In order to serve those already in pastoral ministries, yet lacking theological education, the Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, established the Center for Distance Education. The need for theological education appeared to be most acute among the clergy of several smaller Baptist congregations along the eastern seaboard.
The Center for Distance Education was established in partnership with the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the Center for Creative Church Leadership Development of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Besides, Averett College and Chowan College, two liberal arts undergraduate institutions were also involved initially.
The Center for Distance Education made extensive use of web-based learning technologies; the distance education courses enabled students to enroll and complete their courses on-line while continuing to work and minister in their local congregations. In all, the faculty taught over thirteen fully-developed distance education courses over a period of three years. At the end of this three-year project, the seminary integrated the Center for Distance Education program with the on-campus M. Div. degree program.