August 1, 2021
by Greg Henson, President; Shanda Stricherz, Chief Creative Officer; and Nate Helling, Chief Financial Officer
Last week, we shared a bit about the partnership framework that we use within Kairos. Prior to that, we described the values and practices that guide our work and the passage from 1 Corinthians that informs our passion for collaboration. We see collaboration and partnership as something all who name Jesus as Lord should practice. As it turns out, collaborating with others is also a wonderful and life-giving operating principle for an organization! To fully live into this kind of reality, we have found it helpful to conceive of Kairos as a platform for theological education on which an array of discipleship journeys can be built. We highlighted this concept in a three-part series in which we described a platform and how Kairos can be imagined as such. You can read the series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
In Part 1 of that series, a platform is described as:
“A system built around the interaction of people, businesses, institutions, etc. who create resources that are used on the platform (let’s call that group creators or developers) and people who use or participate in those resources (let’s call this group users or participants).
Kairos is designed to be such a platform. We aim to serve as a connector between students and the best practices of their current or desired vocations, learning experiences that leverage the best content and expertise with eager participants, learning experience creators and their sojourners, and/or vocational contexts and their needs.
The concept of a platform, as we are describing it, comes from the world of software development. If you are reading this article, you are using a number of technology platforms to do so. If you take any time to investigate platforms and how they work, you will most likely stumble upon the phrases “Application Programming Interface (API)” and “Software Development Kit (SDK).” You may also bump into a “Knowledge Base” or a description of the various "platform resources" available to people. Most modern software platforms have something that falls into each of these categories. The same is true for Kairos, and we refer to the group of them as a partner toolkit.
Over the past few years, we have developed this partner toolkit to help potential partners learn more about how Kairos works and how to interact with or leverage Kairos as they pursue the work to whichGod has called them.
In the context of Kairos, the best way to understand the concept of “platform resources” is to think of them as things that are available to all partners. Often, partners will choose to collaborate with Kairos because of the opportunity to leverage the platform resources that exist. Here is a list of the various resources available as part of the Kairos platform.
The platform carries the burden of specialized, institutional, and programmatic accreditation. Partners that are working on the platform can have access to accredited and/or approved programs recognized by accreditors including the:
- Commission on Accreditation of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE)
- University Senate of the United Methodist Church
The platform utilizes a next-generation software and is a co-owner of the world’s largest digital theological library. Partners can choose to leverage the following resources in various ways:
Learning Management System - Partners have the option of utilizing the platform’s next-generation learning management system (LMS), named Pathwright, to build and offer world-class distributed or in-person learning.
Payment Processing - Kairos uses Stripe to process payments around the world. Partners can leverage this resource in conjunction with using the LMS (and the platform interface and platform dev described below)
- Digital Theological Library (DTL) - The DTL is the world’s largest digital theological library. Integrated and legacy partners have full access to the DTL as do faculty members and students enrolled through a collaborating partner.
One of the greatest aspects of the platform is the vast array of learning experiences available to students. All learning experiences (i.e., courses) that utilize the shared learning management system are available to all partners. In addition, partners share courses outside of the platform through appropriate Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs). Through this network, for example, students in Texas can interact with professors in Canada and faculty in South Dakota can teach people in Dubai. The learning experience library available through the platform provides a unique resource that partners can use to expand the number and variety of courses available to learners without increasing their costs.
Personnel and Expertise
Within Kairos there are faculty, staff, and therapists throughout North America and around the world that are available to walk alongside partners as they partner with or build programs on the platform. In some cases, there are ways to share faculty and staff in order to reduce costs or expand offerings.
Back Office Functions
Finally, integrated, legacy, and operating partners have the opportunity to leverage the top-notch back office functions of the platform. Student registration, admissions, federal or provincial student aid, student/client billing, and more are all resources that exist within the platform.
Program Interface [i.e., Application Programming Interface (API)]
In the world of software development, an API is the means by which two software programs can talk to each other. It’s how Google Flights provides information on all of the flights from a bunch of different airlines or how you can book a hotel through Hotels.com without ever interacting with the hotel itself. For any of this to work, the two software programs have to agree on a standardized set of information and/or practices that can be shared between them. At its core, an API defines how two software programs associate with each other.
