Thanks for the reflections on the spiritual formation class you are have been teaching. I'd comment on the question of the synchronous vs the more asynchronous method of carrying out the course. I can see advantages to both. It would seem that the key, as one of your students noted, is whether the student has an active mentor to help process and assimilate the material. Lately I've been teaching a Ph.D. course on Adult Learning, and I'm becoming more of a social constructivist--not to carry that to the creation of "ultimate truth" in the mind, of course. But I do see that there is less value in formation, and learning in general, that is carried out individualistically. The modernist notion that the center of our being as humans is in the brain has influenced us a great deal (Descartes: Cogito ergo sum), but it seems that a Hebrew or Biblical worldview sees man more holistically, with the center being more in the "heart," if you will. It also sees learning as something that is done with others--at least one other. So I could see that in a distance environment, that could be accomplished through the use of a mentor, or at least a f2f study partner (havruta), or, in a synchronous environment, where the participants are required to interact and interpret together the meaning of texts.
Please excuse my ramblings, but your paper did elicit a lot of connections/thoughts for me.
This is an excellent and honest assessment of online approaches. It's balance is really valuable to me and deeply appreciated. What I especially liked was the thinking about why students are beginning to drop away form some cohort based asynchronous approaches. I need to think more about this, but your experience and insight here is invaluable.
I was also taken with your quotation from the student at the end, where ultimately it is the encounter with text and the internal conversation that is powerful for student learning. It is also crucial to note your analysis of the importance of mentors. I agree strongly that mentors are the key to effective formation. Thank you...