Academic journal article Catholic Education

Implementing Jesuit Charisms and Core Values in Distance Education

Academic journal article Catholic Education

Implementing Jesuit Charisms and Core Values in Distance Education

Article excerpt

Given the ever-increasing number of students who are taking distance education courses, it seems appropriate to look beyond the explicit, academic curriculum and consider how institutional charisms and core values might be implemented in distance education courses. This article explores the incorporation of charisms and core values in distance education with particular attention to some of those of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). Each of the mentioned Jesuit charisms and core values is described and operationalized in terms of distance education for secondary and higher education students. Relevant and practical examples are provided from courses currently being offered.

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The last several years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of students who are taking distance coursework. Within postsecondary education in the United States, Allen and Seaman (2005) report that the majority of graduate programs offering face-to-face courses also offer distance courses. In addition, Allen and Seaman (2005) also report that distance education increased from 1.98 million students in 2003 to 2.35 million students in 2004, which is 10 times the growth rate predicted by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Allen and Seaman (2006) declared that the growth of distance education for postsecondary students shows no sign of "leveling off " (p. 1), and as evidence, they state that by the fall of 2005, there were 3.2 million students.

At the K-12 level, the number of students taking distance coursework also continues to increase. Smith, Clark, and Blomeyer (2005) cite various data sources that indicate that 300,000 K-12 students were enrolled in distance courses in 2002-2003, an increase from an estimated 40-50,000 in 2000-2001. Picciano and Seaman (2007) surveyed public school administrators and found that of large school districts, half had students enrolled in distance courses, and rural school districts were more likely than suburban or urban districts to have students enrolled in distance education courses. According to Picciano and Seaman (2007), high school students made up 68% of distance enrollments, and of these enrollments, 14% were in Advanced Placement courses. Post-secondary institutions provided the distance education for 48% of the high school students (Picciano & Seaman, 2007). Smith and colleagues (2005) estimated that K-12 distance enrollments could reach 600,000 students by 2005.

CORE VALUES

All faith-based educational institutions have core values that are supposed to be both a part of all that is done at the institution and part of the outcome profile of its graduates. In many cases, the faith-based core values, those values that make the institutions "distinctive and cohesive" (Cook, 2004) are called charisms, and it is expected that these will be a part of the instructional process as well as part of the character of the graduates of the institution's programs. A firm foundation in charisms as promoted by St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, has always been the hallmark of Jesuit institutional heritage; however, the movement toward a more technological delivery of education requires that Jesuit institutions and their faculties examine how they continue promoting core values into a distance format in education. As courses and programs are developed for students in distance education, it is important that the institutional core values be a part of the instructional process, in both face-to-face classes and distance courses.

The transition for faculty from face-to-face to distance instruction can be challenging. Faculty are often very comfortable with what they do face-to-face and have trouble imagining how they might have the same impact at a distance, especially in the areas of institutional charisms and core values.

VALUES IN DISTANCE EDUCATION

Nothing is valueless, and even when we believe there is not value expressed, then that is an expression of value. …

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