Through educational programs that unite societal needs and non-traditional learners, Sterling College Online seeks to develop creative and thoughtful leaders who understand a maturing Christian faith. Read what student life is like for a few of these online students...

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When I first started taking online classes, I was excited because I like working independently, but I thought I still might miss the connections and friendships you develop in face-to-face classes. I had not really thought of this much since I began, but just last week I realized that I DO have relationships with my classmates, and the connections are close and caring. Sure, we can’t just go out for coffee together after class, for example, but through many classes I have come to know and trust my Sterling colleagues as friends!

The reason I realized this all of a sudden is that in the context of the discussion questions in class (which, as I have said before in this blog, always have a component of connecting what you are learning to your experience and your life), I have shared some things – both experiences and questions – that I have not shared with anyone or voiced for quite awhile.

And I see this in my classmates too. Our sharing and discussions are honest, encouraging, probing, and always helping us to go deeper into the material to discover new truths or new ways of looking at the topic or question at hand.  We also share very personal things sometimes, and the relationships and the environment are respectful and supportive. We encourage one another, we struggle together with both class material and life situations, we offer insight and question assumptions, and we pray for one another. What a gift.

So, as I sit at my computer, sipping my beverage and answering discussion questions and responding to the posts of some of my classmates/friends, I realize we are having coffee together. Just not all at the same time. :-)

—Alexx

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Okay, so it turns out that the perfect summer combination is a not-too-heavy first week of class (which bodes well for the next 6 weeks too), and well…summer. 

I was able to breeze fairly easily through the first week of discussions, an essay, and even a quiz, especially since I am only working the equivalent of about 3-1/2 days per week right now (due to a lighter summer schedule at work and a boatload of vacation days I’ve saved up).  Although now that I think about it, I may wish in the future that the summer classes were the intense ones – since I have all this other extra time right now.

In any case, I’m going to enjoy this time and the pace seems just right for the summer. The other good news is that for a Theology and Ministry major, there just isn’t anything better than a class on the Old and New Testaments. It is like a big, wonderful, online, group Bible study.  And I may have mentioned this before, but I really love the way our classes don’t only teach us the material, but part of the curriculum and questions center around what all this actually means to us and how we can apply what we learn in our lives and in the world. That’s a great combination too – learning AND application.

And now that I am through with my first week of schoolwork – everything done and turned in – do you know what another perfect combination is?  Watermelon and a nice walk down to the lake!  Yes. It is going to be a great summer.

Be blessed,

—Alexx

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First day of class for us Summer II online students! Can I just say how excited I am to be back in class and to “see” everyone. I’ve missed my fellow students and it is really great to be starting a new course.  I’ll keep you posted over the next 7 weeks as things progress.

But for now…I’ve got to hit the books! I forgot how much reading there is to do for these courses. (Thankfully, I love to read!)

Happy Summer everybody!

—Alexx

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Remember those “what I did on my summer vacation” essays you used to have to do in grade school? Well, it has been a long time since I’ve thought of those, and now here I am…spending much of my summer in classes. Because in the online world, courses continue through the summer, with a few breaks in-between. I’m getting ready to begin the Summer II course next week, and do you know what? I’m really looking forward to it! (yes, really!).

The pace of everything else in my life seems to slow down a bit in the summer – and this is good. We have a different pace at work, I get more time off, and even the Sunday School class I teach is on hiatus for the summer. So the summer courses are a great time to regroup and spend some in-depth time on the material. I like that, since sometimes I am in a position of just trying to get the work done and don’t have as much time to actually enjoy it as I would like!

And I think I’m lucky too – my job is flexible enough that I can take some vacation time when I’m in one of those in-between course breaks.