In Kairos, our “API” defines how partner programs and/or services associate with the degree programs offered by Kairos. It is the set of processes and/or aspects of a student’s journey that must be true for any partnership through which students can pursue an accredited degree within Kairos; they are the “set of information and/or practices” that all partners must utilize in order for a partnership to function at any degree program level.
We refer to this simply as the Program Interface. Here are the aspects of it:
Subscription Pricing – All programs use subscription pricing. Partners may use something other than subscription pricing for their own work, but they must interface with the programs in Kairos via subscription pricing. In most cases, students simply pay a monthly subscription for tuition. In some cases, the partner collects fees from students in a non-subscription format and then pays Kairos via subscription on behalf of the students.
Approved Faculty Mentors – Each student must work with a faculty mentor who has completed the onboarding process and been approved as a Kairos Affiliate Faculty. In most cases, partners use faculty mentors who already exist within the Kairos network. In some cases, partners identify potential qualified faculty mentors from within their own networks/organizations/communities who then complete the process to become an approved Kairos Affiliate Faculty.
Team-Based Mentoring – In addition to working with a qualified faculty mentor, each student must have a mentor team. In most cases, this team includes a vocational mentor and a personal mentor. This team is built as part of the student’s journey through Starting Well.
Starting and Continuing Well Experiences – In order to help students gracefully begin and end their programs, Kairos created Starting Well and Continuing Well (they are the first and last outcomes completed in every program). Each student in every program must complete these two outcomes. Integrated partners may adapt these processes using the Program Development Kit outlined below.
Aligned Program Outcomes – Each partner will use the current degree program outcomes for a given degree. Kairos allows for flexibility regarding learning experiences, pace of learning, and contextually-appropriate activities and assignments. This flexibility comes from having common degree program outcomes shared across the entire platform.
Master Assessment Review – The master assessment review process is the means by which each student demonstrates proficiency within a given program outcome and the way in which the mentor team documents and confirms completion.
- Partner Liaison – In order to ensure clear and consistent communication, each partner must identify the person with whom Kairos will interact. It is this person who will relate to and communicate with the Kairos team and vice versa.
Program Development Kit [i.e., Software Development Kit (SDK)]
A software development kit, or SDK, is a set of tools, instructions, or program components that software developers can use to build applications that work on a platform. For example, Apple has an SDK that helps app developers build applications that work on the iPhone. Zoom has an SDK that helps developers build applications that leverage Zoom’s video conferencing platform. Good SDKs save time and energy because they keep developers from having to build everything from scratch. They also standardize the development process so that applications can work in different contexts (e.g., on iOS or Android, on a phone or a computer, in an application or on a website, inside of other applications, etc.)
In Kairos, our SDK defines how partners can build specialized programs or learning experiences that take advantage of the tools, resources, and diversity that exist on the Kairos platform. It provides opportunities for integrated partners to customize the experience students will have or to launch new competency-based initiatives without having to start from scratch. By leveraging these tools, partners can offer affordable, accessible, relevant, and faithful journeys of theological education that are tailored for their mission and audience.
We refer to this collection of tools and resources as the Program Development Kit. Here are the aspects of it:
Program Interface – The program interface outlined above is the first, and most important tool, for any partner. In order for any program to work and function within the high-quality standards of accreditation within Kairos, every aspect of the program interface must be in place.
Development Path – Each program outcome has a corresponding development path. It contains the outcome title and description, an integrated statement of Christian maturity that serves as the primary tool for developing a learning path and assessing progress, and the areas of focus related to content, character, and craft. Finally, it provides a development process, which is a series of steps that the student and mentor team will use to walk through the outcome together. Each program must use this path. Portions of it can be adapted to be contextually-appropriate for various contexts, traditions, or specializations.
Standard Path - One of the ways that students can develop mastery within an outcome is by moving through a standard path. Standard Paths, developed by core faculty in Kairos, contain a collection of targets that can be followed as is, adapted and contextualized, or used simply as a reference. Each outcome in a program has a standard path. Partners can work with Kairos faculty to create standard paths that are contextually-appropriate for various contexts, traditions, or specializations.
