Claims that online education is revolutionizing higher education and radically lowering the costs of college are common today. But Catholic colleges, especially faithful ones, face unique obstacles when it comes to offering online degrees, because they are responsible for not only academic growth but spiritual growth.
Some Catholic colleges are showing a willingness to pack two thousand years of tradition into a few gigabytes, according to a new article in The National Catholic Register. It finds that a select number of faithful Catholic colleges and institutions have begun offering classes and degrees online, but always with a view toward maintaining their commitment to their Catholic identity.
“We will pursue online programing for master’s degrees, which have a heavy professional component, with the caveat that they have to preserve electronically or digitally the Catholicity available here on our campus,” The Catholic University of America provost James Brennan recently told the Register.
CUA, which does not yet offer undergraduate degrees online, did recently begin offering online graduate degrees in business, nursing and social work.
While accessibility and the make-your-own schedule appeal of online classes is being embraced by many students across the country, Catholic educators tell the Register that ensuring that the Catholic identity remains a crucial part of the education is essential.
The University of Dallas offers only a few online graduate degrees through its School of Ministry and College of Business.
The Franciscan University of Steubenville has begun offering an increasing array of online offerings with graduate degrees in business and education, but its strong commitment to its Catholic identity isn’t diluted.
“Several popes have talked about using social media for the betterment of the Church. We think we can do that, but it won’t be easy,” Joel Recznik, vice president for enrollment at Franciscan University, told the Register. “We continually ask, ‘How can we take the passionately Catholic part of who we are and have that imbued in the experience of the student?'”
The University does not offer an online undergraduate degree, but Recznik notes that next summer it will begin offering an online graduate degree in Catechetics. It may also launch several online undergraduate classes in philosophy and theology.
Catholic Distance University, an online-only institution, offers an associate's degree in Catholic studies and an undergraduate degree completion program exclusively through online study.
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