Main Menu

Florida Conference enters age of e-learning

Florida Conference enters age of e-learning

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida Conference enters age of e-learning

April 8, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0468}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — The Florida Conference has taken one more step into the electronic age by launching its new online learning ministry and first electronic (e) course.

The course provides training for members of church Staff Parish Relations (SPR) committees and can be accessed through the e-learning link on the Florida Conference Web site. The training module is designed for novice computer users, as well as those who have more experience using the latest technology, and the site provides an online tutorial to help participants get started.

The goal of the online learning ministry is to give leaders in local congregations opportunities to gain information and knowledge in an easily accessible and convenient way. Coordinators also hope the ministry will provide learning resources to a greater number of people. The online courses will be an option for church members who can’t attend or wait for similar training typically offered once a year in their district. They will also help reduce travel time and costs.

The Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, said this is an exciting time for the conference.

“I hope the online learning courses offer a new and accessible way for laity and clergy to be trained in a number of different areas,” Burkholder said. “We’re starting out with the traditional leadership positions in local churches as a way of testing the model, beginning with the staff parish relations committee.”

LAKELAND — Organizers of the conference's online learning ministry are encouraging members of Staff Parish Relations (SPR) committees to try the first online training course, which focuses on responsibilities of the SPR. Photo by Caryl Kelley, Photo #06-334.

Additional courses on church finances, stewardship, trustee responsibilities, teacher training and leader development will also be offered. The second course is almost complete.

The Rev. Carol Sue Hutchinson, director of the Connectional Ministries’ Congregational Life Ministries, was instrumental in organizing the e-learning ministry and preparing the course. She said online learning will be one more opportunity for both laity and clergy to share in training.

Burkholder acknowledges some people may not want to receive training electronically, and for that reason she says traditional learning methods will still be offered.

“There will still be people who want the traditional method, who want to be able to ask questions and talk about issues with people. … And of course some people don’t have access to computers,” she said. “It’s going to be very important to us, with online learning, to provide resources that enable people to call with additional questions.”

“Online learning doesn’t negate the possibility or need for face-to-face training,” she added, “but it may reduce the number of times training is offered face-to-face.”

An advantage of presenting resources online is that everyone, regardless of their location or training leader, will receive the same information in the same approach or style, according to Burkholder. She said district superintendents, chairpersons of various SPR committees and others monitored the consistency of information for the SPR course to make sure it was uniform.

Now that the course is online, the conference is encouraging SPR committee members to use it.

“We want people to test it and give us feedback, help us understand what it’s not addressing,” Burkholder said. “The beauty is we can continue to add to it. It’s not set in stone the way a handbook is. If information changes, such a change in the Book of Discipline, we can make changes in the course. The format is very flexible.”

Individuals who would like to provide feedback on the process or suggestions for other courses are asked to contact Hutchinson at or 800-282-8011, extension 140.

More information and the first training module may be accessed by going to the Florida Conference Web site at or directly to the e-learning site at


This article relates to Connectional Ministries.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.