Distance Learning Launched at ETSC
Egyptian trains to and from Cairo came to a grinding halt in August due to the violent political turmoil that followed the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July. The stoppage has greatly disrupted nationwide travel for several months. Only fourteen out of a total of 68 trains between Cairo and Upper Egypt are now operating. This reality could have caused instruction in our Alexandria and Minia branches to stop if it wasn’t for the distance learning units that ETSC was ready to launch.
Making full use of the new Distance Learning equipment at the campus extensions in Minya and Alexandria was the only way classes could have continued and assure the safety of our professors. Classroom cameras and screens had been tested in all three campus locations in June and classes began as scheduled in September. We are thankful for the generous donation by National Presbyterian Church in 2012 and anonymous Korean friends that made the dream of our Minia and Alexandria extensions a reality.
The Current Phase is known technically as Synchronous Learning. Instead of ETSC faculty commuting to the extensions, professors can lecture simultaneously to students gathered in two locations for a particular class. The students are “virtual class members” on a screen in Cairo and the professor is a “virtual presence” on a screen in a distant location. No longer required to commute weekly by train to these cities, the teacher gains a full day on campus and can use his time for preparation. Dr. Samuel taught Introduction to Pastoral Counseling and General Psychology and did make some face-to-face visits to Minya. Dr. Magdi taught Introduction to the Old Testament to students in Alexandria.
The next phase, asynchronous learning, is in the active planning stages. Courses must be designed specifically for students to access the digital materials on their personal schedules. Lectures, multi-media charts or images, message board forums, e-mail contact with the professors, digitized print materials and online exams are all a part of this second stage of ETSC Distance Learning.
This stage includes training the ETSC faculty to deliver their course material in this new format and providing computer access in specific locations for distance learning students who do not own a laptop or have home internet. The primary goal is to have all ETSC introductory classes available online in the near future. A longer range plan is for each ETSC Cairo Campus student to enroll in at least one asynchronous course to become familiar with the technology so they will be more likely to take advantage of online Continuing Education opportunities after graduation.
This second phase will enable students in the Global Church to enroll in Seminary level courses offered in the Arabic language. This could include those hampered by distance, their personal schedule or by religious restrictions. By the next academic year an Egyptian emigrant in Australia could enroll with a student from South Sudan and share their unique perspectives on a message board with a woman in Assuit and a full time student at ETSC. The “classroom environment” will be rich indeed.
We are so thankful for the gifts that made these Instructional advances possible. If you wish to contribute, funds are being solicited to cover the costs of equipment, training, and administration of the future phase of the Distance Learning program.