Hebrew College has been a pioneer in online learning since 2000, and was the first to offer a degree (Master of Arts in Jewish Studies) entirely through distance learning around that time. The platform we use is called Schoology, which has an attractive “social media-like” interface that is both intuitive and easy to learn. Students have individual accounts, modify their own privacy settings, upload a photo to their personal profile page, and manage their account through a private password.
Our courses are interactive and instructors aim to form relationships with students that are very close to, while different from, those formed in a “bricks and mortar” classroom. Although much of the course content is delivered through asynchronous activities, we do employ synchronous conversations, video chatting and "hevruta" beit midrash (paired learning sessions between and among students and instructors) as a means of achieving our goal.
In a typical Jewish studies course, the structure and culture is similar to that of a graduate-level academic course, using a lecture and discussion format. Typical class size is anywhere from eight to 15 students. There are weekly units of study, and a discussion board is set up for each topic, along with selected readings or texts that relate to the topics for that unit.
Students listen to posted lectures (either in text format or as audio or video files) created by the instructor. Students respond to one another, often furthering their knowledge and understanding of the topic as much through these conversations as from the formal lectures themselves. Instructors post their responses both to individual students and to the class as a whole.
Text-based Jewish studies courses (utilizing Hebrew language) are conducted asynchronously as described above, but require weekly hevruta learning sessions through video chat with the instructor “present” for at least part of the time.
Don't just take our word for it...
Hear from Abby Fisher, MAJS '10