NNU’s Cohort Learning Approach Builds Community


Online-LearningSince 2002, when we rolled out our Master of Arts with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation, cohort learning has been central to the Graduate Theological Online Education (GTOE) program at Northwest Nazarene University’s School of Theology & Christian Ministries.

Why? Because it works very, very well for adult learners.

What is cohort learning? When you enroll in NNU’s fully online, nonresidential program, you start your studies with a group of 12-20 adult learners. While you’ll cycle different faculty members from one course to the next, you’ll stay together with these colleagues across the span of your studies.

Prospective students often fear online learning—especially theological online education—because they think community can’t happen in an online environment. We know the opposite is true. Through NNU’s online programs, community develops—quickly. Friendships form. Bonds are created and solidified. Students rally around, support and encourage one another in their studies—and in life.

It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

I can honestly say I’ve been brought to tears at times by the ways our online graduate students support one another. I still get choked up remembering the time one of our online students drove about eight hours to be with a classmate after that student’s son had been seriously injured during the war in Iraq. While they had never met before, their friendship as online colleagues was vital and real, and that relationship motivated this student to travel in support of his friend at a time of great challenge for his family.

When you see that kind of dedication among people who only know one another online, it’s humbling—and heartwarming. And it’s the rule—not the exception. Students who want to keep people at arm’s length are by far in the minority.

Our students have been so grateful for those in their cohort that we have a high percentage of our adult students who participate in NNU’s commencement exercises. The reason is clear: They want to meet their professors—and even more, their colleagues who have been with them on their journey for two or more years.

Sound like the kind of Graduate Theological Online Education program you’re looking for? Then Please RSVP here! for our next Online Information Night, offered via video stream from 4-6 pm (MST) on Thursday, January 23. We’ll answer any question you might have about cohort learning or any other aspect of our program.

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