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The UBIS Experience—Behind the Scenes

Michael Zehr
Michael Zehr
Loe tervet uudiskirja

The UBIS Experience—Behind the Scenes

By Michael Zehr, UBIS Website Administrator, Florida, United States

Editor’s Note: To learn more about UBIS, please click here. If you have any questions please contact the school’s director, Joanne, at [email protected].

Many of you are familiar with the Urantia Book Internet School (UBIS) as students and have seen the public side of it. But today I would like to welcome you to a behind-the- scenes tour of our school.

UBIS operates on a trimester basis, meaning courses are offered three times a year. There is a lot of activity that goes on before we open our virtual doors. It is no exaggeration to say that the life of a typical UBIS course can begin a full year before it is offered.

For several months prior to each trimester, teacher-facilitators (TFs) submit their courses to the Course Review Committee, a group of seasoned TFs who volunteer to read the assigned papers and study questions to ensure adherence to our unique non-interpretive teaching philosophy.

When approved, courses are posted on in their respective languages of English, French, and Spanish (Portuguese when available), along with important dates and links to the UBIS site. Email announcements in these languages are then sent to thousands of readers around the world.

Once the courses have been posted on, this signals a number of activities on my end. I create an empty framework for each course by setting up the 10 weekly blocks of designated activities. The TFs are then able to "fill in the blanks” by uploading their personalized course materials.

Once the course frameworks are finished and I contact each TF to let them know his or her template is available. I then schedule video training for new TFs and refreshers for those who haven’t facilitated in a while. Finally I proceed to set up the online registration.

Messages on the UBIS site are updated to inform website viewers of impending dates and to welcome potential students. Every course is posted with a graphic and a brief description so that students can peruse them while waiting for registration to open.

By this point, four weeks have passed and it is registration week. During this highly active period I assist the registrar and continue to help TFs as needed. When courses are full, I turn off the enroll option and update the messages on the enrollment pages.

When the courses finally begin, I help students with logins, passwords, and occasional enrollment updates, all the while continuing to monitor the site. Every Monday a new weekly section becomes visible to the students through the magic of editing tools.

As we approach the final week, there is a little extra setup required to provide Certificates of Completion, as well as a Student Evaluation Questionnaire (SEQ). These SEQs, while not mandatory, provide useful feedback so we can continue to make improvements.

After the goodbyes are said, my work continues. Wrap-up includes downloading and tabulating the SEQ responses—and I assure you that I read every single comment. Then I close out the courses and remove them from the current/active course list. The messages on the Foundation’s website and the UBIS site are updated one more time.

On the Saturday following each trimester, I participate in follow-up meetings with TFs and UBIS board members.

Not only does this cycle repeat three times a year, we do it in three or four languages!

I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at our school. The enrollment period for the next trimester starts on April 15. We look forward to hearing from you then!