am a maintenance man at the apartment complex we live in, and we are expecting our first baby in July. I really hope to attend a seminary in the traditional sense after my Moody education. I pray for it everyday.

    But… we will see. As far as if I recommend distance learning to anyone else – do it if it’s necessary. It’s all how much you put into it. If you give it 100%, you’ll learn a great deal and enjoy it.

  • I’m currently wrestling with the idea of an online program that also requires that distance students attend an intensive program one week per semester. It’s the Online Learning program from United Theological in Ohio, has anyone heard of it?

    A little history: I’m a single woman, early 20s, working to pay off my undergrad loans. While I would love to be debt-free before starting school again, I feel a push to begin working toward an M.Div. The problem here is that I obviously cannot stop working to begin school again; simply too many bills to be paid.

    So my questions are these: How is an online degree perceived in the “working world” of ordained ministers? And, could a person working full-time also handle being a full-time online student?

Written by Ryan Burns