FAQs About the Wilmette Institute and its Online Courses

I.   What is the Wilmette Institute?

What is the Wilmette Institute?
The Wilmette Institute offers quality online courses on the Bahá’í Faith. It is committed to engaging a broad and diverse international community of learners in deep study of the Faith and to fostering love for study of the Faith. 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?
The Wilmette Institute offers course in four departments and three independent sections. The four departments offer courses on the application of Bahá’í teachings; Bahá’í history and texts; marriage and family; and religion, philosophy, and theology. The three independent sections offer courses in arts and literature; the development of the individual; and the Bahá’í community and Bahá’í administration.

What is your student body like?
We have a diverse body of learners: Bahá’í youth, Bahá’ís of middle age, and Bahá’í seniors; women and men; individuals who have no religion or who are members of religions other than the Bahá’ís Faith; new Bahá’ís and long-time Bahá’ís; learners from the United States and from around the world.

Who can take a course?
Wilmette Institute courses are open to all: new Bahá’ís, long-time Bahá’ís, members of any religion or no religion who have an interest in Bahá’í history, literature, practice, and belief.

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?
The standard course is 7 weeks long, although some courses are shorter (2–4 weeks), and some, longer (8–10 weeks). This does not include the Grace Period (usually one month), which can be used to catch up or to work on your final project (which can be a devotional program, a presentation, an artistic project, a PowerPoint slide presentation, a research project or paper, or a community project that uses information from your course materials).

When does a course start?
Courses are spread out throughout the year. You can find a list of current and upcoming courses here: http://wilmetteinstitute.org/ourcourses/current-courses/.

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, Wilmette Institute courses are asynchronous, meaning you can log in at any time of the day or night to study and engage in discourse with other learners.

How much time will I need to devote to a course?
For most courses you will need to spend five to eight hours a week on readings and answering questions. But the amount of time varies widely, depending on the course and on your needs. Faculty encourage you to post questions and comments on the Forums, where faculty and other participants answer questions and explore topics more fully.

What software do I need for the courses?
Moodle is the name of the special educational software on the Institute’s learning website. You do not have to upload anything on your computer to take courses. Moodle works with your internet browser. The Wilmette Institute provides Tutorials to help you learn how to navigate Moodle.

Will I be able to access the course on my iPad or smartphone?
You can read everything on the Moodle learning website on your smartphone and on your iPad and other kinds of readers, such as Kindle and Google Tablet. Moodle has apps for both Apple and Android devices (see download.moodle.org/mobile/ or visit your App Store). Many of the readings for the course are posted as PDF files, which can be easily downloaded to your device.

How do I sign up for a course?
Click on the title of the course on the Wilmette Institute website. 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 are tabs you can click to get details on the course schedule, tuition fees and deadlines, and to register. Click on the Register tab and complete the form. You will be asked to use a credit card to make a minimum downpayment of US $10 to reserve your space in the course. If you do not have a credit card, or if you cannot afford to pay ten dollars, tuition support is available. Learn more about the tuition support program here: http://wilmetteinstitute.org/ourcourses/tuition-and-scholarships/.

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 review the content of the course, learn how to use the Moodle course-delivery platform, and draft your Personal Learning Plan. Your Personal Learning Plan 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?
The Activity Units give you resources, such as readings (which may include sacred texts, scholarly papers, book chapters, and online articles); videos, PowerPoints, and audio recordings; and learning activities. Discussion questions invite you to post comments and questions in Forums and to interact with your faculty and fellow learners.

Do your courses include video conferences?
The Wilmette Institute is gradually adding videoconferences to its online courses, though not all courses have them. Participation is optional. If for some reason you are not available at the posted time, you can still benefit from the conference call, for the Institute records the videoconference and posts it for viewing at your leisure.

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.

I want to study with friends in my community. How would I do that?
You can form a group with as few as two people (a couple or you and a friend) or as many as twenty. The Wilmette Institute encourages local Spiritual Assemblies and clusters to form groups. Some Spiritual Assemblies have policies about subsidizing groups. Email us at learn@wilmetteinstitute.org if you have questions. See Study Alone or in a Group for details on fees and discounts, as well as on options for making group payments.

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 we are aware of one, we will tell you about it.

III.   Grades, College/University Credit and Support

Will I receive a grade at the end of the course?
Unless you want to take 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?
No, you do not have to write a paper for the course. You can choose, instead, to undertake an artistic project or a PowerPoint slide presentation, or a community project that uses information from your course materials. Our faculty are flexible and will work with you on your project.

Will I have to take a test at the end of the course?
In the Reflection and Application of Learning Unit you will review and assess what you have learned, using your Personal Learning Plan from the Welcome Unit; complete your final project; and make plans for applying the learning in your daily life and in your community.

What is a final project?
Your final project can be a devotional program, a presentation, an artistic project, a research project or paper, a PowerPoint slide presentation, or a community project that uses information from your course materials. 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 at the beginning of the course; answer basic questions; provide further materials on course subjects; discuss deeper and more complex ideas; and help you plan a final project for the course. You are encouraged to learn from other participants in your course and to share experiences and insights in the Forums for each unit in the course.

May I keep the materials in the course for further study?
You may keep the course materials for ongoing study. You can download and print out readings. You can also copy and print out the Activity Pages for future use. 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 is not accredited, but it has signed an Articulation Agreement with the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, Minnesota, that allows their students to take six Wilmette Institute courses for credit. To receive a grade and credit, you must complete more work than the average noncredit student and complete a paper or research project during the grace period.

If you want to receive credit for a Wilmette Institute course from your college or university, you may ask it (through your faculty advisor, department head, or registrar’s office) to consider letting you receive credit for Wilmette courses through them. Tell them of about the Wilmette Institute’s Articulation Agreement, and the Wilmette Institute will send proof and additional information to your college or university. If permission is granted, the Institute makes sure your course work meets the minimum requirements of your educational institution. This means you will be doing more reading, making special weekly posts, and undertaking a project or paper that will be assessed and graded by your Wilmette Institute faculty. 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 How to Seek College/Academic Credit for a Wilmette Institute Course. 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.