This coming academic year, all Westminster classes will be offered online—featuring both live engagement and prerecorded lectures.
This is part of a near-term and long-term plan for fortifying the future leaders of Christ’s church, and this will allow us to make upgrades to the campus and our residential programs which are core to our mission. We are committed to training with both precision and praxis in ways that are true to who Westminster has always been—and how we endeavor to serve the generations to come.
New pedagogical strategies
Application to local context
Interactive discussion with deep student engagement
letter from the academic dean
"The vision that propels us is one of profound preparation for a lifetime of ministry.”Read Letter
Because Scripture is profound,
the demands of ministry are profound,
and the needs of the global church are profound,
so must remain Westminster’s preparation.
This year, your online experience will include new technology, pedagogy, and more:
Up to 5 newly converted classrooms into Zoom rooms equipped with high-quality lighting, projectors, and screens so professors can see and interact with students while teaching
Professors will be freshly equipped to engage students in a virtual setting, with some opportunities to test new pedagogical methods including case studies, deep reading sessions, topical discussions, and practical exercises
TAs trained to provide classroom facilitation, engaged interaction, and technological support during class
Opportunities to interact with professors outside of class either face to face or via virtual office hours and other extra-curricular gatherings
Maximized accessibility to our expanding digital library resources
Fully redesigned, next generation courses, including CH 211, NT 011, and ST 101 where students will experience a sample of the enhanced future quality of Westminster Online Learning production, delivery, and teaching
For those who still live locally, there will be opened campus space for various activities, as building renovations and Seminary COVID-19 safety protocols permit. On-campus opportunities may include library use (modified), study and fellowship space, meetings with faculty, Machen coffee, one-time group events, and more
In Fall 2021, you will experience the first phase of our tactical, dedicated enhancements of campus and programs:
Beautification of campus through addition of central green space, firepits, fountain, gazebo, and Machen courtyard as welcoming places for gathering
Renovations of existing facilities, creating hubs for student life
Improved classroom spaces and greater technology for better academic experiences
More robust training of pastors through an enhanced residential Pastoral MDiv program that is smaller, more selective, and features deeper practical application and discipleship
Newly designed specialized programming dedicated to prepare our female students for their unique callings
New online degrees and platform enhancements that lower the barriers for the global church to receive a Westminster degree through online expressions of MDiv and MAR degrees
By Fall of 2025 we pray that the Lord will allow us to complete improvements that will include a new academic building, a residential building, a dining hall, an on-campus chapel, and more
in pursuit of a bold vision
As we look to our 100th anniversary, we have a vision to serve the global church with renewed imagination.
The mindset of Westminster has never been to settle for comfort or the status quo. In 2029 we will celebrate our 100th anniversary as a seminary—and we believe we can mark that with a far greater campus, residential training, and online learning platform in place than ever before. We believe we can elevate students’ experience and lower barriers of access to the profound preparation leaders need. By God’s power, we press forward with renewed imagination for the future of how this seminary can serve Christ and his church.
Profound preparation in today’s ever-changing world requires a holistic approach.
Westminster aims to further equip leaders with biblically robust theological training that connects:
Physical + Digital
Bridging the gap between a physical campus and online platforms ensures every corner of the global church can be trained with excellence.
Mind + Practice
Integrating instruction of the mind with practical training and residency experiences enables readiness for all roles and stages of ministry.
Truth + Love
Pairing a deep knowledge of theological truths with sacrificial love empowers students to draw near to God and each other.
Near + Far
Reinforcing deep commitment to both the local and global church expands understanding of God and his work throughout the world.
Pursuing the Profound
Initiatives that are in development between now and Fall 2021:
We began discussions of a modified academic experience in the wake of COVID-19. However, this conversation quickly expanded into an opportunity to not just react to the current state of events for the short-term, but actually build for the long-term so that we are better positioned to pursue our long-standing mission of serving Christ and his church for generations to come. We are doing this by accelerating internal renovations, external renovations, and program redesigns that were previously set to launch in Fall 2022.
This year we are accelerating both physical and programmatic improvements that propel our long-term strategic initiatives forward. Given that the safety and distancing measures we would need to implement would compromise too much of Westminster’s DNA of excellence, we have chosen to wholly align our priorities for this year in pursuit of providing excellence in all educational contexts now and for the future. While there may be opportunities for organic small gatherings on campus, we value your time and education too much to allow the distractions created by necessary protocols to compromise your entire academic experience. We will, of course, remain optimistic that components of the residential experience could return to campus sooner, but our goal is to plan for a whole year in order to give you stability for your degree expectations.
We are developing multiple, course-specific strategies for ensuring an engaging classroom, including combinations of pre-recorded lecture and synchronous interactions. Faculty may, for instance, lecture in classrooms that we convert into large Zoom rooms, in which they can lecture and engage galleries of students. Given this technology, courses can now feature dynamic interactions with professors, TAs, and fellow students. In addition, we are training our TAs to provide technology support if students run into issues during class. Each class will also be recorded and posted to Canvas for review after its original delivery.
No, we are not becoming an online seminary. Our residential programs remain core to our mission. While we are delivering courses fully online for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, this is a temporary shift to allow for campus and program enhancements, while COVID-19 restrictions make a normal residential classroom experience untenable. We fully intend to reinstate on-campus residential classes in Fall 2021. Westminster remains committed to providing excellence in both contexts—residentially and online.