Okay, I’m sure I sound overly enthusiastic and hopeful. So check back after class starts - I’ll keep you posted as class begins and let you know how it is going…let’s see if I can keep up the enthusiasm! :-)

—Alexx

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Sometimes we get to see wider implications to some of the concepts we learn in our classes and how we apply them to our real lives. Because I don’t know about you, but I have found myself reflecting a lot in the past few weeks about Jesus’ call for us to “love our enemies”. And here’s why…

I think I am mostly a pleasant and agreeable person (if I do say so myself :-), and I don’t really think of myself as having enemies. So I think I have always considered Jesus’ words about loving your enemies in Luke 6:27 (and beyond) as pertaining, say, to the kid who stole my lunch money in grade school, or the boss that somehow I could never seem to please, or the person who was maybe just a little annoying to me, who “rubbed me the wrong way”, you know?  

But these national and international events of the past few weeks have made me look at these words again. Maybe I don’t have a personal enemy that I can think of or will ever confront face to face, but I see in this world the definition of enemy in a bigger and more abstract (to me) and thus more unsettling and yes even frightening way. And in this context I am both bewildered and convicted by Jesus’ words to pray for my (our) enemies, to “bless those who curse you” and “do good to those who hate you”.  Wow. Are we really supposed to do that?

This made me think of one of my first courses here at Sterling; a class in Cross Cultural Studies. It was a deep exploration in understanding and accepting those with different cultural backgrounds, behaviors, and belief systems. I learned a lot about trying to understand differences and not judge others, and there was a lot of discussion about conflict in there too.  My classmates and I struggled together mightily with concepts like right and wrong and acceptance and judgment.  I remember saying at the end of this class that every student – no matter what program – should be required to take a class like this. And on my good days, it has even changed the way I listen and interact with others.

I know that without that class, maybe I would have a different perspective on these words of Jesus and the recent world events in Pakistan, in the Middle East, and even (or especially) here. And let me just say right now that I don’t have all or maybe even any of the answers. I’m still for the most part wrestling with these big issues. But I’m not just reading the Scriptures for what they mean to me personally in my small sphere of existence anymore.  I see a wider world and broader vision of what Jesus is teaching us.  

So I hope we are all reflecting on what these events – and the ways that we think, feel, and react to them – might mean to us as followers of the Christ who calls us to a countercultural, radical love for all.  And, if you haven’t taken the Cross Cultural course yet – look forward to it!

Ohhhh…it is late and I have rambled on…so I’ll be back again soon with new thoughts and new topics!  In the meantime I wish you all God’s peace as the online students enter the home stretch in the Spring II course…

—Alexx

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When I took acting class in high school, they always talked about being “in the moment” – and I strive to have that kind of focus in my real life.  But it seems that in today’s society, our lives have become so busy that we are never really “in the moment” anymore. We are always thinking of what we need to get done or what we didn’t get done or what we want to get done. I’ve experienced a considerable amount of that kind of thinking lately.

And yet I’ve found a kind of “in the moment” focus in this unexpected place. I’ve been on a little break from classes, and so you would think I would be thinking and doing all those other things that vie for my attention. And yet I’ve found this week that when I’m at work, I’m thinking about school. When I’m in the car, I’m thinking about my courses. While I’m at the gym, I’m yearning to get back into class. And yet, when I’m in class or working on schoolwork, everything else just falls away. I haven’t always felt that way - in my previous program I was mostly just trying to finish it. 

I wasn’t sure what this was about, but when I reflected on it more, I found that this program and school experience while not easy for sure, is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying things in my life right now. Hmmmm. I wonder what that means? Somebody famous (I wish I could quote them but I don’t know who it was) said once that “if you want to truly be happy, learn something.” Well, it does seem like I’m ready to dive in again…I think this break has been long enough! Maybe I should consider just being a professional student…ha ha. Yeah, I’m not sure how long that sentiment will last…let’s talk again at the end of the next class, the next semester, the end of this program, when I finally get my degree… :-)

Until then, however, I’m happily stuck in this moment of feeling in love and harmony with learning.

