About a week ago, I shared a quick post on social media (Instagram and Facebook) about having hit the major milestone of uploading 100 videos to my Youtube channel for the courses I teach. Most of the videos aren’t public. The videos are mostly small “chunks” of teaching or instructions that I embed in courses delivered within ABTS’s online learning platform.
I wanted to describe in a bit more detail this new (for me) mode of ministry that I’ve been learning. But I want to do that by talking about one its problems. One of the biggest losses often talked about with online education is the lack of “personal” interaction. And to a degree that is true. I miss the face-to-face interaction with students in a classroom. But in a way, because of the new media tools available to us today, there is so much “humanity” that can be embedded in learning, even if from a distance. Using short, informal video chunks like these YouTube videos I’ve been making has been one way of doing that.
At first, I struggled to find a good rhythm in my videos. I’d spend hours editing out all my Arabic grammar and vocabulary mistakes. Those mistakes still grate on me when I hear them in the replay, but I’m finding that they are a necessary part of conveying “humanity” (our weaknesses, passions, and values among other things) that I’ve been surprised to discover in my online “classroom”.
During this fall quarter, students from across the MENA region and parts of Europe (ministering to Arabic-speaking migrants) have shared all kinds of local ministry difficulties they are currently trying to work through in immediate connection with course content and discussions. It’s fascinating to discuss together such immediately local and regional issues at the same time. In the middle of the course, half of the students “disappeared” from the classroom following political unrest and the resulting internet blackout. We worried and prayed for them, and then rejoiced when they were able to reconnect, as we listened to them process course content in light of their new and changing situation. With all the realities of conflict in this region, our online classroom ends up holding space for all the heart-wrenching human realities we’re living through, all conveyed through these small little chunks of text and video.
It’s hard to capture and explain the riches of this kind of interaction. So, the best I’m able to offer is this measly screenshot of my mug talking to the camera in one of my videos, embedded in a bunch of Arabic text about what we would be learning and discussing that week. This online teaching stuff has been a lot of work, and very different work, from in person theological education. But it is rewarding in different, new ways. And for that, I’m thankful.
And also, still learning…
In the comments, share how you are struggling to connect with people using technology or social media.