Dr. David Saxon says teaching for Maranatha Online is “the best summer job I’ve ever had.”
Saxon, a Professor of Bible at Maranatha has 21 students in his Baptist Heritage class. Nine more are enrolled in Reformation Theology, a Seminary course.
“I usually have 110 freshmen in Baptist Heritage in the fall,” Saxon explained. “You tend to lose your personal touch in an environment like that, and I really enjoy personal interaction with students. In our online classes, they have to talk to me, and to each other. I’m getting communication from students who would otherwise sit in the back of the room and I’d never hear from them.”
Saxon encourages interaction through the class discussion forums, which he now considers a primary learning tool. Participation in those forums does figure in calculating the final grade, but students haven’t needed much prodding to take part in those conversations.
“They are really the heart of the class,” Saxon said. “I expected to have to ask pointed questions to get them to interact. Instead I see multiple threads, replies, and counter-replies. They elaborate on subjects they’re interested in. When we get to the section on the history of fundamentalism vs. evangelicalism, I expect the discussion will really pick up.”
Saxon grades each forum post on a scale of 1 to 5, then tracks the number and quality of the posts from each student.
Sometimes the discussions go well beyond the material covered most recently in class.
“I noticed when we were going over Baptist distinctives that about 90 percent of the material being discussed would not have been on the test,” Saxon said. “These are motivated students getting purposeful elaboration on subjects they’re interested in. That’s the way classroom discussion should be. That’s good.”
Written: Fall 2010