Partnering to promote online learning

By Rosina Hendrickson

Busy schedules can make workshop attendance challenging for many Catholics in the Diocese of Davenport. To respond to changing needs, the diocesan Office of Faith Formation has partnered with STEP at the University of Notre Dame to offer online learning in the areas of Catholic doctrine, liturgy, Scripture and theology.

Over the past year the staff of the Office of Faith Formation talked with parish leaders and other individuals in the diocese who have expressed interest for online formation as a way to deepen their knowledge of the faith. Thus, a search for quality online learning and partnership possibilities became a focus for the Office of Faith Formation.

Many online possibilities were explored. However, I kept coming back to STEP. I became acquainted with the STEP program over 12 years ago … I was hooked by both the theology and the methodology of the program. Being placed in a cohort of individuals from around the country, and even the world, I learned from the material as well as my colleagues in the course. The opportunity to read and digest the content on my own, reflect on it in written form and participate in a “real-time” conversation with my colleagues brought the course to life for me. Each time a session rolled around, I found myself taking another course; to date, I have taken over 40 courses.

Other programs had similar aspects to STEP, but none appeared to contain all of what STEP offered. STEP is part of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame and has been offering online formation for over 20 years. More than 50 courses are offered, written by faculty of the university and other qualified individuals. Sessions run six times a year and last for six to seven weeks. Course materials are available 24/7 during the weeks the course is in session. Participants read materials, participate in conversations and are guided by a trained facilitator each week. Those who complete the course requirements within the scheduled course dates receive a Certificate of Completion from STEP.

The upcoming session begins Aug. 27, with 11 different courses available. One of them, “Core Course: Introduction to the Catholic Faith,” provides an overview of the faith based on the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults. This is a good introductory course for individuals seeking to deepen their faith.

No prerequisites are required for STEP courses and there is no commitment beyond a single course. Each is designed with the adult learner in mind and speaks on a level that reaches that person, whether learning about the subject for the first time or deepening an understanding of it.

Participants will need a computer/tablet and internet connection to access course materials. Smartphones work but have limitations on functionality. A course orientation is provided during the session. The Office of Faith Formation is available to assist individuals with an orientation to the software, as well.

Courses typically cost $99, but participants from the Diocese of Davenport who select the diocese’s discount during the registration process will pay $74.25 for a course.

To learn more, visit the diocesan website at http://www.davenportdiocese.org/ff-step, the STEP website at http://step.nd.edu or contact Rosina Hendrickson in the Office of Faith Formation (563) 888-4244 or
hendrickson@davenportdiocese.org.

(Rosina Hendrickson is the Lifelong Faith and Lay Ministry Formation Coordinator for the Diocese of Davenport.)

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