By Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall, Associate Professor of New Testament
The mission of McMaster Divinity College is to develop effective Christian leaders for the Church, academy, and society. The faculty has been strategizing for some time about how we do that well in the 21st century with the changes in culture, new challenges for the church, and differences in the needs and goals of our students.
I believe that the challenge of the pandemic has pushed us into new ground in that venture. Previous to any notion of a pandemic or lockdown, we had been developing some courses online, but last year we moved to teaching all our courses online. Now, this year, with the changes in Ontario guidelines, we are undergoing a period of transition. Each course has taken one of three forms: we had courses on campus for our research programs, courses online for our DPT students, and hybrid courses for professional students, where on campus sessions and online sessions alternated week by week. In addition to that, there were also students with unique circumstances who were able to “stream in” to attend their courses. If this seems complex to you, it was for all of us too! It has required major upgrades in classroom technology, and previously unimaginable adjustments on the part of the faculty and particularly for the MDC technical support. Some things worked well, and some things have required unforeseen adjustments and always patience! One of the unforeseen ways that God has been working in this time has been to open more channels of communication with my students, and often richer interaction in class.
As a whole, MDC faculty, students, and staff have gained experience and developed diverse toolkits that will allow us much more flexibility so that we are able to approach our curriculum and delivery with increased intentionality—it gives us something to look forward to in the next semester and as we forge ahead with our mission in the 21st century.