Theological Education in the Digital Age


Prof. Carrie Doehring
I-302, ext. 169

Prof. Mark K. George
I-110, ext, 168

Course Description
Undertaking theological education in the 21 st century is an opportunity rich with possibilities. Learning via digital platforms offers the opportunity to experience and understand in new ways what it means to think and reflect theologically on a host of issues, including religions in the world, the study of Bible, pastoral care, Christian history, social justice, and preaching. It also requires consideration of what it means to be in community and act with integrity in the digital age. These are some of the issues we will consider this term as we seek to enter into the adventure of theological education.

Readings: No books are required; all readings will be posted.

All parts of the syllabus are subject to review and revision at any time at the sole discretion of the professors.

Course Learning Goals

  1. Students demonstrate critical reading skills, such as the capacity to identify the thesis of a text, its methodology, the contextual situation of the author’s argument in a larger discourse, the contours of its argument, and the implications of its constructive work;
  2. Students demonstrate the capacity to write a short, thesis-driven paper drawing on textual resources with appropriate academic citation and a writing style appropriate to the genre;
  3. Students are able to identify appropriate academic resources through library research in order to address a research question of significance to them;
  4. Students engage in critical, respectful, and constructive academic dialogue and reflection in a diverse cultural setting (hybrid discussion spaces and on-campus settings).

