We ran a little experiment in Adult Faith Formation at Grace this fall and I would like to reflect on its effectiveness.
This was the experiment.
I offered a seven-week course on the Books of Moses titled: Beginnings. We offered it on Sunday night and on Wednesday night. We also video recorded it on Sunday night and then I edited the PowerPoint slides into the video during the week and posted it as an online course on my website. Due to scheduling and building use issues, the Wednesday night class started a week and a half after the Sunday night class.
Here’s how it flowed (see the illustration below). We held class One on Sunday night. I edited the video and uploaded it to the online course by the end of the week. We held class Two on Sunday night, then class One on Wednesday night, and I edited class Two during the week and got it uploaded. This pattern repeated for five weeks. Then Thanksgiving happened and the Wednesday night class continued for two more weeks into December. The whole experience spanned ten weeks.
Now, the big question is whether it was a positive experience for the students.
Here are things that I think were good about it:
- People had more options. Around thirty people took the Sunday class. Twenty people took the Wednesday class, and five people took the course completely online.
- People had the chance to make up a class if they missed the live session. Twenty-five people registered on the online course: five online only, twenty from the live sessions who wanted to watch the video (I also know that some people watched the video on YouTube and did not register for the online course. I don’t know how many chose that option).
Here are things that I thought were less-than-great:
- Having the video camera running on Sunday nights altered my teaching style. I felt an inner tension to make the class more “video friendly” so I talked more than I usually do and felt a little off my game.
- The course was too lecture oriented and not enough group discovery and discussion.
Here are some interesting observations that are neither good or bad:
- The nature of the Sunday night class and Wednesday night class were very different from each other. There are many factors for this;
- The class members were different and had different questions which led the content in different directions.
- The camera put me in a different head space on Sunday nights.
- I am in a different mood on Sunday night (after a long weekend of worship services) than I am on Wednesday night.
- The room was radically different. The Fellowship Hall is less intimate that 105/107 and that makes a difference.
- This is an example of how different the classes were. On Sunday night, this happened…
- We didn’t even discuss the Balaam and Melchizedek topic on Wednesday night. Then, on Wednesday night, we discussed the difference between Moses’ relationship with God vs. the Israelites relationship with God which led to this image and the practical implications for spiritual formation. We never touched on that in the Sunday night class.
- By the sixth session on Wednesday night I reorganized the class space and had everyone sit around one large table. I much prefer this egalitarian seating to the teacher-centered lecture hall configuration. The last night of class I didn’t use PowerPoint at all.
Overall, I think the experiment was very good and I’m glad we did it.
Here is what I think I would do differently in future courses.
I think I should pre-record a video that is my direct address to the camera that presents the main content in (hopefully) an interesting manner and post it on the online course. Then I would not record the live session, but base the session off of that main content but let the course run organically, per my normal teaching style. Each member of the live sessions would be encouraged to supplement their live experience by engaging with the online course and participating in the online forum discussions. Those students who take the online version exclusively would be able to participate with the live session students via the discussion forums and everyone one would key off the same baseline video.
I’m curious to get feedback.
If you were in this experiment, what do you think about my reflections? What is your feedback from the course? What do you think about my new idea? Please provide feedback in the comments section.