Foundations of Theology among courses to be offered online


When classes end for the spring semester, some students continue their studies from afar by taking online courses.  This summer, Notre Dame students can choose from five different courses, some of which count towards completing university requirements: Classical and Molecular Genetics; First Amendment: Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age; Shakespeare and Film; Calculus B; and Foundations of Theology.

Students decide to take online courses for a variety of reasons, such as completing required courses to make room for electives, getting back on track with a series of courses, or preparing to graduate on time.  They can receive a “world-class education,” while at the same time pursuing an internship, working, or living at home.  The flexibility of the online courses is one of the most appealing aspects of the online courses over the summer.

The Rover spoke with Elliott Visconsi, Chief Academic Digital Officer, Associate Professor of English, and Associate Professor of Law, about the details of this emerging online program.

“Online courses meet live weekly online for faculty-led seminar-style discussion, using a multiparty videoconference platform,” he said.  “The live sessions meet on a set weekly schedule just like any other course.  In addition, students access short lectures and instructional media, work interactive exercises, projects and problems, on their own time in preparation for the live sessions.  The classes are intentionally designed to create a structure for effective student learning in this format.

“The courses are very carefully designed to maximize the instructional experience for remote students, and the goal is to enable significant faculty-student interaction.  They are also capped at 19, so the students will definitely get to know their professors (certainly more than they would in a 60-person lecture).  Like any summer session course, students can benefit from a less crowded academic schedule, but they also need to stay on top of the workload,” Visconsi added.

Faculty, departments, and the administration jointly decide which classes to offer in the summer.  They pay close attention to student demand, often resulting in classes that fulfill university requirements or are at the introductory level.  One such class is Foundations of Theology.

According to the Department of Theology website, Foundations of Theology “introduces students to the study of the Bible and early Christian tradition.  Following an introduction to the Old and New Testaments, students follow major post-biblical developments in Christian life and worship (e.g., liturgy, theology, doctrine, asceticism), emphasizing the first five centuries.”

In speaking with the Rover, Gabriel Said Reynolds, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Theology and Professor of Islamic Studies and Theology, confirmed that the online course has the same goal.

Offering more details, he explained, “The professor for the online Foundations course this summer will be Anthony Pagliarini, an experienced instructor of this course.  The summer online version of Foundations will be based on a course which Professors Gary Anderson and John Cavadini have developed for EdX … However, while the EdX material will be used extensively for the course, it will be supplemented by additional lectures by Professor Pagliarini and opportunities for students to interact directly with him.”

This is the first time that Foundations has been offered as an online course.  Reynolds commented, “We will be very interested in student feedback on the course and consider closely whether to offer this online version of Foundations again in light of that feedback.”

John VanBerkum is a junior studying philosophy.  He tried to come up with a creative byline but couldn’t, so he hopes someone replaces this one.  He can be reached at