To mark the new academic year, staff, students and members of the wider church community attended Australian Lutheran College’s (ALC) opening lecture on 25 February 2019.
The lecture, entitled ‘Learning, Formation and Community: Challenges Facing a Distributed Model of Theological Education’, was presented by ALC’s Dean, Rev Dr Stephen Haar.
Proceedings also included a time of worship, a brief reflection on the implementation of ALC’s Strategic Direction presented by ALC Principal Pastor James Winderlich, and the presentation of the new Service to Theological Education award. The inaugural recipients of the award, which aims to formally recognise the important role that stakeholder partnerships play in the life of the college, were Mrs Glenice Hartwich and Mr Stephen Rudolph.
Mrs Hartwich, who retired as the LCA’s Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission late last year, was recognised for working in partnership with ALC to advance Lutheran theological education among the LCA’s partners in the Asia-Pacific region. She was presented the award by ALC Board Chair Pastor David Gogoll.
Mr Rudolph, who was unable to attend the presentation, was recognised for his collaborative efforts to advance Lutheran theological education in the LCA’s schools and among its regional partners during his term as Executive Director of Lutheran Education Australia. Mr Rudolph also retired in 2018.
Dr Haar’s presentation focused on ALC’s shift from an instructional model to a learning model going forward. It was also reflective of a decision made by the college board in September 2018 to expand ALC’s distributed learning program to include all streams of learning taught by the college.
Through his presentation, Dr Haar explained that rather than being ‘rejective’ of traditional models, distributed learning is ‘receptive, responsive and restorative’ – receptive to research about how people learn; responsive to the changing profile of students and the diverse needs of the church; and restorative of a more holistic approach to church worker education and training.
‘Distributed learning envisions a college without walls: locally based, nationally coordinated, and globally connected’, he said. ‘Students follow approved programs of study, but within a dynamic model of intersecting learning communities: congregation, college and context.
‘Distributed learning describes a model of learning that includes a mix of online learning, streaming video, conferencing, face-to-face classroom time, and experiential learning. Concurrent with their theological study, learners are engaged in a guided process of relational, reflective, and contextual learning; including the use of mentors and supervisors. Distributed learning accommodates a separation of geographical locations for part of the program, and it focuses on learner-to-learner as well as teacher-to-learner interactions.
‘Distributed learning, with its aim to offer a rich, multi-dimensional learning experience that informs, shapes and prepares people for ministry, represents a clear example of ALC responding to the challenge of our changing context.
‘The LCA has continued to change over the past 50 years. The number and mix of congregations – established, declining, renewing and emerging – is changing.
The arrival of migrants and refugees from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East has witnessed a change in membership profile and highlights special needs within culture and language groups. These realities expose the inadequacy of ALC continuing to provide a “one-size-fits-all” response to the education and training needs of a diverse church.’
A recording of Dr Haar’s lecture will be made available on the ALC website.