Online Master of Divinity Degree - Pros and Cons

For busy professionals who want to attend seminary, an online Master of Divinity degree may seem like a good idea. And let's be clear - online education definitely has its advantages. However, before you decide to pursue your online MDiv, it's important to weigh the pros and cons so you can make an educated decision.

Pros

The most obvious pro is the convenience of online education. You don't have to quit your job, relocate, uproot your family, and all of the other inconveniences associated with a traditional program. If you need to keep your current job or have family concerns that might prevent you from attending class, then an online Master of Divinity degree has obvious perks.

Another asset to earning an MDiv online relates to people's learning styles. If you're the kind of learner who does best by going at his or her own pace and if you stress out over note-taking or possibly missing a lecture, then the online delivery format has many strengths. You will have access to all materials (videos, audio lectures, handouts) and will be able to review them as needed. Most if not all of correspondence with your professor will be preserved for review.

Another potential strength to online learning is the pacing of your degree. Depending on your personal strengths and weaknesses as well the time you have available, you may be able to proceed through the program faster than you could by a traditional onsite MDiv program. If you take course overloads and are able to do coursework and other requirements during the summers, you could potentially shorten the time required for the degree (the MDiv is typically three years).

Cons

Of course, there are many cons to balance out the advantages of online learning. The main disadvantage to any online degree, including an online MDiv, is the lack of community or interaction with fellow students and professors. Sure, you will engage your colleagues and professors via chatrooms, discussion boards, and even face-to-face via Skype and the like, but let's be honest - it's not the same as meeting over coffee to discuss the course or what's going on in each other's life. If you're the kind of person who benefits from collaborative learning, then you would be at a real disadvantage in an online environment.

One disadvantage that would be particular to programs like an MDiv are field requirements. Virtually all onsite MDiv programs (at least all that I know of) require students to gain practical experience working in a church, hospital, or other ministry opportunity to put theology into practice. In fact, many students often consider these opportunities to be a significant component of their education, often with life-changing results. Unless an online curriculum has the capability to implement field education for every student, this significant component will be lacking.

Another weakness of an online MDiv degree would be the lack of spiritual community. Most seminaries and divinity schools have onsite worship opportunities, whether it's community chapel, small groups, or other corporate worship. Many students find their seminary communal worship experiences to be a major part of their life as students. It's simply not possible to incorporate such experiences into an online program.

Online Master of Divinity Degree - Final Words

Obviously, there are pros and cons to pursuing an online Master of Divinity degree. You should consider whether such a program is right for you after weighing the advantages and disadvantages, consulting with your pastor or church community, and praying for guidance.


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