When Scott E. Shiffer came to Criswell in 2012, the school had no online degrees. While he says he wasn’t sure where to start, he did have a vision. Now, the school not only has two online degrees, but is also teaching policies and professional development specific to online courses.
Thanks to Shiffer, professors at the Dallas campus attend online course development training that includes online pedagogy before they teach the course. “I wanted teachers to know how to modify what they’re doing in the classroom to best serve online students,” he said. For example, they could make handouts more detailed, ask them to turn in assignments more frequently and pose questions that require students to evaluate something they learned.
Through policies, Shiffer designed standards and structure to help ensure that students thrive in online courses. Once the course is live, faculty are required to respond to student emails or queries within 48 hours and must commit to grading assignments within one week. This is done with the goal that students should feel like they’re in continuous communication with their professors. Online class sizes are also limited to 25 students.
Looking ahead, Shiffer is preparing to take the Christian college’s chapel classes online too. Students on campus are required to attend chapel, and Shiffer wants to make sure distance students feel as much a part of the campus community as possible.
“My overall approach to technology is that we don’t want to be the last group of people using a certain technological tool, because then you’re left behind,” said Shiffer. “At the same time, I don’t want our school to be the guinea pig for every new thing out there. We ask ourselves, ‘Will this be one more thing faculty and students have to learn or will this enhance learning?” — Jennifer Snelling