Tech Tools Re-purposed for On-line Theology Classes

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Keeping learners engaged and connected to class materials and their peers can be a challenge especially in non-credit courses.  We adapted several free, easy to use technology tools to address this need for our theology classes. Gain hands-on experience during this interactive session covering maps, flash cards, and electronic walls.


Dr. Parton received her PhD in Educational Computing (Technology) from the University of North Texas. She was a professor for 10 years prior to coming to Baylor and a programmer before that. She has taught face-to-face and on-line as well as in blended formats. Becky's research focused on using instructional technology, especially augmented reality, with Deaf students. She has served as the prinicple investigator on multiple projects including a US Department of Education Stepping Stones grant. She also has an M.S. in Deaf Ed and a B.B.A in Strategic Management. Becky was honored to receive the state-wide technology educator of the year in 2009 from the Louisiana Technology Council and the state-wide educator of the year in 2011 from the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE). She loves creating multimedia and designing interactive courses. Becky enjoys animal rescue activities, movies, and traveling. She has supported mission work with Compassion International for over 20 years and has been blessed to meet several of her sponsored children.

Extended Abstract

At Baylor University, we have a non-credit sequence of courses that lead to a Certificate of Christian Foundation.  There are six classes and each one could be considered self-paced, but they have been structured to encourage progress in one week modules.  Given that there are no formal grades, it becomes necessary for the activities to be engaging enough to warrant exploration without that incentive. Equally important is our ability to retain enrollment by keeping the students involved.

For this discovery session, we will look at free tech tools that can foster a stronger connection with peers and with the class material.  We have integrated many of the tools in ways specific to our courses on theology topics, but the principles could be used in other settings. Session participants will have the opportunity to experiment with these tools and contribute to the dialogue.  The three sample tech tools and integration ideas that we will share (4 minutes each for a total of 12 minutes + 3 minutes for idea sharing and related engagement activity= 15 minutes to repeat throughout the session) are:

  • Batch Geo – This mapping tool is very powerful for connecting peers.  Since we have rolling enrollment in our certificate course, we ask each new person who joins the class to add an entry to a Google Docs spreadsheet.  For our purposes this entry consists of their name, city/state/country location, church affiliation, status (enrolled, completed) and email.  Each week that spreadsheet is used to re-populate the batch geo map – students have access to the map through the Course Management System (CMS) or through an independent mobile app.  This exercise allows the students to see the diversity of where their peers live and worship.  It also helps them to form relationships with others that may live close or may even attend the same church and desire to be accountability partners for the class.  At the conference, we will have participants build a map of where they are from and their roles.
  • Electronic Flash Cards – There are several great tools for creating customized flash cards – Flipr, Cram, and Flash my Brain are examples.  Typically these cards are used to review facts prior to a test or other assessment.  We have re-purposed them to become tools to help students memorize scripture and thus connect more deeply with the material being presented.  These cards can be shared with students for use on their mobile devices as a way to reflect even after the formal course.  At the conference, we will let participants access our stack of flash cards to experience the functionality first hand.
  • Flinga Wall – This tool provides an electronic ‘sticky note’ type space that can be used to share thoughts through words or images.  The results stay permanently on the wall and contributions to it are relevant no matter what point a student is at in the course.  These notes are not dependent on a time sequence structure in the vein of traditional discussion posts. For example one exercise in the class is to list our blessings. As a solo exercise that can be very profound, but it can also be meaningful to the greater group when those are shared.  Rather than post them in a formal discussion, you can use Flinga either within your course management system or as a separate app to post a quick list of blessings that can be accessed and edit continuously.  Posts can be easily made or viewed, including as a slide show, on mobile devices and the site is accessed through a link or QR code.  At the conference, participants will be invited to add a post-it to our electronic board and state their favorite part of the conference.


  • Attendees will explore engaging, free tools that can be integrated into online courses for the purpose of building connections with people and materials through demonstration, examples, and hands-on practice.
  • Attendees will be exposed to ideas for customizing tools based on course subject, specifically theology, and based on the type of program, specifically a rolling enrollment, non-credit class.
  • Attendees will dialogue with presenters to generate additional technology techniques based on their experiences and feedback.

Effective Practice Criteria:

  • Innovation – The tools we present are being used in novel ways to address the specific needs of our population – adult learners pursuing a certificate within the field of theology.
  • Replicability – Each technique we present can be easily replicated and attendees will be shown how they can accomplish that.
  • Impact – Using tools such as these, and others discussed by the attendees, has the potential to increase engagement in courses and keep students connected.
  • Evidence – We will provide examples of how these tools have been successfully used.
  • Scope – These tech tools are meant to spark ideas among the attendees and that conversation will increase the scope of resources and how they may impact learners.


  • We will have a laptop and mobile devices prepared to demonstrate the tools and show examples from our courses.
  • We will have a handout that instructs the attendees on how to contribute to the projects we have setup for the conference and to get those tools on their mobile devices.

Target Audience:

  • K-12 teachers and Higher Education faculty will all benefit from this session.
  • The experience level for this session is novice to intermediate.

Audience Active Engagement:

  • Attendees will have hands-on access and practice with all three tools we cover.
  • Session by nature will be interactive with ample opportunities for discussion & Q/A.