Story Magazine - Second Quarter, 2007

Distributed Learning M.Div. Pilot Program Launches This Fall

by Laura Kaslow, Communication Specialist

This fall, 14 new Luther Seminary students preparing for ordained ministry will begin their academic journeys, although not on campus. Rather, they will be earning their degrees in the context of their own ministry settings. A pilot program for the Distributed Learning Master of Divinity (DL M.Div.) will allow students to complete the requirements of the Master of Divinity degree through a combination of online classes and on-campus intensives. This is an expansion of the seminary's current distributed course offerings. Luther is the first ELCA seminary to offer a distributed learning Master of Divinity program.

This new program takes away a major barrier for prospective students--geography. For some students, despite a call to ministry, picking up their families and moving across the country is not an option. The DL M.Div. program allows students to follow their calls regardless of their locations.

The DL M.Div. program follows the same academic standards as the residential program, allowing students to receive the same rich, theological education as if they had moved to St. Paul, Minn. It is a comprehensive program that allows students to work in a parish setting while completing their seminary studies. The distributed learning mode allows their ministry to feed their coursework and their coursework to feed their ministry. Additionally, by working in a cohort model, students develop a strong sense of community with their classmates.

"What I love about Luther Seminary's distributed learning programs is the
way they foster collaboration and shared conversation," said Mary Hinkle Shore, Associate Dean for First Theological Degree Programs and Associate Professor of New Testament. "Something good happens when students and professors gather around scripture, classic theological texts and the rest of our curriculum. For us, technology is not a conveyor belt for content but a tool to gather us for shared study and reflection."

Six years ago, the seminary launched a distributed learning Master of Arts program in Children, Youth and Family (CYF) ministry. Student and graduate feedback in a recent survey was extremely positive--students felt that this program made a significant difference in their ministry by equipping them with a stronger understanding of the Bible and theology. Distributed CYF students also reported experiencing both spiritual growth and high levels of personal support through their participation in the program.