SFO of the future

Online SFO possible for future

A handful of students have the opportunity to participate in an online spiritual formation opportunity (SFO) as part of an experiment to compare an online SFO program to a face-to-face program.

The online SFO began during the 2016 fall semester and will continue until December 2016. The face-to-face SFO will start up in spring semester 2017.

Andrew Campbell, senior political science major, researching the new Online SFO (Photo by Tara Hilverding).
Andrew Campbell, senior political science major, researching the new Online SFO (Photo by Tara Hilverding).

“We have two main goals. We want to see if Malone students can grow spiritually and develop community,” said Linda Leon, director of spiritual formation.

The curriculum of the SFO was made to compliment what students learn in Introduction to the Bible, a new general education requirement. The theme for this experiment is Genesis. The online SFO also seeks to create community and spiritual development through a different setting.

“We have looked around and can’t find any program that focuses as much on the community development aspect as the spiritual growth aspect. We want to see if we can generate a sense of community,” said Leon.

The curriculum for the online class is the same as the face-to-face SFO. This will allow the spiritual formation office to compare the two settings and determine whether or not the online SFO can meet their goals.

So far the response has been good. Leon and Jen Hollinger, director of teacher education preparation program, are overjoyed with the amount of people who are willing to participate in this experiment.

“These students are not just interested in online SFO opportunities. They’re really committed, and I appreciate their commitment to the full stretch of this,” said Leon.

Hollinger looks forward to the experiment’s potential.

“This might be a really great way to keep [students] connected to spiritual formation and honor that commitment they’ve made in their life but still allow them the opportunity to attend spiritual formation and do that in a community of people, which we think is really important,” said Hollinger.

If the experiment goes well, online SFOs may be included in future opportunities.

“I think that this is a great model moving forward and that we’re collecting information to inform other people because clearly we couldn’t find any great models to replicate,” said Hollinger. “Getting information and sharing it broadly is very important to me moving forward for sure.”

Some students have also reiterated their excitement towards a prospective SFO.

“I like the idea behind it. If we could have multiple online group SFOs over different topics, I think it would be more intriguing,” said Bob Ross, junior criminal and restorative justice major.

Katlynn Feller, junior early education and intervention specialist majors, looks forward to the variety an online SFO would add to current options.

“I think it would be convenient, especially for commuters and people that have to be off campus, like sports people,” said Feller.

Other students recognize the practicality of this new, online SFO.

“I see the point of an online SFO. It’s useful if you cannot get to a building quickly. It’s useful if you live off campus, like commuters do. It has its purposes,” said Jesse Thompson, junior youth and educational ministry major.

Tara Hilverding is a staff writer for The Aviso

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