Category: Future Students

Choosing Between Online and In-Person Seminary

On-Campus or Online: How to Choose a Seminary Experience That Fits Your Needs

As is true with most higher education options, seminary was historically provided in only one way—in-person and on-campus. Times have changed. Today, technology allows seminaries to serve a much wider audience in more locations around the world.

This change gives prospective seminary students a choice. On-campus or online? So, which is best for you?

On-Campus Learning Has Perks and Drawbacks

The on-campus experience has many benefits. It provides students with the chance to experience community, make friends, and build a support network in person. It gives students direct access to their professors. It has that intangible quality that is hard to name.

Unfortunately, on-campus learning also has some downsides. The on-campus experience is a big commitment of both time and resources. It’s expensive, and it’s inconvenient. You may have to leave your job early and then drive to class, which may be scheduled during your daytime work hours. Plus, unless you are lucky enough to live near a seminary, you will have to relocate in order to attend classes.

Online Education Offers Students Unique Opportunities

Alternatively, the online experience also has many benefits. Online education is convenient, less expensive, and mobile. You can attend class t anywhere you have internet access—your couch, your car, a hotel room desk, an office at church, or even a coffee shop.  Online learning at Central also has the benefit of having small classes, which allows for lots of interaction with other students and your professors.

Online education does have some drawbacks. There are no hallway conversations or after-class meals, and some students grieve the loss of those in-person extras. At some schools, online education experiences can feel isolated and depersonalized. At Central, our faculty and our students work hard to build community and to find spaces to connect—by providing breakout sessions during class or by creating a group text.

How to Decide Between Online and In-Person Learning

So how do you choose? You can pray for guidance as you decide. You can think about your learning style and your lifestyle and  make a pro/con list. You can ask others about their experiences. You can visit campuses and imagine yourself there.  Or you can find a third way, the best of both worlds. Does that exist, you may wonder? Absolutely.  Central Seminary combines the best attributes of the in-person experience with the convenience and price point of the online experience.

For most of Central’s 120+ year history, students lived  on our beautiful campus and learned  in big buildings with desks arranged in front of chalkboards. But as times changed, we found that fewer and fewer students were at a place in their lives where they could pick up and move to Kansas City to study full-time for several years. So, we started asking ourselves how we could meet students out in the world and bring our educational opportunities to them rather than making them come to us.

Leading the Way in Online Learning

We were one of the first ATS-accredited seminaries to offer our Master of Divinity fully online. We did that by:

  • redesigning our curriculum and using video conferencing to hold our classes face-to-face in a virtual space
  • building degree programs and educational experiences that are both personal and convenient
  • selling our big residential campus and moving into a space that costs us less to operate so that we can offer theological education that is affordable and accessible

Long before the pandemic pushed us all to do things virtually, Central trained our expert faculty to use technology to enhance our class experiences and improve our students’ learning opportunities.

By making these changes, we found that we were attracting students with life experience.  Many of our students came to seminary and already had experience  leading  faith communities, working as chaplains and community organizers,  directing non-profit organizations, and working as professionals in the mental health field..

Because all our students bring with them to seminary, our online classes aren’t shallow, empty boxes to check on the way to a credential. Central classes offer deep, meaningful conversations informed by the students’ lived experiences. Our classes deal less with the hypotheticals of an imagined future ministry than they do with the real problems our students face in their current ministry contexts.

Get the Best of Both Worlds at Central Seminary

We get it. You’re busy, you have commitments, you have a job, but you also have a call to serve and a desire to be better equipped to do some good in the world. You want the convenience of an online education, but you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the experience of taking classes face-to-face. At Central, you can have both.

Ready to Learn More? Reach Out Today

You can complete a form here and a Central staff member will reach out shortly, or you can reach out to a staff member directly on this page. We look forward to hearing from you soon!