Supporting the Spiritual Experience in Online Faith-Based Education

Supporting the Spiritual Experience in Online Faith-Based Education

Amanda Lanae Jones Ziemendorf, Sarah Schroyer
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0115-3.ch016
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Faith-based institutions offer educators a unique set of challenges and opportunities as they are tasked with the integration of faith in the classroom experience while delivering content necessary to meet subject matter objectives. Evaluation of audience, context, and protection of the learning environment are key elements for consideration when incorporating faith within the online classroom. The purpose of this chapter is to support knowledge and competency in implementing faith-based content, integration techniques, and usable instructional solutions that promote authentic connections. When applied strategically and mindfully, faith components can support mutual trust between the learner and the educator, establish a foundation for deep personal growth, and actively fulfill the online instructional objectives. This chapter will cover the background and history of faith in adult education, evaluation of audience and context, protection of the learning environment, utility of faith-based instruction, mindfulness, and techniques for integration.
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Historically, religion and spirituality have played an important role in formalized education. From ancient Greece to the Renaissance, faith served as a practical and conceptual foundation for learning. After the destruction of a massive collection of human knowledge in the burning of the library of Alexandria, humanity relied on remaining texts that had been copied and disseminated over a great expanse of geography. In the early years of American education, institutions were founded by the Church. John Harvard, a minister, founded Harvard in 1636 (Thelin, 2004). Practical association can be largely attributed to the lack of established texts, thus religious books such as the Bible offered perspectives in poetry, history, prophesy, theology, and the written word. Faith has always been a learning enterprise, and throughout history, religious entities are the prime promoters of faith. Additionally, many scientists and innovators, were theologians. Isaac Newton was one such theologian scientist (Haycock, 2004). While this chapter is focused on faith-based education in general, it is noteworthy that faith-based education historically has limited precedence from a religious standpoint. Its delivery is approached via universal concepts believed to transcend many religious contexts and backgrounds.

Over time, the expansion of material and knowledge has led to a massive amount of human knowledge documented in books, journals, and now electronic format. Online platforms make information available at lightning speeds that have never before been seen in human history. Even with the introduction of more material, faith remains an integral part of education for many institutions. Some institutions continue to focus on an evangelical approach to support proliferation of the heritage of faith while others seek to establish an environment that fosters fellowship and growth in spirituality. Many seek both.

Modern faith-based institutions may be very inclusive and often do not restrict attendance or employment to those who profess the same theological ideals. With this inclusiveness, administrators and educators are faced with a new challenging dynamic to preserve heritage and a commitment to faith-based education while serving their mission to provide higher education to the masses.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Discipleship: Period of time when one follows a teacher, mentor, or leader.

Fellowship: A group of people meeting and working toward a shared goal in a friendly manner.

Reflection: The act of engaging in examination of one’s inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

Spirituality: The personal engagement with the inimitable nonphysical component of the individual human being.

Prayer: Communication to a perceived superior being, God, or cosmic power.

Integration: The process of combining or bringing together in application.

Faith-Based: Affiliated with or supported by a religion or religious theology.

Mindfulness: An active and purposeful thought process in which one seeks to gain and use information from their environment to shape their responses.

Religion: An organized set of beliefs often characterized by learned structure and rituals that support fellowship and defined faith.

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