  1. Regular participation in online discussions and the intensive on-campus sessions during the 5th week of the quarter. Online class discussion is our primary means of learning together and therefore an integral and important part of class. Each student is expected to post by the stated deadlines and to do so having read the required materials for the week. We think the readings generally reflect the types of reading you will encounter in your Iliff courses, so practice your critical reading skills with them. Critical reading and engagement with other scholars and their perspectives is a skill, one we are trying to improve during this course. Here is what that means for us:
    1. As you read, do so with these questions in mind: what is the central argument being made, how is it being made, what evidence is cited to support it, and what is at stake in making it.
    2. When you finish reading, make sure you understand the argument being made.
      1. A helpful way to do this is to state the author’s central idea using your own words.
      2. If you can do this, can you outline the argument's main points?
      3. Then turn to its strengths and weaknesses and questions you have about it.
      4. If you can do these things, then you are reading critically, thereby increasing your understanding of what you read.
      5. remember, scholarship is, at its best, a conversation, so try to have one with these scholars and others in this class.
  2. Online discussions. In weeks 1–4 there are three discussions each week, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.
    1. Your Tuesday contribution centers around a spiritual practice. See the explanation of this weekly assignment in Wk 1: Introduction--Spiritual Practice.
    2. Your Wednesday "Engagement" begins our discussion of the week’s readings and topic.
      1. We expect students to do all the assigned reading and listen to the presentation for the week before making this posting.
      2. Presentations by the professors will be relatively short, 20 minutes or so, and are intended to note particular ideas and issues for your consideration as you read and reflect on the week’s materials.
      3. Please read the assigned materials carefully and critically, ensuring your understand the main idea or claim of each reading so that you can explain why it is important for our conversation, as explained above.
      4. A primary goal for your Wednesday "Engagement" posting is to share with the rest of the class your conversation for the week with the scholars and materials encountered through the assignments. What are the 2–3 primary issues, questions, topics, or ideas you have for the week as part of that conversation?
      5. It also is appropriate to say you don’t understand a reading (or all of them, as the case might be), although saying this is only the first step. Do your best to explain what it is you don’t understand or why you don’t understand what you read. In other words, diagnose your confusion or question by determining what you do not understand or at what point you got lost in the argument. Ask clarifying questions so that others of us can offer explanations so you can become more involved in our conversation for the week.
      6. As a final request, please don’t write a paper for us, but share, in maybe 2-3 paragraphs (short to medium length), your voice in the conversation.
      7. Each week the professors will provide a few questions designed to help crystalize your thinking about the readings and focus it on the topic for the week. These questions may help you get started by giving you a way of entering into conversation with the readings and week’s topic. You do not need to respond to these questions, nor address all of them, especially if your conversation has gone in a different direction. Critical engagement with the readings is the important skill to learn and to share.
    3. Your Friday "Discussion" posting is a short response to at least two or three other students on their Wednesday "Engagement" posting. Please do not feel obligated to respond to everyone each week.
      1. By a “short” response, we are looking for a couple or few sentences. In other words, don’t type a long statement, but make a few pertinent comments to help advance an idea someone else noted, answer a question that was raised, note how something helped you advance your own thinking, raise a new question, tie together comments made by two or more students in the course, and so on.
      2. Use this day to help draw out insights, challenging ideas, themes, offer your understanding of a reading or argument being made in the readings, and other aspects of our collective conversation that are of interest to you. You might, for example, be creative and noodle around with the rest of us how something another person contributed helps you think anew about a comment or idea you noted for the week—or from a previous week. We can move backwards across the weeks of the course.
      3. You also may draw in ideas, theologies, critical perspectives, and other things you learn from other courses, but be clear and succinct, since we want to keep each contribution for the day short (even if you make several such contributions to our class conversation). Our goal is to have a scholarly conversation about the week’s materials and what we are learning, what challenges us, what possibilities we see, and so on.
      4. . Please try to balance your conversations over the course of the term so you speak to new people each week, and please consider responding to someone else during the week who has yet to have a response.
    4. The Wednesday and Friday postings are graded as two parts of one weekly assignment. A letter grade, in the form of points, is assigned for both days combined, although “Complete/Incomplete” will appear in the Canvas gradebook for the Friday posting (there is no other way for us to have this part of the conversation appear in the calendar as a reminder).
  3. Post-Gathering Days Online Discussions. For our work after Gathering Days, the focus will be on researching and writing the final paper assignment. Thus, in weeks 6–9 our discussions will be tailored toward that work.
    1. Your Tuesday contribution continues our work on spiritual practice.
    2. Your Wednesday contribution varies each week, and therefore the specific assignment is provided in the Wednesday contribution discussion assignment each week.
  4. Short writing assignment. Each student will write, and then revise and resubmit (if you wish to do so), a short response to one of the readings from weeks 1–4. This response is to be no more than 500 words, about a page and a half to two pages typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, with one inch margins on all sides. For other style matters, please follow either The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (use your Iliff library log-in credentials for access), or APA (American Psychological Association) 6th edition style.
    1. The first version of this assignment is due on Wednesday, 25 September, no later than 11:45 pm MDT (you may submit it prior to this deadline if you want to do so). Dr. Doehring and Dr. George both will read all these versions, grade them, and return them no later than Tuesday, 1 October, at 12:00 pm (noon) MDT. If you are happy with your grade, you do not have to revise and resubmit the assignment. If you would like to revise your assignment, however, you may do so. Revisions are to be submitted no later than Sunday, 6 October, at 11:45 pm MDT.
    2. Please label your file the following way: YourLastName-(Author of reading): as in Smith-Helland.
    3. Students may select one of the assigned readings listed for weeks 1–4 in the schedule as the basis for their response. We recommend you select one that engages you for some reason, be it because you find the argument and ideas compelling or, on the contrary, want to provide a counter-argument.
    4. Your response paper is to be a short critical review of the reading you select.
      1. Briefly state the author's central thesis/argument in your own words followed by a concise paraphrase of the argument. At most this should constitute about two-thirds to three-quarters of your response.
      2. In the final part of your review, note questions that remain for you, other evidence the author might have cited or discussed, implications of the reading for the topic discussed by the author, or criticism(s) of the logic or evidence used by the author.
    5. The goal of this assignment is to develop your critical reading and writing skills. Identifying the central argument, stating it in your own words, and concisely paraphrasing the argument is hard for most of us, so practicing doing it is how we develop this skill. So, too, is stating our informed reflections on what we read.
      1. We recommend you read slowly, identify (by underline or marginal note) where you think is the author's thesis, as well as how the argument is developed in the reading. Consider what sort of data is cited and how is it used. Is the author in conversation with others (this might be specific scholars but also might be schools of thought, assumptions, ideological positions, and the like)? When you finish reading, what is the "take away" for you? Why? Can you think of other arguments to support or challenge the author's argument?
      2. We offer this piece of advice about this short assignment: it is more challenging to write than you might expect because, despite being short, it requires a good deal of analysis. Please start early and give yourself plenty of time to complete the assignment. We are looking to see if you have identified the central argument and how the it is developed in the reading, as well as for proper graduate school format, spelling, expression, punctuation, and grammar.
    6. A sample "A" paper from a previous year is available here in case you would like to read an example of what the professors deem an excellent paper.
  5. Final paper assignment. Each student will write a final paper of 1800–2400 words, about 6–8 pages on a topic of their choice related to this course. The due date for these papers is Thursday, 14 November 2019, no later than 11:45 p.m. MST on the course Canvas site. Papers are to be typed, double-spaced, using a 12 point font, with one inch margins on all sides. Footnotes are to be used unless APA style is followed. Please use either CMS or APA style guidelines for formatting, bibliographies, citation matters, and all other style questions. This project involves a series of steps over weeks 5–10
      1. Week 5 (during our Gathering Days sessions): Initial work on final paper projects. During our work together on campus this week we will begin the final paper project. This includes presentations by Dr. Micah Saxton, of Taylor Library, and Dr. Jeremy Garber, of the Iliff Writing Lab. Their presentations will help us learn about online resources and research as well as writing assistance provided through the Writing Lab. We also will review steps for starting a research project, how to select a topic and begin working out a thesis, and other aspects of the project and how to undertake this work.
      2. Week 6: Bibliographic Research. Building on the work we do in week 5 on campus, each student is to work on bibliographic research using the tools we learned during week 5. There is no written requirement in Week 6.
      3. Week 7: Paper Outlines and Annotated Bibliographies. Students will develop a thesis statement for their final paper project indicating the overall argument they will make.
        1. These statements should be one sentence in length, about 25–30 words, indicating the claim or point to be made in the paper. An outline of the paper and how the thesis will be organized in order to make the required argument to support or prove the thesis also is to be included. The outline should note section headings and provide short descriptions (ca. 1 sentence) explaining each one.
        2. The annotated bibliography is to provide representative scholarly books, articles, and other appropriate resources directly related to the thesis and outline. Minimally there should be 6 items in the bibliography at this stage of the project. Each entry in the bibliography is to include a short (2–3 sentence) description of the entry’s central argument.
        3. This project is intended to advance your research skills and abilities with online resources as well as to expand your knowledge about current scholarship on your topic.
        4. The paper outline and annotated bibliography is to be typed, using 1 inch margins, 12 point font, and other style guidelines typically expected of graduate school written work.
      4. Week 8: Revised Theses and Outlines. Using feedback from the professors, students are to revise their thesis statement, paper outline, and add to their bibliography for the paper. These revised documents will be shared in small groups. Group members are expected to read each one of the documents provided by other students in the group and provide constructive criticism about how the outline might be strengthened and improved and other bibliography might be included (if you are familiar with the topic). Learning how to read the work of other students and offer constructive criticism for improvement of that work is a skill that helps each of us learn about the craft of writing. Helping others improve their work also helps us become better writers in our own work.
      5. Week 9: Writing Drafts. This week’s work is focused on writing drafts of the final paper. The lack of a required discussion this week is designed to provide maximal time for writing, including time to submit draft(s) to the Writing Lab staff in order to have feedback on drafts and improve them.
      6. Week 10: Final papers are due as per the deadline listed above.

