When it comes to higher-education, there's no time like summer
For Christian educators, summer months offer needed flexibility
By Rob Horsley | Monday, March 18, 2013
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For students across Canada, summer is often seem as a time of year to relax, kick back and take it easy. But for many, working towards an education simply isn't possible in the fall and winter months. As schedules get busier and students continue to take on the responsibilities of work, professional ministry, or raising a family, many Christian colleges, universities and seminaries are working to provide summer opportunities to continue their studies.
Schools like Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, along with its associated Graduate School of Theology, offer summer courses designed for "personal inspiration, professional development," and "academic credit."
"CMU serves as a rich resource for the church and our surrounding community," says Terry Schellenberg, vice-president externalfor the school. "Offering an array of spring courses is but one way we extend this gift beyond the walls of CMU."
At Regent College in Vancouver, professors and administrators want to make the "intensive" class experience a more comfortable one for those looking to take a class or two in summer months.
According to Sarah Clayton, director of marketing and communications at Regent, summer classes at the school cater to students looking for a more relaxed learning experience that still offers the same academic credit.
"It really is like a summer camp for adults where [sic] students can unwind, learn from world-renowned faculty while taking in Vancouver at its best, and partaking in all the extra curricular activities," she says. Courses generally consist of only a few hours in mornings and afternoons, and a lighter load of homework during students' weeks at school.
Jeff Wheeldon, an associate registrar at Providence University College and Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba, says Christian higher-education institutes are taking initiative to make learning more convenient for students to receive their education.
Providence, like many other Christian institutes, has worked hard to make online learning more accessible for those looking to work towards degrees and certificates off-campus. Many online courses are offered throughout the school year and summer.
"We're finding that traditional students are becoming more and more rare, as many of our students are working full- or part-time or are already engaged in ministry."
One of the highlights of the summer learning modules at Providence is the college's Summer TESOL institute, a month-long intensive that allows students to do the equivalent of a full semester.
"It's a very hands on, practical type of program," says Wheeldon. "You're actually getting six courses crammed into a one-month period which really helps [students] to complete their program quickly and get TESOL certification."
The TESOL program, which trains students to teach English to speakers of other languages, provides a wide variety of options for those who complete the program.
"A lot of our students end up all over the world," says Wheeldon.
Wheeldon adds that at Providence, summer months are an especially good time for those looking to complete seminary courses while juggling the responsibilities of everyday life.
"Particularly in the seminary, we have a lot of students who work full time, they're part-time students, they're full time or part time in ministry, they're stay-at-home parents," he says. "So more and more, our seminary courses are flexible to allow students to be able to continue to upgrade their [education] while they're engaged in real life."
Since its inception in 1970, the staff and faculty of Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto have worked hard to develop summer learning opportunities for students juggling employment, families and other responsibilities. With nearly 40 courses scheduled for this year's spring and summer modules, Tyndale offers a wide variety of options for summer students.
Communications manager Christina Phillips says summertime is probably the best time for a lot of students to fit classes at Tyndale into their lives outside of school.
"We find our spring and summer program really important because we know how many people register for it and we also see how many students return," she says.
Many students are more inclined to enroll during summer months "because they can fit it into their schedule and because they are classes that speak to things they're looking for."
In addition to the usual selection of evening classes, week-long intensives and weekend courses, this year Tyndale is offering students the opportunity to 'travelling for credit' as part of three-week, four-credit study tour to Israel.
"We know that people are definitely interested in going to Israel," says Phillips. "This is just another way to experience Israel, but also it gives them that academic side of thingsbecause it is a four-credit course."
Tyndale is also offering students a chance to participate in a study trip to Spain, where students walk the "Way of St. James" route as part of its Leadership Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Over the course of eight days, students will walk the last 120 kilometres of the route by which the apostle James is said to have brought the gospel to Spain.
"It's a different way to do the tourist idea," says Phillips.
She adds that for Christian higher-eds and seminaries, meeting the needs of modern-day students means adjusting to their modern-day lives.
"I think that flexibility has always been a priority for Tyndale," she says. "We definitely know that people are busy, and this is a way for them to fit learning into their busy schedule."
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