FAQs About the Wilmette Institute and its Online Courses

We invite you to watch this FAQ video playlist on our YouTube channel. It answers our most frequently asked questions. Or, read and watch the FAQs below. To ask a question not listed here, email: Learn@WilmetteInstitute.org.

Note: If you’re already registered in a course and looking for help with logging in and/or navigating the course website, please see Moodle Tutorials.

Table of Contents

I. What Is the Wilmette Institute?
II. How Do Wilmette Institute Courses Work?
III. Grades, College and University Credit, and Learner Support
IV. Tuition Payments and Tuition Support
V. Other Wilmette Institute Resources

I.   What Is the Wilmette Institute?

What is the Wilmette Institute?
The Wilmette Institute is an educational institution offering courses on Bahá’í history, texts, and the Bahá’í approach to social transformation. It serves learners of diverse backgrounds and ages, and facilitates consultation, action, and reflection leading to personal and collective transformation for the common good. The Wilmette Institute was established in January 1995 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States.

What kinds of courses do you offer?
We offer courses on the application of Bahá’í teachings to society; Bahá’í history and texts; marriage and family; arts and literature; Bahá’í community life and administration, and religion, philosophy, and theology.

What is your student body like?
Our diverse body of learners includes Bahá’ís of all ages; women and men; individuals who associate with no religion or who are members of other religions than the Bahá’í Faith; residents of the United States, Canada, the UK, and wherever there are Bahá’í communities.

Who can take a course?
Anyone can take our community learning courses. Members of any religion or no religion who are interested in our courses are welcome.

Do I have to be a Bahá’í to take a Wilmette Institute course?
You do not have to be a Bahá’í to take a course. Learners of no religion or of a religion other than the Bahá’í Faith are welcome and add to the diversity of our students.

II.   How Do Wilmette Institute Courses Work?

How long is a typical course?
Usually between 7 and 9 weeks. Some courses from our Marriage and Family Department are between 4 and 7 weeks.

When does a course start?
Our courses are spread throughout the year, to allow learners to take more than one or two courses annually. Some courses from the Marriage and Family Department are available on demand. To browse a list of current and upcoming courses, use the online Course Schedule. (Video: How to Use the Wilmette Institute Course Catalog.)

Do I have to attend classes in Wilmette?
No, Wilmette Institute courses are run online, via the Internet. Residents of any country who have reliable Internet access may enroll.

Do I have to be available to participate at a particular time?
No, our online courses are ‘asynchronous.’ That means you can log in at any time to study and communicate with other learners or with your faculty-mentor.

How much time will I need to devote to a course?
For a typical course, expect to spend five to eight hours a week reading, watching videos, studying, and posting in the forums.

What software do I need for the courses?
We use an educational platform called Moodle. It works with your internet browser. No downloads required. We provide Moodle Tutorials for desktop users.

Will I be able to access the course on my iPad or smartphone?
Yes. Moodle has apps for iPhones and Android phones. A desktop or laptop computer is recommended in addition to your mobile devide. See download.moodle.org/mobile/ or visit your App Store.

How do I sign up for a course?
From the Online Schedule: click More Details, then View Website. From the website course list or from an email invitation: click on the title of the course. This will take you to the course’s registration pages on the Cvent event registration website. Each set of registration pages features a summary of the course. Above the summary on the right side, you can click through to get details on the course schedule and tuition fees. Click on the blue Register Now button and complete the form to register.

You will be asked to use a credit card to pay your fee. If you cannot afford to pay the full fee right away, tuition support is available. Learn more about the tuition support program here: http://wilmetteinstitute.org/ourcourses/tuition-and-scholarships/. If you do not have a credit card, payment by check is accepted. Contact the Registrar for guidance.

How do your online courses work?
Each course has a Welcome Unit, a series of Activity Units, and a Reflection and Application of Learning Unit. A Grace Period (usually one month) allows you to complete a final project or to catch up.

What happens in the Welcome Unit?
In the Welcome Unit you will meet the faculty and fellow learners, and draft your Personal Learning Plan (PLP). Your PLP will help you set and achieve personal learning goals for the course.

After I go through the Welcome Unit, what will I find in the Activity Units?
Besides the readings (from sacred texts, scholarly papers, books, and articles), most courses offer a mix of videos, slide shows, and audio recordings. Some courses have other learning activities such as quizzes and live online discussions. You will also be invited to interact with your faculty and fellow learners in the online forums.

Do your courses include video conferences?
We are gradually adding videoconferences to selected courses, and a few courses are based on web talks by faculty. Live attendance is always optional. We record every videoconference for viewing at your convenience, so you can still benefit from them.