Degree Learning Goals: Please take some time to look over the Professional Degree Learning Goals (MDiv, MASC, MAPSC) and the Academic Degree Learning Goals (MTS, MA).

Late work: Please note that late work is unacceptable for this course. Our conversations and discussions depend on your participation by the assigned due dates and times. Work submitted late is graded down one full letter grade (i.e., ten [10] points on a 100 point scale) for every 24 hour period it is late during the first 48 hours. After 48 hours, late work is graded a zero (0). If you experience a family or medical emergency that could interfere with meeting a deadline, please let the professors know by email as soon as possible. It also is advisable to contact your academic advisor in such circumstances.

Incompletes: Incompletes are granted only in the rarest of cases and situations, such as a death in the family. If the professors agree to grant an incomplete, then the policies and procedures specified in the Master's Student Handbook will be followed.

Pass/Fail:  Masters students wishing to take the class pass/fail must email both of the professors (, no later than Friday evening, 13 September 2019, stating their request. One of the professors will provide an email response confirming or denying the request after they confer about the requests they receive.

Academic Integrity and Community Covenant:  All students are expected to abide by Iliff’s statement on Academic Integrity, as published in the Masters Student Handbook, or the Joint PhD Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook, as appropriate. All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Core Values.

Title IX Mandatory Reporting Policy: As a professor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment on our campus. I also have ory reporting responsibility related to my role as a professor. It is my goal that you feel able to share information related to your life experiences in classroom discussions, in your written work, and in our one-on-one meetings. I will seek to keep information you share private to the greatest extent possible. However, I am required to share with the Title IX coordinator information regarding instances of sex/gender-based harassment, discrimination, and sexual misconduct in the Iliff community. Students may speak to someone confidentially by contacting our Confidential Reporters: the Dean of the Chapel and Spiritual Formation, the Associate Dean of Admissions, and the Director of Consultation and Formation. Information on our Title IX Policy can be found on Iliff’s website.

