United Theological Seminary

2018 Annual Report

2017-18: TRANSFORMATIONS THAT ENHANCE A UNITED EDUCATION

During the 2017-18 fiscal year, United undertook several major initiatives in order to set itself up to provide a cutting-edge, progressive seminary education for decades to come.

 

The Board of Trustees Approves the Sale of Campus

As United’s leadership sought to leverage the seminary’s physical assets of land and buildings, they received an unexpected offer to purchase most of the campus. After prayerful consideration, the board decided that selling the campus and moving into an urban setting would better position United to carry out its mission. A new, urban campus would be more accessible to students — both commuters and distance-learners — and would surround students with opportunities to practice what they were learning.

 

United Continues to Ramp Up Distance Learning

United ran its first official pilot test of Zoom, a conferencing tool that United uses for distance learning, in the fall of 2016. By the fall of 2017, United had rolled Zoom out to 10 classes, using findings to refine best practices for professors as well as creating a list of best practices for distance learners.

With limited technology and no dedicated technical support person, the seminary’s resources were strained by its expanded use of Zoom, but the experiment was clearly working. The seminary evaluated student performance, gathering and comparing quantitative and qualitative data to reflect the performance and satisfaction of distance and classroom learners. Distance learners actually scored higher on engagement than classroom learners. United concluded that Zoom was a viable way to offer a seminary education, as long as instructors used it effectively.

In the spring of 2018, United hired a support person to solve technical problems that occurred during classes, and Zoom was rolled out to all classes. The data continued to show that Zoom was an effective method of instruction, but it was also clear that students would benefit from better technology. This includes flat screens on classroom walls on the new campus, making participating distance learners very obvious to the instructor and classmates on campus.

United’s deliberately plan roll-out and testing of distance learning technology is one of the highlights of this decade of the past few years and a point of pride for the entire community. The success of the seminary’s experiment with distance education sets it up to successfully attract and retain students who may not want to or be able to move to Minnesota.