Online Learning

Are you ready for online learning?

The School for Formation strives to be available to everyone in Minnesota— from Albert Lea to International Falls. The easiest way to ensure access is to offer courses online. Learning how to take an online class can pose a challenge, but we’re here to help and support you along the way.

Most SFF courses take place online over seven weeks, with material structured weekly. Our courses are housed at, a Moodle site. Most of our online content is asynchronous, meaning you can access it and take part at any point in the week, whether that content is readings, video lectures, written discussion forums, and assignments. Most of our courses also include 3-4 videoconferences, usually using technology. A membership with Zoom is not required.

Required Tools

  • A desktop computer or laptop
    • with an operating system created within the last five years
  • Microsoft Office 2007 or newer
  • An internet connection
  • A secure web browser (We find that Google Chrome is most compatible with Moodle.)
  • A PDF reader program (Adobe Acrobat or other)
  • A web camera and microphone for Zoom / videoconferencing
  • Ability to track down and buy required books (online or offline)

Digital Literacy

A place to begin: Northstar Digital Literacy Assessment. Take an assessment over the nine modules to see what you already know about using the digital tools that you’ll need to participate in courses through the School for Formation. The essential modules are bolded below (though all could be useful to you).

  1. Basic Computer
  2. World Wide Web
  3. Operating Systems
    1. Windows
    2. Mac OS X
  4. Email
  5. Microsoft Word
  6. Social Media
  7. Microsoft Excel
  8. Microsoft PowerPoint
  9. Information Literacy

The assessments will end with descriptions of what you have mastered and what you need to work on to improve your skills. The Saint Paul Public Library has a very helpful guide to help you learn the topics in the Northstar assessment.

NB: You can earn a Northstar Basic Computer Skills Certificate for free through the Saint Paul Public Library—a nice addition to your resume—by taking an in-person proctored test. Other sponsoring sites around Minnesota can be found here.

Writing Skills

For help on basic writing-related questions; like what it means to provide an annotated bibliography, ideas on how to get started, grammar and punctuation help, and more; visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

You can use the free version of Grammarly to help proofread for grammar, punctuation, and style as you write.

For citation help, go to eTurabian (also does MLA and APA citations).


Moodle is a very widely used online learning platform. If you are confused, search the web or YouTube for an answer to your problem — there are many, many YouTube videos designed to coach students through every step of the platform. If you still cannot solve your problem, please email us promptly ( ). Find the School for Formation online learning platform (Moodle) here:

Anyone registered for an upcoming course will get an email the week before the course opens with the code to access it beginning on Monday at 5am. You can go to our Moodle page to create an account and get acquainted before the course opens.

New to Moodle? This video from CDSP is a good introduction.

Navigating your course:

  • Use the top bar or the left-hand side of the page to navigate.
  • The middle of the page is where the content is. Usually the very top section is where the course syllabus, description, etc. lives.
  • News forum: a place where the instructor can post if a deadline changes or anything that affects everyone in the course. This is usually set up to email everyone in the course when the instructor posts.
  • Discussion forum: often used weekly as a place to respond to the reading/lecture material and generate conversation. You can change your subscription settings for a forum if you want to get an email every time someone posts or replies to you.

You do not need to have constant Internet access to get the full value of this course. Checking in twice a week, once early in the week and once later in the week, should allow you to access the materials you need to reflect on, and compose your responses and thoughts mostly offline.

What you should do as a participant in an online course:

  • Be patient learning how to navigate within Moodle.
  • Email your instructor if you have an immediate question or comment.
  • Check in regularly to see what your instructor and fellow participants have posted.
  • Respond to the posts of at least two participants each week.
  • Do your writing composition in Word, then copy and paste your contributions into Moodle.
  • Make sure the technology works for you.
  • Complete self-directed activities.
  • Stay involved!

Potentially Helpful Study Resources

Duke University Libraries has an extremely extensive directory of free, online resources for religious and theological studies that you can find here: Open Access Resources in Religious & Theological Studies.