As a member of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary board, this past week I had the privilege of attending a retreat regarding online education. I had no idea going in what awaited me!
Aaron Sams lead the seminar, with encouragement and input from President Jerry O'Neill and Director of Development Mark Sampson. Aaron recently joined the RPTS staff as Director of Admissions after a successful career of teaching high school chemistry in Colorado, where he won the 2009 Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. One of the innovative steps he and a colleague took, captured in a new book they have recently published, was the concept of "flipping your classroom." Rather than the traditional approach of having students come to class, listen to the teacher lecture, then go home to do their work, they have encouraged a reverse approach by making use of the explosion of technology now available. Why not have the students watch recorded lectures at home then come to the classroom and do the work where the teacher is available to help them? So in essence students do the classwork at home and the homework at class! I just bought the book and am eager to learn more.
However, our seminar was not on flipping classrooms per se. Rather, with high energy and knowledge mixed with humor, Aaron educated us on the paradigmatic changes seminaries must consider regarding education. As seminaries face such things as a new generation accustomed to having technology interwoven into their lives, students wanting and even expecting online options, helping train men who may not be able to move their families across the country, and mission fields with vast numbers asking for help in training pastors, it is vital that these institutions think through carefully their mission and how they will respond to these changes and demands. The Lord has brought Aaron to us at just the right time as we have been wrestling with these issues for quite a while at RPTS. It remains to be seen all the steps we will ultimately take, but we are glad we will be able to take them more knowledgeably.
To watch and hear Aaron explain flipping the classroom in his own words, watch the first video below. The second one shows a local television report on the widespread attention this concept is attracting.