Calvin Seminary’s distance learning program allows you to follow your call wherever you are without sacrificing the academic quality or important relationships you would find in our residential programs. Designed to fit into your life circumstances—whether that means an existing ministry, family life or a full-time job—program requirements are spread out over more years than requirements in residential programs.
Calvin Theological Seminary is approved for a Comprehensive Distance Education Program by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Currently, U.S. immigration policy permits international students to participate in the MTS, MA, and MDiv distance learning program (while maintaining full time status at 7 credit hours per semester). However, international students are not permitted to participate in the distance learning format of the Certificate program.
Calvin Theological Seminary has joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), which permits participation in the Distance Learning program to residents of every state currently approved as a SARA state. The status of every state (joined, in process, or not) can be found on the NC-SARA website: http://www.nc-sara.org/content/sara-state-status.
Although California has not joined SARA, laws allow us to offer our program to their residents.
Live in Canada? We are allowed to offer distance learning programs to residents of all provinces.
Calvin Seminary’s distance learning programs provide a high-quality theological education that fits into your life.
Master of Dvinity
Master of Theological Studies
Master of Arts
Certificate (including summer)
How distance learning works
In each distance program, you will take approximately three courses per semester. Each semester, your courses will begin online through the Canvas learning system.
All of our programs are available in a Hybrid format. This means in mid-October and late-February or early-March, you will travel to Calvin’s campus in Grand Rapids, Mich., for five days of face-to-face learning with other members of your program cohort. After this “intensive,” you will complete the semester courses online. While also available in the hybrid format, the Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership and the Certificate programs are also available entirely online, allowing students to complete the program without attending the intensives.
The courses you take through the distance program’s online learning system, Canvas, are done asynchronously, which means that you can complete course materials at the time of day that is convenient for you. There may be set times to meet with other students in your cohort, or to connect with a professor about an assignment, but for the most part, the program is flexible to fit into your life. You can plan to spend about three hours a week on coursework per credit your are taking in the program. The eight-day intensives on Calvin’s campus are almost entirely filled with courses and activities to connect you with other cohort members.
Because holistic ministry preparation is just as important in the distance learning program as it is in Calvin’s residential degree programs, the distance programs use online communication tools like Google Hangouts and discussion boards to connect you to your program cohort. You will also participate in mentoring groups online where you can support one another through prayer and discussion. Internship opportunities are also available in this program.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is distance learning?
Learning online, or learning that happens where you are. Distance learning transcends distance through technology to create a common learning experience for people in different locations and time zones.
How is the distance M.Div. calendar different from the residential calendar?
The distance M.Div. program follows the residential calendar, with two exceptions: (1) on-campus intensives for distance students that occur usually 4-5 weeks into the fall and spring semesters; (2) a 9-week online course during the summer (mid-June through mid-August).
What are on-campus intensives? How does the seminary support students attending them?
Intensives are five days on our beautiful Grand Rapids campus. Students spend face-to-face time with faculty and fellow students. Coming together as a learning community is a vital part of the distance program. Intensives emphasize student interaction, collaborative learning, and the application of course materials.
Arrangements and expenses for travel, room, and board are the responsibility of each student. Calvin Seminary provides general resources (e.g., listing of local housing options, online forums for finding roommates, etc.) to facilitate the planning for intensives.
How many hours of work per week does the program entail?
Like the residential program, the distance M.Div. program involves three hours of work per week for each credit hour (e.g., 24 hours per week for 8 credits). During intensives, the workload increases to about 40+ hours per week. Students will be in class every morning and afternoon, plus some evenings, every day but Sunday.
How flexible is the distance M.Div. on a day-to-day basis?
Besides the on-campus intensives, the program is fluid. While there are due dates for assignments and specific test dates, pacing remains the responsibility of each individual student.
What are some key differences between the residential and distance programs?
The distance program is designed to accommodate a variety of life circumstances. Students who can’t relocate or commit to time-bound programs due to work and family demands may find the distance program particularly appealing. At the same time, distance education places a high emphasis on collaboration and communication.
By contrast, the residential program has structured meeting times and regular face-to-face interaction with professors and other students. It also allows flexible access to faculty office hours and regular opportunities for corporate worship and residential community life that are not as available through the distance program.
How much does the program cost?
The tuition cost of the distance program is identical to the cost of the residential program. Please see further details (including estimated cost of attendance sheets) below.Learn More
Is there financial aid available?
Generous scholarship awards are available. Scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis. Prospective students are encouraged to apply as soon as they can.How to Apply
What is a cohort?
A cohort is a learning community of students that generally follows the same course sequence and will be interacting online and during intensives. It is similar to a graduate class. Cohorts provide contexts for close-knit community and support systems as members share their learning experience.
How available are the professors to distance students?
Professors will provide same or next day response to emails and will be available for online office hours. Since online classes are equivalent to residential classes in workload, professors will provide the same amount of time for grading, interaction, etc. as they would for a residential class.
How will ‘formation for ministry’ occur in a distance program?
As in the residential program, formation is the foundation of the curriculum rather than the result of a particular learning environment (e.g., traditional classroom). Key elements such as Mentored Ministries groups, internships, and shared theological reflections are required keystones in the distance as well as residential programs. Thus, the emphasis on formation will be equivalent whether a student is sitting in a classroom or watching a lecture online. Additionally, the careful use of tools such as blogs, forums, and social media can foster relationships of mutual accountability and lifelong learning; we are committed to tapping these pedagogical instruments in thoughtful and creative ways.
Is distance learning available for international students?
International students are eligible to apply for the Master of Divinity distance learning program. However, international students are not eligible for our Master of Arts and Master of Theological Studies distance learning degrees. All non-U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents are required to obtain visas for their on-campus intensives. Please visit the International Students page for more visa info.
How does online learning happen in the distance program?
Students will use Canvas, a sophisticated Learning Management System, to access a unit of learning each week. Each unit will consist of readings, assignments, projects, conversations, and a variety of learning tasks. Students can move at their own pace to complete all activities, but must finish them by the end of the week.
Can I transfer credits I’ve earned elsewhere into the Distance M.Div. program?
Once a prospective student has submitted their application with a full transcript, our Registrar will conduct a thorough analysis of the transcript to determine which courses and credits will transfer. At times, syllabi and other additional info will be requested.
What kind of tech support do you provide students?
Orientation to Canvas, our learning management system (LMS), will be provided at Gateway, our one-week on-campus orientation that happens in the latter half of August. Information technology staff and an educational technologist will be available for technological issues. Same-day responses will be provided. Students can email firstname.lastname@example.org for any Canvas-related problems and questions. Online tutorials, references, and links are also available.
What are the minimum tech requirements?
Our Learning Management System (LMS) is completely web-based and requires no special software to install. However, for the smoothest possible experience, we recommend a high-performing computer with high-speed Internet access, as well as updated versions of your browser and Flash. Many courses also require the use of a webcam.