Criswell Adds Online Master’s Degree
Written by Michelle Tyer, TEXAN
Criswell College recently made available a fully online master’s degree to complement their on campus degree plans. The degree includes 36 hours of classes that can be completed in eight-week sessions.Four students currently are participating in the master of arts degree in Christian studies (MACS) that was accredited in the last couple of months.
“You get the same quality of learning over eight weeks that you get in 16 weeks,” said Scott Shiffer, who began leading the development of the program in November 2012. Anyone who has completed an undergraduate degree and takes a research seminar offered at Criswell can enroll in the program. Shiffer explained that the program is perfect for those wanting to further their education or even to just study theology more but who do not live near a seminary. “They want to be able to offer something to missionaries,” Shiffer said. “Something to people in churches outside the area.”
The program is similar to oncampus classes in that professors help the students and they set deadlines, Shiffer said. But it is also more flexible for those who are full-time ministers or missionaries. Students can also decide if they want to take sessions simultaneously or spread them out through the year. “They can work at their own pace,” Shiffer said.
Curtis James, the worship leader at Criswell and a part of Common Belief Ministries, decided to take part in the program as soon as it became available. “It’s perfect for your typical minister who’s working 50 hours a week at his church and can’t go on campus,” James said. With his ministries, James travels around the state to assist churches and is not able to stay in one place to take classes. “It’s helpful for me to be able to get online at 11 o’clock in a hotel room and do my schoolwork,” James said.
Each eight-week course contains eight units, each providing a written lecture, textbook readings and an assignment such as class discussion, a quiz or project. James said having a professor ready to help is an advantage that his undergraduate online classes did not always provide and adds a new dimension to the program. “There’s something about the accountability of a professor being there on campus as a part of the Internet program,” James said. “You have somebody you can literally pick up the phone and call.” Those professors can be contacted easily over the phone or through email, James said. And they usually respond quickly.
But James also said the Internet program is not just an easy way to get the degree. “I don’t think it’s for everybody,” James said. Barry Creamer, vice president for academic affairs and professor of humanities, agreed, noting: “We do expect the online MACS to appeal to all kinds of students. But it is specifically designed for working adults who are involved in ministry vocationally or as volunteers, but who are typically unable to attend class or relocate in order to receive a theological education.”
Shiffer said the degree program— which offers classes such as philosophy of religion, biblical hermeneutics and personal evangelism—is text-based. This is helpful for two of the four online students who are deaf. James said the teaching method of Criswell College drew him to the school and their new program. “I think their primary focus is to prepare the students for ministry,” James said. “Not merely to teach them knowledge.” James said translating that ministry focus into the online program is unique and admirable.
Shiffer said Criswell does plan on making their online program just as efficient in training students as the classes on campus. “We intend for it to be a very high-quality program,” Shiffer said. “Anything the student would learn in a classroom they will learn online.” Anyone interested in the program can find more information at Criswell College’s website: criswell.edu