Listen: Alphacrucis College president professor Stephen Fogarty talks about how faith-based education has tried their best to integrate community, classroom and chapel into online learning
By Laura BennettFriday 23 Oct 2020Hope Afternoons
Over the course of 2020, the education sector is one that’s weathered a lot of upheaval, and been central to many people’s experience of the pandemic. Not only have schools had to reassess how they provide course content, but also higher education providers and private colleges.
For Christian institutions like Alphacrucis College, it’s meant they have had to consider how the spiritual aspects of their teaching can be adapted to the digital environment effectively, and perhaps for the long-term.
With 30 per cent of their classes already offered online, Alphacrucis College president professor Stephen Fogarty told Hope 103.2, “For us, the issue is not whether we’re online or not – it’s how we add community, and classroom and chapel worship experiences into an online learning environment”.
“One of the challenges for higher education – and faith-based higher education – is to create an online pedagogy. And for us, one that supports the integration of faith and learning,” he said.
“[Digital education] a new frontier…. and now we’ve got to find a way to make the most of it.”
As many teachers would attest, the best way for students to learn something is to do something. For students wanting to learn how to lead well and integrate their faith into the cultural setting around them, this year has been a beneficial testing ground.
Observing what he has seen students and leaders pick up over 2020, Stephen said, “Ingenuity jumps to mind straight away; the capacity to be creative and innovative in response to unexpected events. This year’s been a fabulous learning experience for the church overall, and for us all individually”.
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“It’s reminded us of something a German theologian once said, ‘the gospel never changes but the address of its recipients is constantly on the move’,” Stephen said.
“If we put that another way, it’s saying the church has always got to be ready to adapt. It’s got to be prepared for the fact that change will come unexpectedly and it needs to respond to that.”
Stephen believes this year has shown that the church – while at times considered cumbersome – has proven it does have the ability to change quickly, and with intention. On the whole, Christians have realised their faith is much stronger that they may have thought, and Stephen’s been personally impressed by the spiritual resilience of the people around him and seeing “faith that bounces back from adversity”.
“[The pandemic has] helped the communities I belong to think much more carefully about what Christian fellowship is and how we can make connections with one another. It’s obviously involved a lot of online stuff, but also digging deeper into spiritual resources… and people are probably going deeper than they have done, as they’ve been cruising over previous years,” he said.
Looking back on his own learning through the year, Stephen said he’s been able to stabilise and centre his life a bit more.
“I’ve been much more focused and much more centred, and been able to get closer to my family and my grandkids, which has been a fabulous thing for me.
“I think in moments of change you assess priorities, and I think I’ve been able to put worship and devotion a bit more central than it was before, and put family in a much more prominent place than it was before”.
To celebrate the year that’s been and prepare for 2021, Alphacrucis College is inviting you to join their #RUNWITHME fundraising campaign – completing a run from The Opera House to their campus in Parramatta, or a section along the route.
The college want to “celebrate a year well-navigated”, and Stephen said “hopefully a pathway out of the lockdown”.
“In all of our campuses right across Australia there’ll be people running and seeking sponsors, and we’ll all get together at our different campuses and have a lunch and celebrate the fact that we’re alive and we accomplished something, and that we believe God’s hand is on the college.”
#RUNWITHME will take place in Sydney on November 10.