Fully online — from the beginning

At Rockbridge Seminary, online education isn’t a new endeavor for us. It’s who we are, really.

Tommy M. Hilliker

All of our programs have been fully online since the seminary started offering courses in 2003. We designed it this way because of our awareness of the struggles ministers face in pursuing campus-based theological education: long commutes to campus, lack of seminaries close to home, the financial strain of pursing graduate work, and the stress of juggling ministry, family life and school.

In contrast, all of our programs are designed with full-time ministers in mind. We offer a quality distance education that allow students to study and practice without leaving their ministry field! It is incredibly valuable to put into practice in real-time the ideas, strategies and learnings within a ministry setting. 

Because all of our courses are asynchronous in format, students can study any time or day that fits their schedule. While participation in online discussions is required, even those are scheduled in a way that allow for flexibility and timing. 

We strive to be practical in our delivery model, while also being practical in our ministry training. Rockbridge is not only theologically solid, one of our highest values is offering practical training for real-life ministry.

The ”shape” of online study 

Students choose the pace of their studies at Rockbridge. Most take one course per 8-week term, and we offer six terms per year.

Mark E. Simpson
VP for Academic Services

While the MDiv curriculum may be completed in three years, some students choose to extend their studies due to family, ministry and job responsibilities.

Like traditional brick-and-mortar seminary students, online students must expect to complete the equivalent amount of time in their studies each week. The Carnegie Unit most often used in higher education expects one hour of classroom time and two hours of studying time per credit hour per week. MDiv courses at Rockbridge are 4 credit hours each and consist of 8 weeks of study. By eliminating traditional classroom “housekeeping” activities in each class session, and by using multiple formats in the delivery of course content, students receive the same amount of instruction and study as a traditional campus-based student.

Counting the cost

We prioritize affordability. 

Since our MDiv is fully online, students don’t experience the same financial expenditures associated with in-person training such as gas, travel, parking, lost wages and so on. 

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Another clear savings is time! The time it takes to commute, as well as the time away from family. You can’t underestimate the time and cost associated with traveling to and from a brick-and-mortar campus.

Being able to study at a time and location of your choosing also results in cost savings. Many of our students tell us they read during break times or listen to or view course materials in small chunks of time throughout the week in and around their life, work and ministry schedules. 

We encourage anyone looking into seminary to “read the fine print” of the requirements for the degree program. There are often residential travel requirements to a campus which adds costs to the student, and extra fees attached for online learning.

Rockbridge doesn’t have to maintain and keep a brick-and-mortar campus, which benefits the student in keeping tuition lower.

There are also no extra fees to take a course in online format. Fortunately, the ubiquitous nature of the Internet capitalizes on existing online access points so the cost of Internet access to “get to class” is usually already covered by the student.

Keeping it personal

In our experience, students sometimes think they’ll lose the sense of community and interpersonal relationship of face-to-face learning with online study. In reality, many of our students have found the opposite to be true as they communicate with each other throughout the week in the discussion forums. 

It has been rewarding to watch students who choose to attend a physical graduation ceremony meet each other in person for the first time, and yet are already close friends through their online studies. 

MDiv offerings

Rockbridge Seminary offers a 76-hour Master of Divinity degree as a fully online program. This professional degree is designed for men and women with a bachelor’s degree who serve or desire to serve in such roles as ordained pastor, career missionary or chaplain, just to name a few. 

In our MDiv program, students develop knowledge in biblical studies, church history, theology, pastoral care, counseling, preaching and teaching. These competencies help our graduates celebrate God’s presence, share God’s Word, nurture God’s family, mature God’s people, and live God’s Word. 

Other evolving, relevant offerings 

Of course, we realize that an MDiv isn’t for everyone. So, we also offer lay training courses for students with high school diplomas who might not want the formal academic education but would like the training. 

Additionally, we host annual live online “town hall” meetings with students to hear from them what they currently need training in. In the past few years: Recovery Ministry, the Black Church, Chaplain ministry in a variety of contexts, and a refreshed focus on spiritual development have been recommended to us by our students, faculty and advisory groups. Our accreditation prevents us from announcing programs and emphases before they are approved, but you can rest assured that we’re working on additional subject areas for students to consider in pursuing a degree with us. 


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