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Regent Univ. at Forefront of Educational Paradigm Shift

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - The paradigm is shifting.  Since 900 A.D. traditional college education could be explained very simply: it was the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction in a formal setting.  In other words, a teacher, students, and a set of ideals to be inculcated.  But many experts believe that education as we know it will not exist in 50 years.  Technology will drive this change as well as tuition rates for higher education becoming less and less affordable. 

Colleges see the need for change due to the aforementioned factors but many can’t visualize the future, are not doing anything about it, or can’t due to societal or economic factors.  Regent University is not one of them.

In recent years, the Internet has served as a platform that radically shifted the newspaper and stock broker industries in a negative manner.  Seeing the online world as a blessing rather than a curse, Regent recently introduced a small but growing concept in educational circles called massive open online courses (MOOC).

“It’s way of delivering education to the masses at higher numbers than ever before at no cost at all at this point in time to those who are receiving the education,” says Dr. Gerson Moreno-Riano, director of Regent’s MOOC program.  “There’s no registration, no transcripts involved. You just sign up very easily online, and then there’s no cost involved at all, usually no textbooks.”

“It sort of gets rid of the idea that college and university level education is only for those who go through certain processes of application, and then they go to a certain place, and then they do it according to certain timelines,” adds Regent Executive Vice President Dr. Paul Bonicelli. “All of those rules kind of go out the window, and you begin to deliver to people the education at a college level wherever they are, whenever they can access it, and really for whatever purposes they want.”

Regent’s MOOC platform is called LUXVERA, which in Latin means light and truth.  In reality that is the vision that founder and Chancellor Pat Robertson built the university on from its inception in 1978.  In fact, the idea to use the LUXVERA name was Robertson’s.

“It (the name) really fit perfectly with what we’re trying to do, because the whole point of a Regent education has never been simply the transmission of knowledge, but it’s been about transformation,” Dr. Bonicelli points out.  “What about these studies can make you a different person; and, certainly in the case of a Christian, make you more useful to the kingdom of God.”

While the MOOC environment does not offer the personal touch of being in a classroom with an actual professor, it certainly serves the purpose of offering high-quality college level courses prepared by well-respected educators at no cost.  Conversely, Regent MOOC students can take these courses at their own pace.

“For many of the MOOCs, there is a timeline, a set start date, a set end date,” says Dr. Moreno-Riano.  “We have no set start time or set end time for ours. So, it’s truly flexible in that sense. A student can come in any time he or she wants, start it and end it at any time he or she wants.”

LUXVERA launched to the general public in January by offering three courses under the umbrella called “Who is Jesus?” a class that closely aligns itself with Regent’s core values and beliefs.

“We wanted to tackle this question in a very serious academic way so that anyone who comes, Christian or not, religious or not, will really be forced or be encouraged to take a real deep look at the evidence for who Jesus is from scripture, from archaeology, from manuscripts and so on,” Dr. Moreno-Riano explains.

In coming weeks, LUXVERA will introduce several other courses designed to educate students in the business principles of franchising and another class on the relationship between the United States Constitution and Sharia Law.
Says Dr. Moreno-Riano, “It (constitutional law course) tackles this whole question of American jurisprudence and Islamic law, which I think is extremely relevant for our time as well.

As an added bonus, Regent also unveiled their “Great Talks” series in January.  Modeled after the popular online TED Talks series, Regent hopes to tap into the expert knowledge base of several of its faculty members and key industry leaders with these seven to eight minute videos.  Among the talks are a discussion on presidential power by American Center for Law and Justice chief Jay Sekulow, a chat on character and leadership by Regent professor Doris Gomez, and the secrets to a well-lived life by Regent’s founder Robertson.

With other institutions of higher learning like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford already in the mix for its MOOC offerings, it seems only natural for Regent, who was ranked the top online Christian university by the Online Education Database in 2011, to enter the MOOC arena.

“The country and the world are filled with Christians who know intuitively as well as some of them by their own studies that the Christian church has had a role from the beginning of the universities and has an important role to play now,” says Dr. Bonicelli, who formerly served in the Bush Administration prior to coming to Regent.  “That is to basically ask what does God expect of us, given these various disciplines and professions that we should be engaged in, and if we believe that’s true about a brick and mortar campus and we believe that’s true about online education, it should certainly be true in this latest innovation in higher education, which is the MOOC.”

With the MOOC platform still in its infancy it is anybody’s guess as to whether it will be a viable educational solution going forward.  But according to a recent article from there are several key performance indicators that point to a positive future. 

  • The U.S. has reached a tipping point for interactive web technology
  • There is now widespread access to broadband Internet service
  • Students are much more comfortable with interacting online
  • The first generation of students who grew up with social media are approaching college age

With these indicators pointing toward a potentially bright future for MOOC-styled education it seems only natural that Regent is looking forward with great optimism.

“I’m targeting a million students,” says Dr. Moreno-Riano.  “That’s the target we’re setting for ourselves. It’s a big, bold number. I know it is. It’s something that Dr. (Pat) Robertson and I have talked about a number of times. It’s a big, bold number, no doubt about it; and I’m sure that people look at that and think, “You’ve got to be kidding me. That’s impossible.” But Dr. Robertson, Regent University, and CBN are a testimony that God does the impossible.”

Learn More About LUXVERA at Regent University

For More Infomation on the Great Talks Series

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