Seminary Over Skype: Case Studies

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Even in the area where I now live, where daily Seminary is fairly easily accessible to all students, individual circumstances arise that prevent some students from being able to regularly participate in Seminary.  Some have requested alternate methods of attending Seminary, including online.  One special needs student is participating in the church’s official online Seminary pilot program.  Many parents and students have the idea that online Seminary would be preferable to other forms of Seminary.

I don’t have first hand experience with online seminary, so I turned to the bloggernacle to find teachers who had taught online Seminary to hear their experiences.  Here’s what they said:

 

— CASE STUDY 1 —

Dear Jenny,

Finally a moment to write my thoughts about Seminary over Skype. This took place last year and was the second choice; the first option was to meet at our home, but the student, a senior decided that the weather might be too severe to drive safely here and then back to school, so the Branch President, who had heard about Seminary over Skype, suggested it. There were actually two potential students, other than my own son. … As it turned out the second student didn’t “attend” after all so it was just the senior, a girl, and my son, a freshman.

 

The limitations of the medium became clear very quickly as I tried to prepare lessons according to the teacher’s manual. One of the first things we learned while testing the computer and Skype is that only one person can talk at a time; if a student is speaking, another can’t join in, as the sound cuts out and I couldn’t hear the first, so that precluded us singing a hymn together to begin each class. After a few weeks I decided that we’d just listen to a hymn played on cd, which helped to bring the Spirit.

 

 

Handouts, quizzes, object lessons, pictures, charts, even writing on a blackboard are if not impossible, very awkward to include. So I had to adjust the lessons and eventally fell into the pattern of using the student manual to begin each lesson and then relying heavily on reading the scriptures and other resource materials,such as the Institute Manual, as well as asking lots of questions, which with just two students wasn’t very popular. The first semester went fairly well, but after the Christmas break the senior girl became VERY sullen and uncooperative, even to the point of lying about her computer camera being broken and not turning it on. Try teaching a student you can not see! No facial expressions or body language to guide me as to her understanding and enthusiasm. I’m sure she was bored out of her mind and angry at not being able to have the kind of daily seminary (which was her desire) that she had dreamed of. The winter turned out to be very mild and she could easily have driven over to our home but except for exercising faith how could she have known that would be the case. We had two activities at our home on Friday nights, a dinner then work on Scripture Mastery. Neither of my students memorized the Scriptures.

 

 

She eventually dropped out of the daily class and finished the year with the home study group. It was not a good situation. I can recomend using Skype under the following circumstances:

First, the students understand that it is mostly lecture, reading and discussion; there’re no “fun” classroom activities; (unless the teacher is more creative than me).

 

Second, the students MUST read the material before class, in other words, daily study is expected so the student can contribute intelligently to the discussion.

 

Third, the student has to be self motivated to learn because they will be sitting at home for Seminary, rather than in a classroom surrounded by maps, charts, pictures, quotes, scriptures, etc.

 

For the teacher, I found it extremely limiting to have to sit in front of the computer. I like to stand and use visual aids, including a chalk board, maps, pictures, charts, and such to enhance learning. Learning is accomplished best through all our senses. I would have liked to share foods, and plants for sensory enhancement in the lessons. That is not possible over Skype.

I wouldn’t do it again. I love teaching, and am still teaching our two yongest boys this year, but I actually was relieved when the girl dropped out and I didn’t have to try to convey the Spirit through a computer.

 

If there is no other option, I believe Seminary over Skype could work, especially if expectations are clear and the student(s) are really motivated. We didn’t know what to expect and the senior student was extremely disappointed in the format. …

 

I hope this helps and gives you food for thought.

Rozann T

 

 

–Case Study 2–

I’m teaching seminary now in my third year via Skype. One Morning I pick up a girl and drive to the house of two other girls, then we meet one evening in the wardhouse. The other 3 mornings is via Skype and another ward joins in with 4 boys. I prepare the class with the online manual, create a pdf and send it before the class starts via email to all the students. Last year I had one student who did use his smartphone to join the class. He was using the bible online and because he was having problems with switching from the class sheet to the online scriptures, I started to hyperlink all verses in the pdf document we wanted to read together. I like to give classes in my pyjamas but I also mis to see facial expressions. Sometimes I hear them typing something and then I know they are chatting with each other or on Facebook. Some Girls used to eat during class and so on.  This year my zeal is to encourage them to use their personal scriptures and not electronic ones, to stop chatting during class and eat after or before. I’m not sure if I succeed, the other idea is to pay for conference callings (it’s about 100 USD per anum), in order to see each others, but then I have to take a shower before six in the morning… So you see, I might need to have more faith in my abilitys. Best regard from Switzerland sends Leona ( As you may know, the church’s official online course is currently only available in English. Non English speakers will use Skype or Google Hangouts. I suggested Google Hangouts to Leona because I think the new interactive abilities of that app are well suited  for seminary.  )

If  you have experience or advice you can share about online Seminary, please email me at jennysmith.[email protected] or share your ideas in the comments below.

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