General and Introductory Materials
Part 1 Introduction

Chapter d12 General Introduction to All of the
Online and Hybrid Courses I Teach

Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning 

Posting to MOODLE

Notes on my Website

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Some Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Learning

1.  Motivation  Taking a course online is distinctively different than taking a face-to-face (f2f) course.  Online learning demands a different set abilities on the part of both the teacher and the student.  In order to succeed the student must be "a self-starter" and highly motivated.  When you have a f2f class at 9:00 AM on Wednesday morning you plan accordingly.  When you have class "whenever you want" you are required to do a different kind of planning.  It is much easier to "put off" logging onto MOODLE than it is appearing in a classroom at a specific hour.

2.  Advantages   There are many obvious advantages to online learning.  You save a lot of time by not needing to travel to the school.  You can work full time and still take the course on your own time schedule.

The online format is appreciated by those of us who like to think first before asking a question. Often in a f2f the more extroverted student is the one who gets his or her question answered first and those of us who are more intuitive often do not have our question formulated until after the time allotted for discussion time has expired. This situation does not exist in the online context.   I strongly encourage you to participate actively in the discussion forums and to read and comment on the postings of the other participants in the course. Studies have show that:

1. Adult learners benefit from peer feedback.

2. Adult learners benefit from sharing real-life experiences as part of the learning process.

3. Adult learners benefit from peer suggestions for improvement and it is “easier to take” because peer feedback is not graded.

4. Adult learners benefit from exercising autonomy in the learning process; that is, they are free to accept, modify or reject any suggestions received.

Whenever we are in a classroom setting, class time is limited and the students who ask their questions “quickest” are the ones who get their questions answered.  However, on the web, time is unlimited.  Everyone can ask whatever they want and everyone can comment on whatever they want.  Those who want to spend more time thinking before they ask a question are not "pushed out" by those who formulate their questions more quickly.  This is one of the wonderful advantages of online learning.  Take advantage of this opportunity. 

I realize that there is a lot of work involved in a "group" or "team" project in an online course; I have had this experience myself in taking courses online. However, all of the courses I have taken on "How To Teach Online Courses" strongly recommend a "team project" to be part of the course, usually the final project. And that is why I have included a team project in this course (and in each of my online courses). Second, I have also heard from other students that these projects have been great learning experiences, despite the time/effort involved. Third, in past courses the results of these group projects have been outstanding! And fourth, most of you in this course are or will be involved in some sort of church ministry, and all ministry today is collaborative ministry (indeed, Christianity itself, is a "team effort.")

3.  Different time frame   In face-to-face situations we quickly learn that the first one to ask a question gets the lion's share of the discussion time.  For example, if a f2f class period is sixty minutes long and the teacher lectures for 45 minutes and then asks “are their any questions?”. We learn from kindergarten on that the first ones to raise their hands are the ones who get attention during the next fifteen minutes.  In an online situation this "fifteen minute limit" does not exist.  Everyone can ask a question or enter into the discussion.  There is no time limit.  Consequently the online course requires much more time to read these discussions and to respond to them.  Studies and experience have shown that an online course requires approximately twice the number of hours that a face to face course requires.  This is a considerable amount of time for those of you who are working full time.

4.  Netiquette Communicating on the internet is a different experience than communicating face-to-face.  One reason for this is that all the visual cues that we ordinarily notice (whether the person is smiling, agitated, insistent, etc.) are not available to the reader.  This makes it more likely that emails and other postings can be misinterpreted and consequently I caution you to use care when expressing yourself in these forms.  Sometimes the use of emoticons will help indicate your tone of voice.  See chapter d13 for notes about Netiquette, Acronyms, and Emoticons.

5.  Readiness for an Online Course  This course will be taught totally online.  Online learning presupposes a specific set of skills.  In addition to technical skills (participants in this course are expected to have a personal computer or access to a computer; the ability to access websites and download and print files; the ability to send and receive e-mail; and the ability to post essays and enter into discussion on MOODLE) the course requires specific "learning skills." Online learning is not for everyone.   Online learning requires a high degree of self-discipline and the ability to set schedules for oneself.  

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Posting to MOODLE

1.  MOODLE Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology uses MOODLE (and acronym for Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment) as its learning course software.  When you enroll in this course at Saint Meinrad you will be given a username and a password which will enable you to log onto MOODLE.  All coursework, assignments, and communication with the professor and other participants in the course are to be conducted through MOODLE.  MOODLE contains all materials pertinent to this course that are not included on my website.  Postings on MOODLE logged to the Saint Meinrad server and are subject to Saint Meinrad's rules and regulations as stated in their "Agreement for Use."  

