Purpose and Rationale

The Baptist Theological Seminary (STB) has as its mission the training of men and women called by God to serve Him in His Kingdom, whether that be through pastoral ministry, evangelism, teaching, missions or serving Him in any sector of a life, centered in Christ. The Virtual Classroom Project intends to facilitate this mission by bringing theological education to more people who otherwise would not be able to study.

Although Portugal is a relatively small country (about the size of Indiana, approximately 350 miles tall and 135 miles wide), it is oftentimes difficult to maintain extension centers due to two principal causes. First, travel is costly. With gasoline costing approximately $8/gallon, a very expensive toll road system, and the need for overnight accommodation, it becomes costly to send out professors to potential extension centers on a weekly basis, especially for more distant centers. This would be especially true for needed extension centers (CETs) in the Azores and Madeira, Portuguese island groupings, and also with potential centers in Africa where other CETs are possible due to language affinities. Combined with these cost factors is the present economic crisis in which Portugal finds itself. Second, STB is limited in the number of qualified professors who are available to expand teach at their extension centers. These two realities have motivated Teófilos and STB to come up with another alternative: virtual classrooms.

Teófilos is establishing virtual classrooms in collaboration with STB in key geographical centers around Portugal and in any other country where STB has a working agreement with an evangelical institution to provide training. This model will provide a necessary “third leg” to Teófilos/STB’s delivery system: 1) live classes both at the main campus and at various CETs; 2) asynchronous e-learning classes attended by “anyone, anytime, anywhere” via Teófilos’s platform (www.teofilos.org); and now 3) virtual synchronous (live) classes hosted at the CETs.

Implementation

One classroom at STB’s main campus will be outfitted in order to stream live classes to selected CETs that will also be outfitted with the necessary equipment so that students will be able to attend virtually these classes at a distance. The setup will allow live interaction between the professor and the students attending virtually, thereby providing a comprehensive learning context. Classes will also be recorded and made available via the internet to allow further review by the students. Necessary infrastructure will also be created or improved: improvement of the school’s internet connection, and contracts for internet connection at each CET site and also for hosting the recorded classes.

The basic model will be extended in the future in the following ways:

  • Individual, isolated students who can not make it to an extension center will be able to attend from their homes or workplace.
  • Classes will ultimately be extended to other countries through working agreements with evangelical institutions in those countries. We are thinking in particular of the PALOPS (African countries where Portuguese is the official language).
  • We desire to make our setup available to other Portuguese evangelical institutions for them to be able to offer inexpensive virtual training.
  • We ultimately desire to help other evangelical training institutions in other European countries to use virtual classrooms. We are aware that other European evangelical schools face the same challenges that are being faced by STB and that virtual classrooms could be a part of a future strategy to continue to train people for ministry.

Estimated Budget

Item

One-Time

Ongoing

Internet Access Improvements at Main Campus
Upgrade contract for highest connection speed $65/month
Hard wire two classrooms $260
                                                 Total for Internet Improvements $260.00 $65/month
Software
TeamViewer Corporate Account $2840*
Vimeo Plus account $9.95
                                                                        Total for Software $2840.00 $9.95
Main Classroom
Computer $1065
Monitor (20” +) $200
Webcam $120
Headset or lapel mic (for teacher) $250
Microphone (for class) $120
Speakers $75
Surge protector $35
Contingency/Misc. $100
                                                           Total for Main Classroom $1965.00  
Extension Center (per center)
Computer $845
Monitor (27” +) $400
Webcam $120
Microphone $120
Speakers $75
Storage container $75
Surge protector $35
Travel expenses for one person, three visits to site (1. setup/training; 2. follow-up/ongoing training after two weeks; and 3. end of semester assessment)** $600
Contingency/Misc. $100
                                                                           Total for Center $2370.00  
                                                  Project Total (with one center) $7435.00   
                                   Project Total with 9 Primary Centers*** $26,395.00  
                                Project Total with 16 Proposed Centers*** $42,985.00  

*Price quoted is a sales price presently available. Normal pricing is $3569.

**Travel costs are an estimate of the various proposed centers, some of which will involve flights (Madeira and Açores Islands). Gas for travel is around $8/gallon; tolls are expensive.

***Proposed centers for significant coverage of most of Portugal. Primary centers are those that will be initially set up to achieve a strategic coverage of Portugal and are marked in bold:

  1. Faro
  2. Beja
  3. Setubal
  4. Sesimbra
  5. Santarem
  6. Évora
  7. Marinha Grande/Leiria/Nazaré
  8. Coimbra/Figueira da Foz
  9. Viseu
  10. Aveiro
  11. Porto
  12. Vila Real
  13. Braga
  14. Bragança
  15. Funchal (Madeira Islands)
  16. Ponta Delgada (São Miguel, Açores Island)
  17. Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira, Açores Island)

Proposed Primary Hardware

The selections may change due to availability and new products coming out on the market. Prices are solid estimates.

  • Computer for main classroom: Mac Mini M388xx/A ($860) with 16 MB ram upgrade ($80), keyboard and mouse ($125), total $1065.
  • Computer for extension centers: Mac Mini M387xx/A ($640) with 16 MB ram upgrade ($80), keyboard and mouse ($125), total $845
  • Webcam: Logitech HD Pro Webcam C910 or equivalent
  • Microphone: Blue Microphones Yeti USB Mic or equivalent

For More Information

  • Brief info-video (1.5 mintues): http://youtu.be/pbLfUZZP_D0

Would you like to contribute?

  • For information on how to give (tax deductible), contact Tom Arabis at tom.arabis@teofilos.org,
  • Or go directly to this link to give online: http://www.globaloutreach.org/missionaries.html#ArabisT. Once you click on the box for giving to us, the comments box will appear. Write that the gift is for the “Virtual Classroom project, account 2787” and your donation will end up in the correct account separated for this project.