A fully online Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling degree and an ongoing flex-access Ph.D. program have now been approved for Southwestern Seminary by the institution’s accrediting agency. The board of commissioners of The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) met earlier this month to discuss three petitions from Southwestern, with the third being the relocation of the Havard campus in Houston to nearby Sagemont Church. All three petitions were approved. 

Fully Online MABC

Southwestern’s M.A. in biblical counseling (MABC) is a 65-hour program of study designed primarily to equip Christian men and women to minister God’s Word through counseling in the context of the local church or other Christian ministries. The degree includes 35 hours of theological preparation vital for effectively interpreting and ministering the Word of God. The 30 hours of counseling courses prepare students to apply God’s Word in both formal and informal counseling settings. All of these courses may now be taken either in-person on the seminary campus or online. 

While the online degree will be offered primarily through asynchronous online delivery, the same flex-access technology utilized for the Ph.D. program will also provide the option for students to take the classes synchronously. In other words, students will have the option of being virtually present in a classroom while classes are in session on the Fort Worth campus. 

The online MABC is available now. See here to learn more. 

Flex-Access Ph.D.

The flex-access Ph.D. initiative began in 2015 as a three-year experiment. The initiative allows students to participate in Southwestern’s existing Ph.D. program as residential students or online through live video web conferencing. With the three-year term drawing to a close, Southwestern petitioned for the program to become an ongoing initiative. 

Southwestern reported that offering Ph.D. coursework through synchronous video had allowed the Ph.D. program to grow over the last three years, with online Ph.D. students increasing from 13 in 2015 (5 percent of all Ph.D. students) to 45 (15 percent of all Ph.D. students). Furthermore, student and faculty evaluations of the program were highly positive. 

ATS reports learning several lessons from the three-year experiment, including that the online synchronous model accomplished what it sought: “comparable student learning outcomes between online and onsite students.” Their report affirmed, “The online synchronous model preserved the value of live oral interaction among doctoral students and faculty and the value of semester-long classroom experiences.” 

Based on the positive assessment results reported by Southwestern over the last three years, ATS granted an ongoing exception to the Ph.D. residency requirement, allowing the coursework in all of its Ph.D. program specializations (except performance-based music) to be offered through synchronous online delivery. In short, the flex-access component of the Ph.D. program will now be an ongoing feature. 

Relocation of Houston Campus

The final action of ATS was the approval of the relocation of Southwestern’s Harvard campus from its current location to nearby Sagemont Church. As stated in ATS’ report, the relocation will enable the school to use a modern educational space in a flagship church in the region for a significant reduction in cost. The new location is only approximately nine miles from the current location, meaning that students should not be inconvenienced in any way. 

All of these actions of the board of commissioners are effective as of June 5, 2018.