Interview with Dr. Cindy Wheatley, Chief Academic Strategist at Keypath Education
Q. Cindy, what has been happening in the field of online learning, especially during Covid?
The quality of online learning has been steadily improving over the past decade as technology has advanced to support an engaging and interactive learning experience. Even before the pandemic, the majority of K-12 and higher education had adopted online learning in some form. Hybrid education has become especially prevalent, where students view content online and then devote classroom time to discussion and application. Over the past year we have seen a dramatic increase in schools moving their courses online, which will certainly accelerate the adoption of online learning going forward. I have heard many faculty who were once skeptics about the quality of teaching and learning online say that they now believe students can have a positive learning experience using technology.
Q. Cindy, you were actually involved at the very beginning with Bible Journey. Can you explain that role?
It was my privilege to be the Associate Dean for Hybrid Learning at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary-Charlotte when we launched the first hybrid master’s degree in 2012. As part of that curriculum, we developed online courses in Old Testament Survey and New Testament Survey using videos recorded during the in-person Bible Journey series. We employed the instructional design best practice of “chunking” the content into smaller segments to better facilitate students’ viewing lectures and then interacting with the content via assignments or discussions. That process laid the groundwork for the current online version of Bible Journey that can be experienced either by an individual working through the content on their own, or in a flipped classroom where students interact with the content online and then participate in interactive group discussions within their local church or seminary.
Q. Along with your expertise in online learning, you have a big heart for the local church. Can you explain what you’re doing with Bible Journey at Peace UMC?
Like most churches, Peace moved to streaming worship services and virtual groups in March 2020. During that shift we offered our first Bible Journey group study with participants viewing the material online and then we conducted a weekly discussion via Zoom. It worked well, as we could dial in from wherever we were. Some group members even joined while they were traveling with their families. The group was thrilled when Tim Laniak joined one of our sessions! That’s the gift of technology and the beauty of Bible Journey’s online format.
Q. What kind of response have you seen from your Bible Journey pilot at Peace?
Our pilot Bible Journey group was made up of seasoned Bible readers who were impressed by the rich content and deep connections. Of course, they loved the videos of Tim in the Holy Land that bring scripture to life, but they also appreciated the history, geography, and theology that we don’t get in a lot of Bible studies outside of seminary. We had deep, far-ranging discussions that helped us bridge the gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and between the culture of the Bible and our own modern culture.
Q. What have you learned that would be helpful to other churches considering Bible Journey?
The biggest challenge with implementing Bible Journey in a church setting is the time commitment. Our study lasted three months, so participants should understand the scope of these studies. Some members of our group found the technology challenging initially, so I recommend some hand-holding at the beginning to make sure everyone is comfortable navigating the online environment. I recommend holding an orientation where you can demonstrate the quality of the Bible Journey content and ease of the user interface. You could even walk through a lesson so they can get a taste of the Bible Journey experience!
Bible Journey is a unique study that appeals to those who are hungry for a deep connection with scripture. It might be a bit daunting for people who have never studied the Bible before, but for those who have some experience reading scripture Bible Journey is a wealth of information, wisdom, and truth. We plan to make it a cornerstone of our discipleship offerings at Peace UMC.