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Virtual Empathy? Anxieties and Connections Teaching and Learning Pastoral Care Online

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Abstract

Is it possible to teach pastoral care online? McGarrah Sharp and Morris describe their process of transforming a residential on-campus pastoral care course into the first online offering of the course at their seminary. They begin by describing a series of pedagogical choices made with the intent of facilitating dynamic movement between peer-to-peer, small group, and whole class discussions throughout the semester. Before and during the course, anxieties arose at many levels of instruction for the professor, teaching assistant, and students. Anecdotes and examples from the online course show how the online course design and facilitation was able to name and respond to anxieties as part of integrating pastoral care course content and practice – a key learning goal for the course. The authors are persuaded that online pedagogy can help identify how anxieties create space for developing empathy as much, if not more than, a traditional on-campus format.

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