Identification of Criteria for Delivery of Theological Education Through Distance Education: An International Delphi Study

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Virginia Tech

Distance education is one means of delivering theological education which is being used increasingly. This delivery method is particularly helpful to nontraditional students who desire higher education but who cannot leave family and work commitments for residential study. For some in both developing and developed countries, distance education is the only route open to higher theological education. Criteria for assessing effective delivery of distance education have not been established in the literature. The purpose of this study was to identify such criteria.

Data were collected with a three-round Delphi from an international panel of seventy-four members comprised of denominational and non-denominational educational administrators and distance educators, denominational district representatives, accreditation representatives, and adult education representatives. Two pilot studies were conducted to test the questions used for round one. Criteria statements were retained if they were deemed "important" or "very important" by at least 80 percent of the respondents on rounds two and three. The panel's responses were found to be independent of respondent location--national or international--and the category of the respondent's group membership.

The findings of the study led to the identification of a set of thirty-one criteria in eight categories which may be useful for evaluating existing distance education programs or guiding the development of new programs. The eight categories were ethical concerns, commitment, curriculum, evaluation, support, technology, feedback, and faculty. There was a 100 percent consensus in rating these thirty-one criteria as "important" or "very important" by the panel members.