In 2013, I wrote about the current state of MOOCs in religious education, noting few efforts to date, and most that related to more traditional pedagogies. While the second part (a preference for traditional pedagogies) continues, 2014 is likely to be the year in which more faith-based organizations start to embrace MOOCs as part of their mission.
Luxvera is one such example. This new open course platform offers a small selection of current courses and is sponsored by Regent University, a well-respected higher education player in the online learning world, offering regionally accredited master’s degrees and doctorates from a distinctly Christian perspective. This new venture is starting with massive open online courses in theology or biblical studies, but the site includes placeholders for future courses in the humanities, business and economics, philosophy, as well as internet and technology.
As I described in my last article about MOOCs from many Christian and other religious groups, this model is traditional and does not appear to leverage the power of large open courses. In the case of Luxvera, they state, “courses have rolling and open enrollment and can be completed at your own pace.” This seems to suggest minimal peer-to-peer interaction and little to no opportunity for leverage affordnaces of MOOCs like peer assessment and crowd-sourced knowledge generation. In the case of religious education MOOCs, I suspect that part of this is due to the fact that such Christian education traditions continue to rely upon a philosophy of education that emphasizes experts and specialists as the leaders and providers of new knowledge. This apprentice/master or teacher/disciple foundation remains central in religious education contexts, which makes such features no surprise as these organizations embrace new delivery systems for their courses and instruction.
Another interesting part of Luxvera is the plan to soon offer these courses with certificates and for-credit options, potentially at a highly reduced rate compared to college courses from other online Christian Universities. Even as they plan to have a cost associated with earning credit, they intend to keep the content open and free for others.
Pat Robertson, the founder of Regent University, made his goals for Luxvera clear. Increase access to low-cost and high-quality online instruction that results in more people choosing to participate in such Christian education options, further equipping them to express the Christian values and beliefs in their work and life. This is a global vision, with aspirations to reach people in multiple languages, similar to Robertson’s work with the Christian Broadcasting Network. The goal is no less than to “transform Christian higher education” by increasing access for people in all parts of the world.