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Center for Action and Contemplation

Expanding Online Learning Experiences at CAC

August 30th, 2022
Expanding Online Learning Experiences at CAC

In 2012, CAC staff began exploring ways of making Fr. Richard Rohr’s teachings as globally accessible as possible. In 2022, we are excited to be celebrating ten years of offering online courses to constituents worldwide who are seeking to learn about the Christian contemplative tradition.

Fr. Richard’s recorded Breathing Under Water presentations became the foundation for CAC’s first online course, based on the book of the same title. It remains one of our most popular courses. Video recordings of the Franciscan Way retreat became the teaching modules for the next course, followed by a book study course on Immortal Diamond: The Search for the True Self.

When Cynthia Bourgeault and James Finley joined the Living School Faculty, they brought with them a wealth of teachings and content for CAC to develop into new courses. Cynthia had many recorded teachings available from her Wisdom School, together with other critical topics. CAC staff worked with her team to create the following courses: Introductory Wisdom School, The Divine Exchange, and Mary Magdalene: Apostle to Our Times. James Finley had been offering retreats on St. Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle, so one of those recorded retreats became the foundation for an online course. This course also draws from the work of CAC friend and interspiritual teacher Mirabai Starr.

In March 2022, CAC was honored to pilot a new online course which seekers have been anticipating for a long time: Mystical Sobriety with James Finley. This course offers a new and deeper level of engagement and vulnerability than other courses and lends itself to CAC experimenting with some new student engagement features.

In addition to the production team recording Jim Finley’s teachings with state-of-the-art video technology, the creative team beautifully enhanced the visual presentation of the online pages. The finance and digital products teams developed a registration process implementing the Gift Economy Model, part of CAC’s financial philosophy, which offers tiered pricing that allows for all who are interested to sign up for a course—thanks to the generosity of CAC donors. “Guardians”—who receive guidance through live calls and support from James Finley and CAC’s program designer Paul Swanson—havereplaced traditional teaching assistants in facilitating listening circles that offer support and affirmation to students on their journey of transformation.

Due to the advanced nature of the material and the new learning elements, the pilot Mystical Sobriety course was designed to test the delivery and student experience. Three hundred eager constituents registered and offered feedback during and after the course. CAC’s engagement team is compiling these comments and suggestions and the online education team will discern what to incorporate into the next offering to provide an even more meaningful and transformative experience for students.

An interdisciplinary team is also exploring emerging technologies that continue to offer even more new ways to engage students and enhance their learning experiences. We look forward to continuing to refine our current courses and create new ones that offer students around the world exciting opportunities to explore and deepen their understanding of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Margi Ahearn is the CAC’s e-Learning Specialist. She is tickled that her passions for education and technology have merged so she can support CAC’s teachers and students on their learning journeys. Though a longtime Midwesterner and believer that Hoosier hospitality is contemplation in action, she now enjoys the weather and natural beauty of the Land of Enchantment.

This reflection appears in the Summer 2022 issue of the Mendicant, our quarterly donor newsletter.

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