2.  Save your work    I suggest that you compose your assignments and comments on your computer using your word processing program.  Spell check, grammar check, word count, etc.  Save the essay on your computer.  Then put a copy of the essay in your buffer [Ctrl + A (select all) Ctrl +C (copies selection to the buffer)].  Go to MOODLE, enter your password and select the course you are taking from me.   Click on LESSONS.  Click on the class number for which the assignment is due.  Click on "Post a Message" and a box will open.  Put your curser in the box and drop your essay from your buffer into the box (Ctrl +V).  Then click "Save" at the bottom of the page.   MOODLE and all its data can disappear into cyber-limbo in an nanosecond.  Always keep a copy of anything you post to MOODLE on your own computer or on paper.

3.  Personal information  While the postings of reflections, experiences, etc. may be "personal" they should not be so "personal" that you would not want them shared with the class.  All postings on MOODLE for this course are open to being read and discussed by the class.  The same respect and  "confidentiality" is to be used regarding the postings on MOODLE as would be expected of experiences discussed in class. 

4.  Refresh frequently  When viewing a page that you have viewed before (e.g. the syllabus) it is often good to click "refresh" so that the St. Meinrad server goes back to the host server to find the latest version of the page.  Otherwise, you might be viewing an outdated version of the page.

5.  To post an assignment:  1) Log onto MOODLE; 2) select this course; 3) click on the assignment number / date -- a brief summary of the assignment appears; 4) click the box "Add a new discussion topic" and a new page will open; 5)  fill in the "subject" with a title for your essay; 6) copy the essay in your word processor and past it into the "Message Box";  7) scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the box "Post to forum".

6.  To read and comment on a posting:  1) click on the subject in the "discussion" column and the posting will open and you can read it.  2) to comment on the posting (of one of your classmates or on something I have have responded to) click on "reply" at the bottom of the posting -- do not click "Add a new discussion topic."  Doing this will enable each person's posting and the comments on that posting to appear together. 

Notes on my Website

1.  The system I use for organizing and mapping my website uses the following system:  a letter, then a two digit number and the first five letters of the title.  Each of these can be entered from the home page at

d  Documents, General Introductions (and everything that did not fit elsewhere)
e  Eucharist
f   Funerals and the pastoral care of the deceased and the bereaved
g  Marriage
i   Christian Initiation
m Mary
p  Ministry
r   Reconciliation, vengeance, penance, and forgiveness
s  Pastoral care of the sick
v  Popular Religion and Pius Devotions
y  The Liturgical Year

2.  My website is not a finished product.  I strongly suggest that you do not download the pages unless you really prefer reading from a paper copy rather than from the computer screen, and if you do download the pages, wait until you actually intend to read them because I continually update the pages as I find time and information. 

Note:  When calling up a page you have called up previously (e.g. the syllabus) your computer will "remember" that you were there before and give you the "saved" page.  Click "Refresh"  (a circle of two green arrows in Internet Explorer and two blue arrows in Firefox) to get the most recent edition of a page.

3.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it. Please notify me of any errors, corrections or suggestions. Your comments are welcome at It has not always been possible to acknowledge all the teachers I have had both in this country and abroad who have influenced my thinking and consequently have influenced these pages. As experienced preachers know, all the best stories are stolen from others, used and reshaped, stolen again and reshaped again and again. And thus the story is handed on to the next generation.  Thank you to all the story tellers in my history.

4.  One of the main reasons I have established my web site is to enable you to have access to my notes and catechetical helps even after the course is completed.  My website is my personal property (i.e. property of the Franciscan Province of Saint John the Baptist).  For security reasons, Saint Meinrad's requires their teachers to place all course related materials on their website. Consequently, I have placed all materials which relate specifically to courses that I teach at Saint Meinrad (student assignments, student responses, grades, communications etc. on MOODLE.  This information is available only to those who are enrolled in courses at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.  Placing my own personal thoughts on my website is my "hobby" and I intend to continue developing the site even after I am no longer employed by Saint Meinrad.  If in future years, this material is useful to you in your ministry, it will be available to you in its most recent version. 

5.  Please bring to my attention any misspellings, broken hyperlinks, etc. so that I might correct them.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at