How do the video conferences work?
Our video conferencing service will send you a web link. You click on the link a few minutes before the video conference starts, where you will find yourself in a virtual class. If you have a webcam and microphone, the instructor can turn them on or off. If you do not, you can still watch, listen, and type your questions in a chat box. Learn about how to join a Zoom videoconference.

I am a slow reader. What if I cannot keep up with the others in the course?
You are free to work at your own pace. At the end of the course, there is a Grace Period (usually one month) during which you can continue to work. Also, courses are generally open for a year after the course ends. You can continue to work during that period, though you will not have faculty to help you (unless you make arrangements before the course ends).

What happens if I get sick or can’t keep up?
A final Grace Period (usually one month) gives you time to start or complete work on a creative project or presentation to be shared in your community and possibly on the Institute’s website. You can also use the Grace Period to catch up.

Can I study with a friend or family member?
You can form a group with as few as two people or as many as ten. A group of 5 or 6 can save over 30% on fees. Some Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assemblies have policies about subsidizing groups. Email us (learn@wilmetteinstitute.org) if you have questions.  See Study Group Benefits for details.

Can you add me to an existing group?
It is rare that a study group already exists near you that you do not know about. But, if there is a group we will contact them on your behalf to ask permission for you to join.

III.   Grades, College and University Credit,
and Learner Support

Will I receive a grade at the end of the course?
Unless you are taking the course for college credit, we do not grade your work. Your faculty will review your Learning Self-Assessment, and the Institute will send you a certificate of completion.

Do I have to write a paper for the course?
You can choose to write a paper, or you can do an artistic project, a presentation, or a community/action project. Our faculty are flexible and will help you with whatever project you design.

Will I have to take a test at the end of the course?
Some courses have quizzes, but they are to help you learn, not to assess your work. At the end of the course you will review and assess your own learning, and write a Self-Assessment (which may be brief). Everyone who does this will receive a Certificate of Completion.

What is a final project?
You can create an artistic project, a research project or paper, a slide presentation or talk, an interfaith/intercultural devotional program, or a community project. Our faculty are flexible and will work with you in designing a project.

What kind of support is available to help me?
Faculty are ready to help you with your Personal Learning Plan, to answer questions and provide further materials on course topics, to discuss deeper and more complex ideas, and to help you plan a final project. You are encouraged to learn from other course participants and to share experiences and insights in the course forums.

May I keep the materials in the course for further study?
Yes. You can download and print out readings. You can also copy or print out the Activity Pages for future personal study or even for community projects. Your course will remain open and accessible for you to revisit as often as you like for at least a year.

May I take a course for college credit?
The Wilmette Institute has signed Articulation Agreements with other institutions that are accredited, and is continuing to expand its partnerships with accredited institutions in order to provide courses at both the undergraduate and the graduate level. If you meet the requirement for college- or university-level work, the Wilmette Institute will send a transcript to your college or university.

For more details, see Taking Wilmette Institute Courses for Credit. For help with the process email Dr Robert Stockman: RStockman@WilmetteInstitute.org.

IV.   Tuition Payments and Tuition Support

How do I pay for an online course?
You can pay by check or credit card; we do not use PayPal. See Paying Tuition by Check or Credit Card.

May I obtain tuition support?
Yes, the Wilmette Institute offers a great deal of tuition support. See Tuition Support (Scholarships).

Why does the Wilmette Institute charge for its online courses?
When the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States established the Wilmette Institute in 1995, it mandated that the Wilmette Institute be independent financially from the Bahá’í Fund. The institute covers it expenses (staff, faculty honoraria, software, communications, publicity) through tuition and fundraising.

V.   Other Wilmette Institute Resources

Do you have any free courses?
For first-time learners, we offer their first course free. We are developing free and low-cost courses for youth and communities.

Do you have any other free programs?
Every month we offer one or more free Web Talks (live video programs with a speaker or an interview followed by questions from the virtual audience). The Web Talks are recorded and posted on the Wilmette Institute’s YouTube channel. The Web Talks often relate to one of the Institute’s courses and are used in them. Many talks are on the application of the Bahá’í teachings; Bahá’í history and texts; marriage and the family; and religion, philosophy, and theology. Other talks are on the arts and literature, the development of the individual, and the Bahá’í community and Bahá’í administration. See also Frequently Asked Questions about the Web Talks.

Does the Wilmette Institute ever customize courses for local communities?
The Wilmette Institute stands ready to partner with institutions to develop special online courses. Ask your local Spiritual Assembly or your Area Teaching Committee to email us at learn@wilmetteinstitute.org.