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A new academic year
4 March 2019
The beginning of a new academic year brings with it anticipation and excitement – particularly for those students that are just starting out on their learning journey. This sentiment was reflected, as staff, students and supporters of ALC joined together in celebrating the commencement of the 2019 academic year on Monday, 25 February.
Proceedings included a time of worship followed by a brief reflection on the implementation of ALC’s Strategic Direction presented by ALC Principal, Rev James Winderlich, and a presentation of a new Service to Theological Education award by ALC’s Board Chair, Rev David Gogoll.
The opening lecture for 2019 was presented by ALC’s Dean, Rev Dr Stephen Haar and was entitled, Learning, Formation and Community: Challenges Facing a Distributed Model of Theological Education. The presentation focussed on ALC’s shift from an instructional model to a learning model going forward and was reflective of a decision made by the ALC Board in September 2018, to expand ALC’s distributed learning program to include all streams of learning taught by the College.
Through his presentation, Dr Haar explained that rather than being rejective of traditional models, distributed learning is receptive, responsive and restorative: receptive to research about how people learn; responsive to the changing profile of students and the diverse needs of the Church; and restorative of a more holistic approach to church worker education and training.
‘Distributed Learning is not online-only learning, and it is not distance education in new clothing. Distributed learning is something different again. It envisions a college without walls: locally based, nationally coordinated, and globally connected. Students follow approved programs of study, but within a dynamic model of intersecting learning communities: congregation, college, and context.
Distributed learning describes a model of learning that includes a mix of online learning, streaming video, conferencing, face-to-face classroom time, and experiential learning. Concurrent with their theological study, learners are engaged in a guided process of relational, reflective, and contextual learning; including the use of mentors and supervisors. Distributed learning accommodates a separation of geographical locations for part of the program, and it focuses on learner-to-learner as well as teacher-to-learner interactions.’
Closing remarks from Dr Haar highlighted the reasoning behind the Board’s decision to expand ALC’s distributed learning program.
‘Distributed learning, with its aim to offer a rich, multi-dimensional learning experience that informs, shapes and prepares people for ministry, represents a clear example of ALC responding to the challenge of our changing context. The LCA has continued to change over the past 50 years. The number and mix of congregations—established, declining, renewing and emerging—is changing.
The arrival of migrants and refugees from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, has witnessed a change in membership profile and highlights special needs within culture and language groups. These realities expose the inadequacy of ALC continuing to provide a ‘one-size-fits-all’ response to the education and training needs of a diverse Church.
ALC’s Strategic Direction identifies among the College’s values, ‘Decision-making focused on those we serve as higher priority [than] historic continuity of internal structure, courses or teaching methods.’ This is to be ALC’s culture and character going forward, as the College faces the challenges of ‘providing theological education and research for vocation and life, with an emphasis on vocational formation of people to meet the needs of church and world in a postmodern society no longer literate in the Christian faith.’
A recording of Dr Haar’s lecture can be viewed here.
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