Online students now exceed the number of on-campus students at Fuller. The disruptive innovation of online education, however, has benefited some to the detriment of others. It has positively impacted me, because I would not have enrolled in Fuller’s MDiv program if I had been required to leave my ministry context in Brazil. At the same time it has meant, for example, that most on-campus students have been forced to take online classes because of insufficient enrollment in on-campus classes.
With online education increasingly becoming the rule, fundamental questions are raised for Fuller not only about how best to serve its growing online student population, but also about what traditional education at Fuller will look like in the future. Questions like these merit our deep self-reflection as a community: Should Fuller appoint a dean of online education to address the unique needs and concerns of online students? Should online professors be allowed to obtain tenure? Should Fuller allow students to pursue doctoral degrees fully online? Should Fuller make its online education available in more languages? How can Fuller have a greater impact in the communities in which its online students are located? Should Fuller encourage its administrators, faculty, and staff to travel periodically to communities in which large numbers of its online students reside, or encourage alumni and online faculty to mentor and network with online students from the same region? How can Fuller ensure that its online students have the same placement and continuing educational opportunities as its on-campus students?
These are just some of the issues Fuller needs to consider as it transitions from Pasadena to Pomona. The answers should impact not only the configuration of the new campus, but also how Fuller sees its mission to the world going forward. Although it may not be easy to navigate these thorny issues over the coming years, Fuller can be grateful for this opportunity to reset as an institution at a time when some of its peers have been forced to close. May God continue to bless Fuller as it goes through this momentous process of self-reflection and transition.
+ Miguel Lawson is an online MDiv student from São Paulo, Brazil