This post is about the ‘brass tacks’ behind the operation. Thanks to the rapid evolution of technology (can you believe the Internet is just 25 years old this month?), we’ve been able to pull together a handful of really talented educators, writers, and clergy to envision what online learning might look like for ourselves and the people in our pews. Of course we keep in mind the old adage, ‘She who has a good idea is to be praised, she who can execute it is to be worshipped.’
With that in mind, we thought we’d introduce you to the way our courses are assembled around here.
It starts with the ‘White Board,’ which is filled with potential course ideas and subjects. These are generated from our subscribers, staffers, social media comments, publishers, seminaries, etc. In actual fact, it really isn’t a white board anymore because we outgrew it – now it’s a very long Google Doc (right). We review this from time to time, we pray about it, and come up with a short list. Since it costs us a considerable sum to produce a class, we want to make sure it’s timely, helpful, and meets the needs as we can best surmise them.
Once we decide on the course we’re going to do, we start to make contact with potential instructors. We try to keep to two basic rules: 1) the instructor must have expertise in the subject, for example, have either written a book, and or have an advanced degree in the topic; and 2) they must have a moderate point of view.
Once we select an instructor we go ahead and make contact. Most potential instructors have not heard of us, or of online learning in this way, so we bring them up to speed and if we connect, we go ahead and talk about their course.
While we make suggestions as to how we envision a course going, we leave the final outline up to the instructor. From there, we schedule a recording date, either in person or via SKYPE and capture the video aspect of the course.
Once the video is complete, it goes onto the edit list, where it is edited to include music, animated backgrounds, and graphics. You can check out our YouTube channel to see what these look like. These videos are then made into Mp3 files. From there, these videos and Mp3s are uploaded to our server;we use Vimeo for video and have an Amazon Web Services account for docs, etc. These files are then inserted into a course path on our ChurchNext platform, which was designed in partnership with our technology partner, Pathwright. From here the initial writer can begin work. There’s Ashley on the left, she’s one of our talented writers. We are now relatively confident the course will move forward, so we go ahead and plan a tentative launch date.
Once our writer pores over not just the video, but other information sources as well, like the books, articles, blogs or other sources the instructor might suggest, their product goes to a senior editor. This is Shannon, who’s on the right. She double checks everything – accuracy, spelling, etc. of both text and video. We work together to correct any sorts of errors and, after 70 or so courses, we haven’t had to ‘pull’ one from the mix yet.
Once the course is finished we can go ahead and confirm the launch date. We like to keep 6 weeks or so ahead of schedule. We typically have courses pencilled in to our calendars about 6 months ahead.
Next comes the launch. We launch a new course every Sunday. We do so by sending emails and writing social media posts to let people know about them. We also contact the course instructor and invite them to take the course and share it with others.
Throughout the process we pray. Yep, we’re a praying bunch. We pray for our customers, instructors, and every student who might take one of these courses, that their lives and the world would be changed for the better. We look at our work as a vocation, a calling, and are, in many ways, humbled to be a part of this. Thanks to you for reading this far – and to God for taking us this far.