VLCFF: Affordable education, faith formation via Internet

Julie Pettyjohn

"The program is excellent "¦ You get to discuss topics with class members from all over the world who come from [a variety of] backgrounds,"¯ said Marge Byington, director of religious education, Our Lady of the Cove Parish, Kimberling City.  Byington has taken two to three online classes each year since 2002 through the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF), a program sponsored by the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives of the University of Dayton, in Dayton Ohio.  "I can do the work on my own time, and I have learned a tremendous amount from the courses,"¯ she said. 

            Last Year, seven people from this diocese [Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO] took VLCFF courses.  They did everything online, in the comfort of their own homes, on their own time schedules.  They registered, read study materials, participated in class discussions with people from all over the world, took tests, wrote essays, and communicated with facilitators.  They did this for a minimal fee and earned continuing units (CEUs). 


Partnering Diocese

            They were able to so this because of a diocesan partnership between VLCFF and the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.  The diocese pays an annual fee for any and all within the diocese to have the opportunity for spiritual and educational growth via this program.  Classes, which take four to five weeks to complete, cost the student $40.  Three week seminars cost $30.  This is half the amount paid by students in non-partnering dioceses. 

            Karen Pesek, diocesan director of religious education, would like to see many more people take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Pesek said it is so simple to register.  Go to the Wed site: https://vlcff.udayton.edu.  View the course descriptions.  Pick a course.  Click on the link to register.  When registering, give the name of your diocese and the cost is adjusted by the university.  There is no need to contact Pesek's office.  She receives notice from the university as to who is registered. 

            Pesek said the one requirement is regular access to a computer with high-speed Internet. 

            "The list of classes is amazing,"¯ Pesek said. 


It's Time to Register

            Course topics include Scripture, prayer, theology, church history, social justice, Jesus, Mary, Marianist Tradition, Spirituality, media, and morality.  Courses are classified as basic, intermediate, or advanced.  Classes are offered seven cycles within the calendar year. 

            Registration is possible through May 30, for the next cycle"”Cycle 4"”June 3 – June-23.  Four seminars are offered to choose from.  Cycle 5, which will be offered July 8 – Aug. 11, offers 13 classes and one seminar from which to choose.  Registration for Cycle 5 may be done from June 5 through July 4. 

            CEUs are earned for the coursework.  Two programs of study offer certification standards.  Students can earn a social justice certificate or a catechetical leadership certificate. 



More about VLCFF

            Last year Byington took Old Testament B in January and Media, Faith, and Values in March. 

            The reading material for some of the courses is provided online, Byington explained, but other courses do require the purchase of a book. 

            It is very easy to maneuver around the site.  The student is required to post comments about the topic three times a week.  The student also posts essays requested by the teacher.  Byington said one spot on the site called "the meeting place"¯ is an online discussion group made up of classmates.  In her experiences, Byington said the teacher usually e-mailed often with comments about her work. 

            Log onto the VLCFF Website and click on "sample course"¯ to get a feel for the coursework and how easy it will be to take one of the classes.