No, in fact we envision our enhanced residential MDiv degree becoming a more robust, more selective, flagship degree program. Our residential program offerings remain core to who we are, and we believe that online degree excellence relies upon vital and thriving residential programs. During this time, we are drastically improving the residential student experience so that we can better serve you through our residential academic and campus offerings when you return to campus in Fall 2021. Some improvements include renovations to Montgomery Library and Machen Hall, added green spaces, and new technology in classrooms.
We are happy to accommodate any request for deferral or voluntary leave for the 2020-2021 school year.
We are working diligently to maximize accessibility of digital library resources. To this end the library is actively acquiring more eBooks and will be adding new research databases to maximize accessibility. Even with the large and expanding digital resources, not everything in the library will be available digitally. In each case, library staff will seek to assist you with your research needs.
This year offers the opportunity for both residential and online-only students to participate in the elevated online experiences that we have built for this school year. Together, we will test new pedagogical and technological strategies. This may include implementation of professors using Zoom rooms to deliver real-time lectures, interactive learning opportunities, and virtual small group discussions. Westminster Online Learning is an opportunity for students to obtain a Westminster seminary degree online for the whole duration of the program. Read more about our Online degree options here.
Residential MDiv students will be allowed to take any newly built online MDiv course at no additional cost for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semesters while the residential online delivery method is temporarily in place. While newly admitted Online MDiv students can only register for courses specifically marked for the online program, they can petition to take residential courses that are offered online during the fall semester.
It will be necessary for every student to have a reliable computer and internet connection. If you have financial limitations that makes this difficult, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss need-based grants.
Faculty interaction plays an essential role for all of our course offerings. Students will have the option of having personal interaction with faculty outside lectures through virtual Zoom meetings and some in-person meetings on campus or at other locations. The specifics will vary between each faculty member and their specific availability and teaching plan.
For those who live locally, you may have opportunities to gather in small groups on campus, access the library, and meet with faculty. However, please note the specific areas experiencing major renovations may change and limit campus use. Specific safety protocols will also be in place, including social distancing and wearing of face masks in designated areas.
If you are a student for whom COVID-19 has created financial strain, please let us know via email@example.com to learn about seminary resources available to those facing hardship. But no, we are not offering a blanket discount on tuition for the academic year. This is for two primary reasons.
First, we do not believe the overall value of what you receive this academic year will be lessened when compared with alternatives. If anything, in the midst of coronavirus, we think the loss of value would happen in a residential context, where you would be beholden to safety and distancing measures that substantively diminish access to faculty and meaningful classroom engagement. Moreover, potential future interruptions from outbreaks as well as the challenge of integrating remote students would bring an untenable residential environment. Instead, through this one-year online program and the innovations we pair with it, we hope to exceed your expectations and certainly exceed what we achieved during the Spring emergency semester.
Second, Westminster’s costs will not be less next year; in fact, our operational expenses will actually be much higher due to the investments we are making to improve the online experience. If this decision to offer classes online involved savings for the seminary, then we understand the request for those savings to be passed onto students. But this is not the case.
We are sympathetic to those of you who relocated to the area with the expectation of an on-campus education and now are disappointed that classes will be online for a year. We do ask you to remember that many of your fellow students are in a different circumstance where they cannot return to campus due to limitations on domestic travel, complications with international visas, or pressing health concerns for themselves or their families. Westminster must be careful to neither unfairly favor nor disadvantage any student in this season.
Furthermore, we assure you that we will continue to study the data available and listen to a host of wise counselors, and it is certainly plausible that new research in the coming months could adjust our plans. That said, the web of interventions, including social distancing, masks and safety protocols, must remain in place until they are no longer necessary. For this fall, though we will have no on-campus classes, weather permitting, we hope to hold some outdoor lunches, chapels, and other forms of community-building events. We are working to develop extracurricular in-person opportunities for students and some faculty. More details to be forthcoming.
Finally, we also ask you to remember that a majority of the faculty fall in the high-risk category for COVID-19 and simply will not all be available to teach or meet in person this academic year. Through this one-year online offering, we can continue to leverage the fullness of faculty gifts, avoid safety measures that would compromise education, and also present all students with a common offering of excellence wherever their circumstances put them. And for students who live locally, you could certainly still coordinate opportunities to gather and use campus facilities where available.
We plan on reaching out to each student on how this announcement affects their plans for the academic year. In the meantime, feel free to call or email academic support at 215-572-3815 & firstname.lastname@example.org with any pressing questions.
Principles that guided our planning
The Westminster leadership has engaged in fervent prayer, research, and strategic dialogue with esteemed ministerial, educational, medical and financial advisors while looking at how to implement our ongoing strategic initiatives. With the onset of COVID-19 and its unpredictability, we have also applied wisdom from these leaders to influence our one-year contingency plan, while looking to Westminster’s long-term vision and strategy.
Although there are myriad factors we have weighed, these are some of the prevailing principles that have shaped our plans and decision-making.
We will honor Christ and his Word.
We will be unwavering in our commitment to excellence in education.
We will act in love by protecting the most medically vulnerable—faculty, staff, and students.
We will honor the time and talents of our staff and not unduly distract them from their natural giftings.
We will steward our finances in ways that prevent us from needing to draw on endowment funds and allow us to accelerate revenue generation to fortify our long-term flourishing.
We will focus on prioritizing resources into development of improved pedagogy and strategy with a forward-looking orientation.
We will maximize opportunities for us to embrace new ideas and innovations, in fidelity to Holy Scripture, that might raise the bar in how Westminster serves and equips the global church.