Online Education: YMCA University in Germany creating perspectives

Date: 13 September 2013

Since September of 2012, the YMCA International University of Applied Sciences in Kassel – Germany is offering a B.A. program in Human Development (HuD).We talked with Annika Schmale, International Programme Manager to understand how the HuD started.
“It was developed on a belief that young people around the world have to be empowered and trained to work and live in a cross-cultural context and to take on leadership positions in their communities. The goal is to equip learners to develop themselves, people, projects, organizations, communities and societies.”
The programme is mainly directed at professionals and volunteers working within the YMCA worldwide. It is also meant for people who take on responsibility for their local communities without having a degree (e.g. running youth groups, church or sports initiatives, community development programs, missions, etc.) or for people who would like to be engaged in developing people, communities, organizations, YMCAs or other NGOs.
Also, in very general terms, HuD is targeted at people who have a desire to work cross-culturally or in the large arena of international development and would like to get involved through a programme based on Christian principles and perspective.
To Annika the HuD is a way to “help worldwide YMCAs to grow together, because our students will make good relationships, in some cases friendships, and the YMCA family won´t evolve through structure alone, it will grow together through people”
We also talked to one of the students,  Debora Pretschner from Germany, to visualize the point of view of those participating of the program.
For Debora, getting on the program was almost a play of the destiny. She had dropped out of a B.A. Biology program in Germany and was looking for a course that fits her life goals and expectations. Her best friend had found another B.A. at the YMCA University Kassel called “Religions- und Gemeindepaedagogik/Soziale Arbeit integrative. “While she opened the website to show the course info a promotion of another new course which began in September popped up, it was the HuD course, which caught my attention and interest immediately. That same day I printed and read all the info, description. The next day I called the YMCA office and started my application process because I knew that this was the course I was looking for quite a while.”
Debora had moved a few times during the last year and is now living in England and for her a significant benefit of the  HuD is the online structure of the programme.”It’s great to have access anywhere and anytime to my classroom including my classmates and teachers which fits my personal lifestyle. It allows and enables me to study and educate myself as well as gaining a degree which I couldn’t do otherwise due to my recent lifestyle if I would have been assigned to attend on-campus classes.”
Since she stared the course her goals have changed, she realized that there are more options available to her than she had previously thought “After I have finished this course and achieved my degree I would like to work with one of the governmental or NGOs that provide help and assistance to world leaders and work towards a “better world” in terms of Human Rights, poverty, gender equality. Hopefully all of this will bring me to a place and a position where I can provide new input and ideas for solutions to leadership in regard to the challenges and issues of our interconnected world.”
The Bachelor of Arts in Human Development is a fulltime, three year programme with a combination of interactive online courses with two-week residences (face-to-face) every year. These residences are held in different places world-wide offering exposure to different socio-cultural contexts, the next one will be in Nairobi, Kenya.
By Matheus Medeiros, Brazil