I took this class the first time it was ever offered online in the winter of 2014, which had both College students and Seminary students mixed together. The class was only 8 weeks long, so did not last the entire semester. This was nice, since I was taking it the same time as Jewish Backgrounds.
Work load: Not too bad. With the online format and discussion groups, you had to be able to log on several times a week (I think I was logging on 4 or 5 days out of 7).
Course content (15%)
Each week there was a video of a PowerPoint presentation along with the instructor’s commentary. This video would introduce the topic for the week, and teach about it.
There were also weekly readings, some from the Bible, some from a book called Water From a Deep Well. We had to submit a reading report at the end of the class, along with a 500 word summary of these readings.
Reflection papers (35%)
Each week we had to read a devotional from Devotional Classics. The book itself has readings from several different “traditions”, such as readings from the contemplative tradition, readings from the charismatic tradition, readings from the Social Justice tradition, etc. There are 52 readings in all, so someone could read one a week and use this book for a year. What they mean by “Devotional Classics” is writings that have “stood the test of time and that seeks to form the soul before God.” Each week’s readings for the class came from a different tradition.
We then had to work through the reflection questions at the end of the reading and write a 500 word reflection. We then posted our reflection on the course discussion forum, and had to respond to two other student’s reflections with 250 words each.
Book Review (25%)
Seminary students taking the course had to do a book review of A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality.
This wasn’t an easy book to review, but I think the most I got out of this exercise was the format for a book review that was included in the syllabus. This one syllabus is the most detailed training I’ve had on how to do a “standard” book review.
a. Introduction (6 marks):
i. A general description of the book: title, author, subject and format. Here you can include details about who the author is and where he/she stands in this field of inquiry. You can also link the title to the subject to show how the title explains the subject matter.
ii. A brief summary of the purpose of the book and its general argument or theme. Include a statement about who the book is intended for.
iii. Your thesis about the book: is it a suitable/appropriate piece of writing about the problem for the audience it has identified?
b. Summary of Content (2 marks):
i. This can be done in the same way that it is done for a simple book report (do not spend too much time or paper on this section, as the analysis and evaluation of content is more important than a simple summary).
c. Analysis of Text (11 marks):
i. What is the writer’s style: simple/technical, persuasive/logical?
ii. How well does the organizational method (comparison/contrast; cause/effect; analogy; persuasion through example) develop the argument or theme of the book? (Give examples to support your analysis.)
iii. What evidence does the book present to support the argument? How convincing is this evidence? (Select pieces of evidence that are weak, or strong, and explain why they are such.)
iv. How complete is the argument?
v. Are there facts and evidence that the author has neglected to consider? (You may need to refer to other relevant material)
d. Evaluation of the Text (6 marks):
i. Give a brief summary of all the weakness and strengths you have found in the book. Does it do what it set out to do?
ii. Evaluate the book’s overall usefulness to the audience it is intended for.
Church Visit and Report (25%)
At some point during the first five weeks, we had to visit a church, preferably outside of our usual tradition. I attend a Baptist Church, so I chose to visit the local United Church one Sunday.
Certain things to look for were in the syllabus, and we had to post our report on the course discussion board. I remember there was a female minister at the church I visited, which lead to a lengthy discussion on the course forum about women in ministry. A couple of years later, I still find myself haunted by that discussion. What affect did it have on the others who read it? I think I didn’t express myself clearly enough.
The Devotional Classics book and the Water from a Deep Well book were interesting, and I continued reading them after the class was done.
I liked the various writers I “met” in the devotional classics book, and jotted down their names in my “After Master” list. Perhaps I would look into their other writings again one day.