Learning Experience Library – Kairos provides many opportunities for learning. Some are developed by core faculty within the network and others by partner organizations. Whether seeking scheduled and/or self-paced opportunities, development and/or standard paths for a particular outcome, or ideas for adapting assignments, the Kairos learning experience library provides a searchable online database to showcase available offerings and possibilities for learning. This library is housed on Pathwright and is accessible to all students and mentors in Kairos. Partners can build customized learning experiences that are housed in the library thereby taking advantage of the world-class software and/or building custom collections of experiences using material that already exists by adding a few additional elements. Such experiences are then available for students associated with the partner to seamlessly integrate them with their degree programs. They are also available to everyone in the network thereby fostering a global community of learning that practices partnership and collaboration.
Design Templates – To help partners create learning experiences and/or adapt things like development and standard paths, we have a set of design templates that outline the standards to be followed while building such things. Design templates are one example of a resource path.
- Resource Paths – A resource path helps people learn more about various aspects of Kairos such as the Digital Theological Library, design templates, tools for mentors, and so on.
Faculty Mentor Pathway – All faculty mentors must complete the faculty mentor pathway. The pathway functions as the formal approval and vetting process for faculty as well as the onboarding and orientation process.
Mentor Toolbox – As Kairos grows and more partners join the movement, the resources available to students, mentors, and partners continues to expand. The mentor toolbox provides the most up-to-date information for people serving as mentors within Kairos.
Kairos Guides – Sometimes, the most helpful thing is simply a conversation with another person! Partner organizations are paired with a Kairos guide who can answer questions or point them toward resources as they lean into any type of partnership within Kairos.
Story Center [i.e., Knowledge Base]
In the world of software platforms, a “Knowledge Base” is a collection of content and/or user forums where people who use the platform can go to find more information about how things work on the platform. As Kairos has grown over the years, we have found it very helpful to have a collection of stories, articles, and blog posts that describe what Kairos is and how it functions. Over the next few years, we plan to build hubs for students, mentors, and partners where they can go to find information and resources that will be particularly helpful for them.
Here is a list of the articles in our Story Center that we believe are most helpful in understanding the “why” and “how” of Kairos.
An Introduction to Kairos
--Welcome to Kairos (video)
--Rethinking the full-time student (video)
--Kairos Project Guide (PDF)
--Student-created video describing Kairos (video)
--CBTE Philosophy (video)
Standards of Excellence
--Standards of Excellence Series
--Standards of Excellence: Context
--Standards of Excellence: Community
--Standards of Excellence: Change
--Implications of Context, Community & Contingency, Pt. 1
--Implications of Context, Community, & Contingency, Pt. 2
--Knowing is Integrative, Pt. 1
--Knowing is Integrative, Pt. 2
--Knowing is Integrative, Pt. 3
--Looking Back at the Standards of Excellence Series
Kairos as a Philosophy of Education
--Kairos Philosophy Series Introduction
--Kairos Series: Exploring OBE & CBE
--Kairos Series: From CBE to CBTE
--Kairos Series: Principles of CBTE
--Kairos Series: Practices of CBTE
--Principles of CBTE: Introduction
--Principles of CBTE: Collaborative Mission
--Principles of CBTE: Mentored Teamwork
--Principles of CBTE: Contextualized Discipleship
--Principles of CBTE: Customized Mastery
--Principles of CBTE: Integrated Outcomes
--Principles of CBTE: Holistic Assessment
--Practices of CBTE: Affordable Programs
--Practices of CBTE: Unified Systems
--Practices of CBTE: Flexible Technology
--Practices of CBTE: Collective Governance
--Practices of CBTE: Continuous Improvement
--Practices of CBTE: Quality Framework
--The Kairos Quality Framework
The Kairos Community
--Kairos Community Series Introduction
--Practicing the Way of Jesus, Pt. 1
--Practicing the Way of Jesus, Pt. 2
--Practicing the Way of Jesus, Pt. 3
--The Many and the One
--A Movement, Not an Institution
--Localized and Global Engagement
--Diversity and Unity