Internet Classes Bring Faith to All

Jamie Frederick

Walking from class to class, UD students often pass by the Immaculate Conception Chapel, maybe a Marianist brother, priest or sister, and Liberty Hall, which houses the campus ministry offices and the Center for Social Concern.

Faith resources overflow on UD's campus. Now alumni and other community members can again access the faith community at UD and beyond through the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation.

The VLCFF's Internet-based faith-learning courses, offered by UD's Institute for Pastoral Initiatives, were created for those with busy schedules, traveling concerns and a desire to enliven their faith lives.

"What we're finding is that today more and more adults want to know more about their faith," said Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, M.H.S.H, director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. "With busy lives, people cannot go out to their parishes or dioceses to take a course. What people are finding is that online courses really complement busy lives."

And it doesn't matter what city or country participants live in, their age or where they are in their faith life " as long as they have access to the Internet, they can sign up.

A full-time mom with a full-time job, Linda Kerns of the Washington, D.C., archdiocese has been taking VLCFF classes since April 2003 because they fit into the gaps of spare time amidst her hectic schedule.

"Time is of the essence. I have no time to sit in a classroom," Kerns said. "Plus, I don't prefer sitting in a lecture getting one person's opinion. Online I can see 12 people's viewpoints."

Offered in three- to five-week sessions, with seven cycles a year, courses range in topics from scripture, Jesus, church history, social justice, Mary, Marianist tradition and spirituality to media education and praying with children. Courses are classified as basic, intermediate and advanced. Classes are run asynchronously " with readings, exercises and discussion boards available to students on their own time schedules.

"UD is already one of the leaders in offering faith formation on the Internet," Zukowski said. "And I really see this as the first stage for developing a very practical service for alumni."

The program is an opportunity for alumni to take courses to keep in touch with UD while growing in faith.

"[The program] expands faith learning. Once we quit school, that's it," Kerns said. "This helps me to come back into learning in a comfortable situation."

Currently, 22 dioceses are partners with the initiative, and more than 2,000 people have taken courses since the program's inception. VLCFF began as a pilot program between UD and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 1997.

People from 102 dioceses and 15 different countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Spain, the Philippines, Singapore and Canada, have taken the virtual classes.

"It is work, and even more work with an advanced course," said Carol Ann Cannon, one of the program's 45 course facilitators. "I love the program. I think it's a wonderful experience that makes you grow in faith."

UD offers two and one-half continuing education units for course completion and especially supports those working toward their diocesan catechist certification.

"It has helped me grow in faith," Kerns said, "because in my responsibilities it has taught me more about what I need to know and taught me how to relay this to other people."

The UD National Alumni Association (http://alumni.udayton.edu/) is now a partner with the VLCFF project. UD alumni can take advantage of these online courses at a special rate.

For more information go to:

http://www.udayton.edu/~vlc/