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Challenging Our Need For Convenience: Why Learning in Person is Crucial

Wednesday 23rd June 2021

There are many reasons why someone might choose to do a course online. We have so many different responsibilities and so much complexity in our lives these days that when we want to do some more study, flexibility is very high on our list of priorities. We need to balance our social life our family commitments our church commitments and other responsibilities.

But when it comes to studying Chaplaincy and Counselling, we need to stop and think very carefully.

The Lord made us in His image. He made us relational beings to bear his Spirit and to live a life of love to Him and to others.

The old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that proportion is absolutely true. We need to be good listeners in helping professions.

But it is not just listening for facts that chaplains and counsellors are on about.

When we are caring for people in God’s name, there is a depth of relationship that we are being called into that involves fine nuances, inflections in our tone, non-verbal communication, Spirit level connection and myriad other nuances in human interactions that you just can’t experience as easily online.

Morling‘s practical skills-based subjects in our counselling and chaplaincy faculty ensure that students get the opportunity for real life relational exchanges in learning contexts that are as close to the real lived experience of chaplains and counsellors as possible.

That means that there is instant relational feedback within the learning environment, and in addition, a depth of fellowship in person amongst the students that is far less likely in an online cohort.

What’s more, online courses favour students who have the capacity to remain seated for long periods of time looking at a screen and tapping away. But what about students whose learning styles make them uniquely equipped for face-to-face pastoral care and counselling? It’s counter intuitive to provide skills-based subjects in an online format when the care and the counselling that the student will offer once they graduate will be face-to-face.

We should not let our need for flexibility and convenience in our lives compromise our commitment to getting the best education to prepare us for our service as faithful Christians in the helping professions.

One study by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education published in August 2019, before the Covid 19 pandemic even hit, noted three separate studies showing the significantly lower completion rates of online students compared to students who attended courses face-to-face on campus.

There is no substitute for learning together face-to-face in a group setting. The learning is deeper, the fellowship is more personal, the learning is more efficient, group dynamics are enhanced and a range of assessment tasks that are not as effective online can be introduced in creative ways that test the students capacity for face-to-face relationships with clients and people they might be caring for in person in a future ministry context.

Written by Stuart Adamson

Associate Dean of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care BA, MA Christian Studies, MA Pastoral Supervision Stuart has served as a chaplain, chaplain trainer and pastoral supervisor at Anglicare Sydney for 15 years, with his primary ordained role being in chaplaincy leadership at the Prince of Wales and Randwick Hospitals Campus. Stuart has lectured in pastoral supervision at St Mark's National Theological Centre and in chaplaincy skills at Ridley College in Melbourne. Stuart has also worked for 15 years in Japanese media both in Japan and Australia as a translator, researcher and writer before joining the pastoral staff at St John's Maroubra in Sydney's East where he is still involved in occasional preaching and regular discipling of men.

Stuart Adamson's Blog