Learning Jodo Shinshu Online

This letter recently appeared in the April 2008 edition of the Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta newsletter (Hikari):

An exciting learning opportunity is happening! In response to a growing interest in Jodo Shinshu, the Jodo Shinshu Centre has established a correspondence course for those new to Jodo Shinshu and those who are already members and wish to deepen their understanding and appreciation.

 In preparation for a full launch of the Correspondence course later this year, a ten week pilot program was launched in January 2008 with participants from United States, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Japan. These included Lorita Ichikawa and Renae Barlow of BTSA (Buddhist Temple of Southern Alberta).

 Within this ten week period, participants engaged in activities anticipated to be part of the full version of study for the fall of 2008.

The pilot program topics included: 1)Buddha-Dharma - Sakyamuni Buddha and His Teaching, 2) An introduction to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, 3) ShinShu II, and 4) History of ShinShu.

Each topic came with a 30- 40 page reference document with a list of other resources that could also be sought. An essay was required at the end of each section and there were usually a number of questions to choose from. Once the essay was submitted one or two of the instructors would respond within a couple of days with comments and suggestions.
Pilot project participants were then asked to provide comments, both of a positive and negative, that would improve the quality of the teachings. It was overall a very positive learning experience.

The online version of this course included establishing an online account on Moodle (educational web-based software) from which participants could review the outline of the course, download text material, writing and submit essays, chat with other students, receive feedback from instructors and provide feedback on the course. The feedback from participants will be considered by the organizing committee sometime in early April.

The full version correspondence course will be offered this September and is expected to span two years of part-time correspondence study. More details as to content, workload, and tuitions costs will be forthcoming in the next few months.

As a participant, I found the 10 week course informative and thought provoking. I felt the experience served to deepen my appreciation and understanding of Jodo Shinshu and ignited a desire to continue the studies. I am eagerly waiting to enrol in the fall courses. I hope that others feel compelled to take the course or at least participate in the study group that may be created from the ongoing teachings.
— In Gassho Renae Barlow, Lethbridge, Alberta