Have you had a desire for formal theological education, but do not have the means to pause your life for a few years and move to a different city/state? While many seminaries are starting to develop online courses and degree programs, recently Ridley Online caught my eye. For those not familiar with Ridley College, it is a leading evangelical institution in Australia with certificate as well as undergraduate and graduate programs. It is the home of many internationally renowned scholars past (e.g. Leon Morris) and present (e.g. Michael Bird, Brian Rosner). I imagine it to be similar to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the way it combines academic rigor with ministry focus; world-class scholarship in service of the worldwide Church and mission to the lost seems to be at the heart of its ethos.
So, why did Ridley Online catch my eye recently when I’m already “taken” (I’ll be starting an M.Div at TEDS this fall)? It’s because I saw a Facebook post from Ridley with a picture of Craig Blomberg. Soon after I saw one with Lynn Cohick. These are renowned NT scholars who do not teach at Ridley (the former is at Denver Seminary and the latter at Wheaton). With every other online program I’ve seen, all the courses are taught by the faculty of that institution. That’s expected. That’s normal. For me, if I was going to do online, I’d pick the school with the best professors. On that basis alone, Ridley would be high in the running. But with Ridley Online, in addition to Ridley’s own world-class faculty you would get to take classes from internationally renowned professors from other institutions, such as Jesus and the Gospels with Craig Blomberg.
So, even though Ridley Online is not an option for me, I wanted to check it out. There are currently two sample lessons available to try: one from Interpreting Old Testament Poetry with Dr. Andrew Abernethy and another from Paul and Corinthian Christianity with Dr. Brian Rosner. I did both, and one common feature of the video lectures is engaging, clear content with helpful written elements on the video and no distracting elements. From the website, below are the general elements across all online courses:
- video input from the main teacher, addressing key points or demonstrating skills
- guided reading expectations and resources
- individual reflection and learning activities
- interactive elements, such as discussion forums that allow you to connect with other students and with teachers.
The first lecture from the Paul and Corinthian Christianity sample is a sweeping overview of the cross and 1 Corinthians. In the screenshot from this lecture (below) you can see how the lecture videos are not just the professor speaking, but superimpose Powerpoint elements to aid learning. The text below identifies the five characteristics of Paul’s apocalyptic thinking as identified in Douglas Harink’s Paul Among the Postliberals.
Following this video is a lecture transcript and a learning exercise (with reading, word-study, and a written summary assigned. The OT Poetry sample lesson has a quiz instead of these exercises, showing a diversity of learning activities and evaluations). There is also a link to a discussion board. The next two videos are exegetical demonstrations on 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, the first being English exegesis and the second being Greek. This allows the student to choose what suits them based on language skills. The introductory material at the beginnings of these two videos are identical. After the introductory material you see a manuscript on screen as Dr. Rosner walks/talks/marks through the text. Below are screenshots from the ends of the exegesis videos.
At the end of this sample lesson are suggestions for further reading.
I was very impressed with the sample lesson. Mike Bird said a while back that Ridley Online would be “gucci to the max”, and it has lived up to that description. In addition to quality video lectures, learning activities and evaluations, online discussions with fellow students well as professors, Ridley as a whole (and by extension Ridley Online) recently developed a partnership with Logos Bible Software (check out the Ridley Logos Library). The extremely well-done online content, the opportunity to study with the some of the best scholars in the world (both from Ridley and beyond), the prestige of the Ridley name, as well as its ministry focus make Ridley Online an ideal avenue through with to pursue online theological education at your own pace, in your own context. Try the sample lesson here, and find out more about Ridley Online here.