—Alexx

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Sure, it is not Easter day anymore, but with the celebration of Easter last Sunday we have now entered Easter season…so it IS still appropriate to say happy Easter!  One of my friends said on Monday, “Well, the Easter celebration has ended. Now, Easter living begins!” It really got me thinking about what it means to be Easter people…and these thoughts connected me back to some of the rich discussions we had on the topic of the resurrection during the New Testament studies course I had last semester. I’m always happy at the conclusion of a class (another one behind me!), but actually, I really do miss that class. And no, I’m not kidding…

But we move on and I for one am really happy that it is Easter season. I see now with joy and new perspective the signs of new life around us with the coming of Spring – the leaves budding on the trees, the flowers blooming, the birds waking me up at dawn with their joyful chirping (okay, I’m not always happy about that one…I’m definitely NOT a morning person!) – and I feel the anticipation and promise in God’s creation and all things bright and beautiful. Don’t you feel it too?

And, speaking of new life – have you seen the new Sterling College web site design?! Wow. I think it must have launched right around Easter…I wonder if that was intentional? Anyway, I just came across it and if you haven’t seen it, check it out at www.sterling.edu. And don’t forget to click on the Online Degree button too (or…maybe you came here from that page?).

See you again soon. And until then…live like Easter people!

—Alice (Alexx) Wood

Sterling Online since June 2010

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Well it has been about a month since I’ve posted something. Wow, I didn’t even realize it had been this long already. It has been a challenging few weeks for me. As I started to pick up the blogging again, I re-read some of my previous posts and it was interesting to note that I’d talked about balancing or juggling things before. Sometimes I think it would be nice if everything else could slow down or stop - or maybe we could just put it on “pause” - while we attend school, so we could just focus on our studies, right? But it turns out that life (work, family, relationships, health, etc.) with all its twists and turns just keeps on moving along, and we have to roll with it all. Prioritizing sure can be challenging sometimes!

But at Sterling, I got to find out first hand that when things get overwhelming you don’t have to figure it all out alone (even as an online student, where you might think you are a bit removed from support systems…definitely not true, by the way). Because I recently had the opportunity to learn that our instructors and counselors are really there for us – and not just offering academic advice and guidance (although they are excellent at that), but also spiritual encouragement and support.  I don’t have a lot of other college experience but I do have some. and so I have an idea that this is a pretty unique experience as far as colleges go. OK, I know I’m gushing now, but seriously…I don’t know why anyone would go to college anywhere else! :-)

So I’m grateful for the blessings of my Sterling instructor, my academic and financial counselors, (you know who you are…), and for all who work to make Sterling a stellar experience for us students. And I’m really really grateful to be back in the swing of things and blogging again. See you again real soon now…

—Alexx

Sterling Online since June 2010

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My first week of Greek class and I’ve already memorized the Greek alphabet, learned about diphthongs, nominative and accusative cases, and grammatical gender, and learned a few dozen vocabulary words. Not bad, considering I also had a bad case of the stomach flu this week.

But I’m happy to say that I’m feeling better, and while I am playing a bit of catch up on my assignments, I am actually really enjoying learning Greek! It is the first language (ok, other than English) that I’ve taken, and I’m not finding it as difficult as I thought it would be. And I’m especially excited about being able to read the Bible in Greek someday…and someday soon by the looks of the syllabus in this course! We sure do pack a lot o’ learning in these few short weeks of online courses.

So I’m off to bed to keep healing, and then I’m off and running with week 2 of Greek. And maybe I’ll even try out some of my new vocabulary at the Mediterranean Restaurant down the street this week…

—Alexx

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I don’t really want it to be true that something as mundane as the weather can really affect my psyche. So when I’m feeling gloomy I’m always looking for some causal factor – some “reason” why I’m in a grumpy mood – because if I find the reason maybe I can “reason” my way out of it, right? 

But this morning I woke up with the sun streaming through my windows, and I leapt out of bed, bouncy and matching the bright sunny day ounce for ounce with the bright sunny spirit within me. Then I realized that the past few days of rain and overcast skies had been mirrored by my mood too.  Not severely really, but just enough to notice what a joyful mood I was in today…for no reason at all other than God’s gift of a sunshiny day.

So now I’m thinking…I don’t have any homework (school break this week, yeah!), it’s Saturday, and I’m sitting here pondering all this at my computer – what am I doing here, when I could be outside enjoying this glorious day!  So here I go; I’m outta here…pausing now just long enough to recommend it to you too: Go outside!!!!

—Alexx