This guide will help parish pastors get started using Equipped Online Formation and help them make decisions on how to use it. Equipped is primarily a ministry training platform, but many workshops are also great for the average parishioner wishing to increase their knowledge of the Faith.
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, Catholic Schools, and Youth Ministry.
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.
For the most part, CI is a ministry training platform. However, there are a number of workshops that would appeal to the average parishioner not engaged in parish ministry.
These include doctrine and philosophy workshops, a Catholic parenting track, and a spiritual mentoring/guidance track.
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. Pastors often assign someone to oversee the institutional leader role while also making themselves a leader to personally keep tabs on the training.
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 instructions 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
For catechists, 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
Individuals not involved in ministry may want to start with the Four Pillars of the Catechism Track. This track is perfect for parishioners who want continuing education in the Catholic Faith.
It gathers 49 doctrinal topics, previously part of other tracks, into one track organized around the Four Pillars—Creed, Sacraments, Morality, and Prayer.
Also, you should encourage learners to take workshops that interest them. The entire catalog of workshops is open to all participants. Encourage catechists to browse and choose something that interests them.
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 to 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.
Anyone can take a workshop on their own without a mentor or a group. All they need is an account…and a computer.
Let the learning begin!