NNU’s Success in Online Learning Started in 2000


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It was January 1998 in Nampa, Idaho. Over lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant, Northwest Nazarene University’s then-Vice President for Academic Affairs Sam Dunn offered Dr. George Lyons a challenge. He wanted NNU’s small Division of Philosophy and Religion to take on a new project: offering online graduate programs.

Two years later, in early 2000, Professor Lyons taught “Preaching from the New Testament” as NNU’s first online course. That successful “experiment” led to the 2002 roll-out of NNU’s first fully online graduate degree program: a Master of Arts degree with a specialization in Spiritual Formation, making our School of Theology & Christian Ministries among the first theological institutions worldwide to offer fully online graduate degree programs.

Over time, NNU has expanded its specializations and also added a fully online Master of Divinity degree that launched in 2006. To date, more than 300 women and men have earned their MA degrees online from NNU and better than 50 have earned their MDiv degrees online. And our School of Theology & Christian Ministries has more than doubled in size, with gifted educators inspiring our adult learners to answer God’s leading in their lives.

In 2002, I was serving as a pastor in Phoenix when NNU contacted me about teaching online for them as a guest faculty member. Back in those days, my laptop chirped away on a 28K modem and online learning was in its infancy. Honestly, I was in a busy pastorate and was skeptical initially about online learning. I was intrigued, however, and decided to give it a try. And it turned out to be a very gratifying experience—so much so that I took NNU up on its offer to join their faculty and give myself fully to this effort.

Over the years, NNU has grown in its commitment to offer fully online programs to men and women around the world, and to assess our online offerings, making changes that have resulted in more growth and improvement. For instance, our mentorship program is a direct result of that assessment. By linking dynamic online course content with a face-to-face mentor in each student’s ministry setting, student learning deepens through contextualization. It worked so well in our Spiritual Formation program that we’ve since built mentorships into all of our online graduate programs: Christian Education; Missional Leadership; Pastoral Ministry; Spiritual Formation; and Youth, Church & Culture.

What God has done through us here at NNU is nothing short of groundbreaking. It’s been exciting to see our students—and our programs—grow and develop. Step by step, we’ve accomplished much more than Sam and George dreamed of in that Chinese restaurant. And as we’ve grown, NNU has remained committed to staying on the leading edge.

If you’re interested in learning more about our pioneering programs in graduate theological online education, RSVP for our next Info Night on Oct. 15. Drop in on one of four live 30-minute sessions offered between 4-6 pm MDT (GMT-6) and participate in a live video stream featuring Dr. Mike Kipp, professor of youth and family ministries.

Who knows? Your call could change the trajectory of your life and ministry. In the meantime, would you please pass the Egg Foo Yung?

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