I’m on partial vacation this week, so I apologize that my weekly post is one day late.

I spent last week at the biennial meeting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), the primarily organization that accredits theological schools like Wesley Seminary@IWU.  We will apply for associate membership in October 2011 and hopefully be approved at the next meeting 2012.  It was very helpful last week to get a sense of the association’s flavor and trajectory.

A number of aspects of the meeting were quite encouraging to me.  President Smith of IWU encouraged the design team of the seminary to aim at where ATS was headed rather than where it currently was and we are getting very close to seeing how the two might very well intersect in two years.

First, ATS will be looking very carefully at revising its residency and duration requirements these next two years.  I would argue that we are actually very close to where they currently are on this score.  For example, we currently require 24 of the 75 hours of our program to be completed “onsite” in an intensive format.  One could argue this is the equivalent of “one year” of a three year degree, which is the requirement.  Where we do not currently meet the standard is in relation to the MA, which they currently require to be “one year” in residence, while our MA can be done entirely online with the exception of orientation.

However, Northwest Nazarene was granted associate membership this year and their MDIV is entirely online.  The reason is that associate membership is currently purely a matter of resources, not meeting admission standards.  Unfortunately, this entry loophole of sorts may be closed by next meeting.  Thanks NNU 🙂

We will see how other proposed revisions will go.  The current duration requirements are MA=two years; MDIV=three years.  Our MDIV meets their standards fine, since they accredit down to 72 hour MDIVs.  One could argue that our MAs also currently meet their standards since it takes two years to do it.  They will, however, likely shift to an approach that goes by hours rather than years, so the question is whether they will accredit a 36 hour MA, which has become quite popular.

A final item of great interest has to do with library resources.  They currently have some rather strong expectations of any satellite campus regarding a standing library.  This has caused some issues for groups wanting to offer classes on an ongoing nature at church sites or sites that do not have standing libraries.  Hopefully they will recognize the increasingly available nature of electronic resources (for example, the entire library of Andover Newton seminary has been scanned by Google Books and will become available as soon as the legal issues are solved) and the power of Off Campus Library Services.

The presentation of Dan Aleshire, Executive Director of ATS, was entirely on target and I’ll post the link as soon as his paper is available.  In general, I sense the association shifting from a focus on structures (residency, library holdings) to outcomes (assessment of whether students are leaving with requisite learning).