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Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Online Learning expands with new models

Various new models of online learning have emerged within the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation (VLCFF) in the past few years.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia initiated a hybrid “closed section’ model, allowing adult students only in this diocese to learn with each other through a VLCFF class. In addition, a video conferencing component was added, and, in some cases, in-person group zoom meetings with the instructor (facilitator) to foster a community of learners. 

“This model fulfills a gaping need for millions of Catholics who live in the Heartland, far-removed from opportunities to broaden and seriously revitalize their Catholic knowledge,” said Polla Rumberg, who joined a group from her parish at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. 

“We now have the technology to offer such a program to remote communities to experience lively dialogue that these VLCFF hybrid courses offer.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as many dioceses learned, new methods of educating and praying were implemented. Wheeling-Charleston decided to set up new five-week course models based on the VLCFF year-round calendar. Typically, adult students log into and register for a course on their own, but when creating closed sections, students send the diocese an email indicating interest in a course and the diocesan office takes care of the rest, registering a cohort for the course.

Dr. Rodica Stoicoiu, who has facilitated courses with the VLCFF for 10 years, helped develop this new model for her local diocese.

“I’ve taught, discussed and worked in faith formation for decades and face-to-face interactions are important to adult learning,” Dr. Stoicoiu said. “This new model is a chance to work independently online with the material but still interact face to face with parishioners on their faith journey.  Since all participants are in one diocese, it makes these interactions and learning experiences much easier.” 

For the Sacred Heart parish, members of the class meet in person as a group, then connect via zoom with Dr. Stoicoiu. Some of the VLCFF courses used for this new model include Introduction to Scripture, Introduction to Prayer, Catholic Beliefs and Ecclesiology: A Theological, Historical and Pastoral Summary. 

“I continue to be amazed at how much I have learned and how much about my faith I did not know,” said Deborah Garton, from Sacred Heart. “Thanks to Dr. Stoicoiu and the VLCFF, I continue to learn about Catholicism far more quickly than I ever imagined.”

For more information about setting up a closed course for your parish, diocese or group, contact Richard Drabik.
The VLCFF online was created to offer adults religious education and faith formation anytime and anywhere via the internet. Now offering three-and 5-week courses in English, Spanish and Arabic. For 2023, see the schedule and list of courses. The VLCFF online program continues to offers a wide variety of educational possibilities for global archdioceses/dioceses.
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