Or, "Is 'online education' an oxymoron"?

A few weeks back, I started a discussion of what kind of theological education model is best to train church planting pastors in cities of the 10/40 window, and raised questions about the suitability of the traditional brick-and-mortar seminary in this context. Let’s continue by discussing another training approach: the content-only model. 2. Content-Only Model We’re using “content-only” as a catch-all for educational approaches that focus on the delivery of information, through a variety of means. Back in the day there were correspondence courses, then audio or DVD materials, now: MOOCs and other online education. The quality has improved but the principle is the same: receive training wherever you are, according to your schedule. We’re in a golden age of content-only training. Most major seminaries, motivated to serve believers around the world (and help their own bottom lines) have developed online offerings. Beyond that, ministries like BiblicalTraining.org, Third Millennium, and BibleMesh are distributing a remarkable breadth and quality of content for free

or a nominal cost. I thank God for these ministries. Their quality is usually excellent, involving some of the best teachers in the world for each subject. Given their inherent flexibility, content-only programs fit complex modern lifestyles in a way other programs don’t. Many believers globally don’t have access to any other theological training, so praise the Lord for profitable materials being available to anyone with an internet connection. Is this the solution to the global theological education crisis? Should we double down on content-only programs and abandon other approaches that by comparison seem too limited and too costly? In 2016 is it anachronistic, and perhaps profligate, to be initiating live, in-person, instructional programs? No. While content-only programs have a useful role to play, they are not and cannot be sufficient to meet the needs of the global church, because of several limitations: Those who argue content-only training is sufficient assume a reductionistic understanding of education. What happens…