American Baptist clergy in the Midwest and Internet-based theological education: Assessing openness and opportunity
Alan D. Selig, Kansas State University, United States
Kansas State University . Awarded
This dissertation was an examination of the experiences of American Baptist clergy with Internet-based theological education. It also assessed their openness to participating in such programs in the future.
Clergy as a group and American Baptist clergy as a sub-group are a relatively understudied population. They are also one of the groups in the United States that participate in degree-based and continuing education programs. As the number of Internet-based educational programs continues to grow, it will be valuable for educational institutions to know the level of interest within this professional group.
The qualitative study utilized a grounded theory methodology, with elements of ethnography and case study. A rationale for the choice of a qualitative methodology over its quantitative alternative was given.
The researcher found a variety of levels of interest in Internet-based theological education among the clergy interviewed. They expressed a strong priority for ongoing educational activities arising especially from a desire to deal more effectively with people. There was a generally expressed fear that Internet-based programs might not permit adequate interactions between participants and instructor or among the participants. Such interactions were a priority for the clergy who participated in the study. Additionally the researcher found a view of continuing education that included mentoring relationships and other non-credit activities.
The single variable of physical distance did not appear particularly powerful as a motivator for participation in Internet-based programs. Levels of available financial support and available time were factors affecting current participation.
Clergy also indicated multiple factors, including vacation and other noneducational goals, often influenced the choice of educational activities. This complex motive set has a strong potential impact on openness to distance-based programs.
The study concluded with a plethora of questions and hypotheses arising from the interview process. These included the question of a definition of what constitutes continuing education for clergy and the impact of specific experiences of Internet-based theological education on clergy attitudes. Suggestions for further research were offered.
Selig, A.D. American Baptist clergy in the Midwest and Internet-based theological education: Assessing openness and opportunity. Ph.D. thesis, Kansas State University.
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