20 january 2014
Distance-learning courses in theology have been available for years from centres such as the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, the Priory Institute in Dublin and the virtual university run by the Dominicans. Likewise, a number of Catholic universities offer online courses in major academic disciplines. Various websites offer free online courses in ecclesiastical history and theology, making use of video recordings, audio downloads and chat rooms, but few of these allow for interaction, scholarly feedback or the structure of an academic programme in the specific area of religious orders and their charisms.
Among the first formally structured courses to be offered online by a religious order were those of the Carmelite Institute of Britain and Ireland, or CIBI, established as a joint project of the Carmelite and Discalced Carmelite Friars. In its inaugural year of 2006, CIBI enrolled 90 students in two Carmelite studies programmes: an adult education diploma for mature students returning to study, and a diploma equivalent to the first year of a bachelor’s degree.