This guide helps parish Directors of Religious Education (DRE) and other parish catechetical leaders get started using Equipped Online Formation.
The basis of the Equipped Online Formation platform is Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Catechetical Institute (CI), an online learning management system that delivers training workshops for many vital parish ministries such as PSR, RCIA, and Youth Ministry, as well as a track for Parish Catechetical Leaders.
The cost for a parish to use CI for one year is $300. However, this year the workshops are free for every parish in the diocese through a grant from the Missouri State Council Knights of Columbus.
This covers everyone in your parish—catechists, Catholic school teachers, and individual parishioners.
Rather than specify a set number of workshops to take for a certification, we’re taking a different approach–ongoing formation. This is a small commitment to continuing education that lasts as long as a person is active in ministry.
Because formation needs aren’t static but change and grow, we believe catechists should continue to grow in their ministry skills, as well. We recommend catechists engage in two workshops per year.
How to Get Started
Step 1: Create a Free Account
Learners must have an individual account. A learner is anyone who participates in a workshop online (watching videos, doing tasks, submitting work). If your catechists are doing remote, at-home training, they will each need an individual account.
Visit our web page Catechetical Institute Signup Instruction Guide for a detailed screenshot tutorial on how to create free accounts covered under the Knights of Columbus grant. It can be tricky to find the right option. If you follow this guide, you won’t have to pay.
If a group would like to meet in person to watch videos (at the parish, for instance) and discussing them as a group, only those accessing the videos need an account.
Please note: If you don’t have an account for each learner, they will not be able to use the mentoring/learner input function discussed later in this guide.
Step 2: Assign a leader
Someone from your parish must serve as the institutional leader for the account. A leader has overall control of the organization’s account and controls back end functions like designating and assigning mentors, as well as account maintenance.
The leader can also view stats on who’s taking what workshop and how much they’ve completed. Leaders can even monitor what percentage of the individual videos were watched.
There can be more than one institutional leader per account. This is usually the DRE, or someone assisting them, or both. Pastors often like to be leaders as well to personally see how training is going.
To become an institutional leader, you must first have an individual account assigned to the appropriate parish. Once you’re registered, contact Jerri Dowdy at 816-714-2324. She can make that change.
Once you are a leader, you can assign other leaders within your parish’s account.
Step 3: Onboard your learners
As mentioned earlier, everyone who will access the videos and do the tasks will need their own individual account.
Again, consult the signup instruction guide for creating new accounts.
Step 4: Assign mentors
The platform is built for online remote training and this is where it excels. It’s unique because it allows mentors to accompany learners through their training by whatever means suits them best…even online-only through email.
When a learner watches a video, completes the associated task, and submits the work, their assigned mentor receives an email with the response. This is done automatically through the platform.
The mentor can respond to the learner by adding further clarifications or answering specific questions…all within their regular email software. You don’t have to go to the site or use special software to receive and answer learner emails. If desired, the mentor can have ongoing conversations this way.
Of course, that doesn’t preclude additional, more personal forms of communication such as phone calls or in-person meetings. However, the automatic email allows for a timelier response than scheduling a conversation…and more time-saving, as well.
We recommend those assigned as mentors take the Being Guided & Guiding Souls workshop.
Mentors might also consider taking Building the Mentoring Relationship: Empathic Listening and Building the Mentoring Relationship: Asking Good Questions.
Please note: if any parish mentors need help from a diocesan mentor to get started or want to be accompanied through these workshops by a diocesan mentor, contact our office.
To become a mentor:
Institutional leaders must designate parish mentors in the platform’s back end.
In the “Learners” section, click the toggle in the “Institutional Mentor?” column from “No” to “Yes.”
To request a mentor:
Institutional leaders must first enable a learner’s account in the platform’s back end. In the “Learners” section, click the toggle in the “Can Request a Mentor?” column from “No” to “Yes.”
When the account is enabled, a “Start this track and request a mentor from [parish name]” button will appear when first starting a track. Before the account is enabled, the only option will be “Start this track without a mentor.”
Additionally, there will be a “Request a mentor” button at the top of the sidebar if a learner has already started the workshop without a mentor but would like one.
Step 5: Decide Which Workshops to Take
Catechists should start with these workshops from the Catechist CT Track:
- The Vocation of the Catechist
- The Trinity
- Jesus: The Christocentricity of Catechesis
- Scripture: The Heart of Catechesis
- Prayer: Introduction to the Spiritual Life of the Catechist
Then try these:
- The Deposit of Faith: An Introduction to the Catechism
- Sacred Scripture: The Big Picture
- Christ: His Person and Works
- Child Catechetical Methodologies & Learning Styles
We recommend having your catechists take two workshops per year. You can do them together as a group, or let each catechist choose their own.
Also, you should encourage catechists to take workshops that interest them. The entire catalog of workshops is open to all participants.
There are more advanced catechetical workshops and philosophy, as well as workshops for parents on how to hand on Faith to their children and general doctrinal topics.
Step 6: Decide How to Organize Training Groups
Remote Training Model
This is the model we recommend for parish catechist training. Here the DRE, and maybe a few others depending on the size of your group, serve as mentors.
Every semester, the DRE chooses one or two workshops for everyone to work on. Catechists go through the material at home on their own. They watch the videos, complete the tasks, and submit work. Mentors will receive the answers to the tasks.
While it would certainly be great for mentors to comment on every task, that may not be feasible in terms of time commitment. Each time a learner submits a task, they get an automatic response from the course developer with a sample answer.
Most of the time this answer is very comprehensive and further clarification isn’t needed unless there is a specific question. It works better to engage the learner after the workshop is complete. There’s a section for specific questions to address.
Obviously, if the mentor has the time and wants to provide more clarification on individual tasks, they are welcome and encouraged to do so. Also, as mentioned previously, online-only mentoring doesn’t preclude following up with phone calls or in-person meetings to discuss the workshop.
Flipped Classroom Model
It’s also possible to do these workshops as a group. In the Flipped Classroom model, learners watch the videos and answer the tasks on their own, then come together as a group to discuss them with the mentor.
If the group is small, it would be all the catechists together with the mentor (usually the DRE) facilitating discussion.
If you have a larger group of catechists with more than one mentor, they could meet in separate groups. In this case, you wouldn’t necessarily need the entire group of catechists to meet or even meet at the parish. This could be done at someone’s house.
Regular Classroom Model
In this model, everything is done together as a group.
The DRE and catechists meet at the parish, watch the videos together, then discuss the tasks as a group without any prior work being done.
Hybrid Remote/Regular Classroom Model
You could also have a hybrid of the two…catechists could watch the videos ahead of time but don’t engage the questions until together as a group.
Perhaps you all watch the videos together, have some discussion, then catechists do the tasks on their own at home and submit.
Experiment with these different options and find what works best for you and your group.