AccommodationsAccommodations: Iliff engages in a collaborative effort with students with disabilities to reasonably accommodate student needs. Students are encouraged to contact their assigned advisor to initiate the process of requesting accommodations. The advising center can be contacted at or by phone at 303-765-1146. The Disability Services Officer at Iliff is Vince Tango, Associate Dean of Admissions/Student Services, For more information, go to the Disability Services in the Master Student Handbook (Links to an external site.).

Writing Lab:  Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments. Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab, which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft.

Inclusive Language:  It is expected that all course participants will use inclusive language in speaking and writing, and will use terms that do not create barriers to classroom community.

Grade Scale

A.................... 94–100

A-................... 91–93

B+.................. 88–90 (NB: a 90 is a B+)

B..................... 83–87

B-................... 80–82

C+.................. 78–79

C..................... 73–77

C-................... 70–72

D+................. 68–69

D.................... 60–67

F...................... 59 or below

All assignments contribute toward the final course grade according to the following weightings:

Sep 11, 2019WedWk 1 START HERE!due by 05:45AM
Sep 11, 2019WedWk 1 What difference does a theological education make in the Digital Age?--Spiritual Practicedue by 05:45AM
Sep 12, 2019ThuWk 1 What difference does a theological education make in the Digital Age?--Engagementdue by 05:45AM
Sep 14, 2019SatWk 1 What difference does a theological education make in the Digital Age?--Discussiondue by 05:45AM
Sep 15, 2019SunWk 1: Q & A page for issues pertaining the the syllabus or coursedue by 05:00AM
Sep 18, 2019WedWk 2 Bible in the Digital Age--Spiritual Practice OPTIONAL FORUMdue by 05:45AM
Sep 19, 2019ThuWk 2 Bible in the Digital Age--Engagementdue by 05:45AM
Sep 21, 2019SatWk 2 Reminder: Respond to others by Fridaydue by 05:45AM
Sep 21, 2019SatWk 2 Bible in the Digital Age--Discussiondue by 05:45AM
Sep 25, 2019WedWk 3 Religious Authority for Religious Leaders in the Digital Age--Spiritual Practicedue by 05:45AM
Sep 26, 2019ThuWk 3 Issues of Religious Authority for Religious Leaders in the Digital Age--Engagementdue by 05:45AM
Sep 26, 2019ThuShort writing assignmentdue by 05:45AM
Sep 28, 2019SatWk 3 Reminder: Respond to others by Fridaydue by 05:45AM
Sep 28, 2019SatWk 3 Religious Authority for Religious Leaders in the Digital Age--Discussiondue by 05:45AM
Oct 02, 2019WedWk 4 Community in the Digital Age--Spiritual Practice due by 05:45AM
Oct 03, 2019ThuWk 4 Community in the Digital Age--Engagementdue by 05:45AM
Oct 05, 2019SatWk 4 Reminder: Respond to others by Fridaydue by 05:45AM
Oct 05, 2019SatWk 4 Community in the Digital Age--Discussiondue by 05:45AM
Oct 07, 2019MonShort writing assignment - Revised versiondue by 05:45AM
Oct 16, 2019WedWk 6 Paper Research: Bibliographic Research--Spiritual Practicedue by 05:45AM
Oct 17, 2019ThuWk 6 Paper Research: Bibliographic Research--Small Group Collaboration and Help due by 05:45AM
Oct 23, 2019WedWk 7 Spiritual Practices Discussion (optional)due by 05:45AM
Oct 24, 2019ThuWk 7 Paper Research: Paper Outlines and Annotated Bibliographies--Draft due to Professorsdue by 05:45AM
Oct 24, 2019ThuWk 7 Paper Research: Draft outlines due for Professors--Submission Pagedue by 05:45AM
Oct 30, 2019WedWk 8 Spiritual Practices Discussion (optional)due by 05:45AM
Oct 31, 2019ThuWk 8 Paper Research: Revised Theses and Outlines--Peer reviewsdue by 05:45AM
Nov 05, 2019TueWk 8 Paper Research: Revised Theses and Outlines--Peer reviews duedue by 06:45AM
Nov 06, 2019WedWk 9 Spiritual Practices Discussion (optional)due by 06:45AM
Nov 07, 2019ThuWk 9 Paper Research: Writing Drafts--Writing Weekdue by 06:45AM
Nov 13, 2019WedWk 10 Spiritual Practices Discussion (optional)due by 06:45AM
Nov 15, 2019FriWk 10 Paper Research: Final Papers duedue by 06:45AM
Nov 15, 2019FriGeneral Q & A pagedue by 06:45AM
Nov 15, 2019FriWk 10 Paper Research: Final Papers due--Submission Pagedue by 06:45AM