Southern Seminary online learning staff honored

Communications Staff — April 21, 2015

Robert L. Plummer, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, uses the award-winning tablet technology developed for his Elementary Greek course.
Robert L. Plummer, professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, uses the award-winning tablet technology developed for his Elementary Greek course.

The Online Learning Consortium, one of the most prestigious online learning organizations in higher education, recently recognized The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s online learning department for its innovation in language learning.

“The Global Campus at Southern Seminary provides training for God-called ministers around the world that is educationally equivalent to what students receive on campus. This requires constant innovation,” said Timothy Paul Jones, associate vice president of online learning and C. Edwin Gheens Professor Family Ministry. “This innovation in teaching languages online is one example of the many cutting-edge processes that the online learning team is constantly developing.”

Ryan Baltrip, director of online learning, and instructional designer Brian Renshaw received the Effective Practice in Online Learning Award for “Using Tablet Video Technology to Enhance Language Learning” in Southern Seminary’s online Elementary Greek course. Renshaw worked with Robert L. Plummer, professor of New Testament interpretation, to improve the course during the summer of 2014.

“It took a lot of trial and error to come up with a setup that was easy to use and effective, but in the end I think we came up with something that works really well,” Renshaw said.

The innovative teaching techniques integrate tablet technologies to provide video lectures, on-screen diagrams, and quiz reviews to simulate the in-class experience of the Greek course. The 24-inch tablet is an interactive touch display monitor that allows the instructor to use a pressure-sensitive pen on the display for annotating, writing, and drawing.

Each year, the Online Learning Consortium recognizes effective practices in online learning among all higher educational institutions. In 2015, the Online Learning Consortium selected seven award winners out of thousands of entries — Renshaw and Baltrip were one of those seven winners, and this was the first time staff members from a theological institution have been recognized for one of these awards.

“Educational and technological changes happen so fast that it may seem daunting, but the need to offer flexible learning opportunities is no longer optional in contemporary theological education,” Baltrip said.

The Online Learning Consortium also published an effective online learning practice developed by Baltrip and Kristen Ferguson, another online instructional designer at Southern. With Southern faculty traveling the world on a regular basis, Baltrip devised a low-cost, high-quality solution that would allow Southern faculty to bring a global context into their online classes through their travels. Ferguson used this method of filming video mini-lectures in a wide variety of global locations while designing an online Aesthetics class with Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics, over the summer and fall of 2014.

Ferguson and Baltrip’s work on the Aesthetics course also received recognition from the Association of Christian Distance Education, a Christian distance learning organization. The Association honored Baltrip, Ferguson, and Coppenger for the online Aesthetics course and gave it an honorable mention as the best “Course of the Year” in Christian distance education.

“They only pick one winner for course of the year, so we were thrilled to receive an honorable mention for excellence in Christian distance education,” Ferguson said.

Baltrip, Renshaw, and Ferguson continue to serve and work to improve the quality of online education for Southern Seminary Online and Boyce College Online students.

“We strive to push the edge of pedagogical possibilities to provide excellent education for distance students, and we are deeply humbled that our efforts have been to be recognized by leading online learning organizations,” Baltrip said.

The Online Learning Consortium award will be presented at the 8th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium, jointly presented by OLC and MERLOT, April 22-24, in Dallas, Texas.

More information about Southern Seminary Online and the newly launched Global Campus is available at

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