Part of what's interesting about this announcement is that there really are "folks" at the Tiferet Center these days. The program is the brainchild of Rabbi Yakov Travis, with whom I've taken a few classes this year. He used to teach everything at the Tiferet Center himself, but this fall the teachers' roster has expanded to include Dr. Tamar Frankiel, Arthur Kurzweil, Dr. Alan Morinis (whose book on mussar I just read this summer) and Rabbi DovBer Pinson. (Teacher bios are here.)
of these classes sound cool to me (though
the Feminine and Kabbalistic Mussar are particularly up my alley...) Most will run for 11 weeks; tuition is $650, with a discount for those who sign up before September 4. (Classes begin the week of October 8.)
I'm currently waiting to hear back from ALEPH about which of their fall courses I'm taking (I signed up for three -- about which more anon, once I know whether I'm in all of them), and I'm still hashing out the details of a couple of independent studies -- and I'll be teaching Hebrew school again this fall -- and I have a few other irons in the fire -- so all things considered, I may not be able to commit the time and energy that these Tiferet classes deserve. But I dunno -- I'm tempted to try to take one anyway, because these are people I'd like to learn from.
I like the whole webconferencing phenomenon. Not surprising; I'm about as close to a digital native as a woman in her thirties can be. In the fifteen years since I got my first email account and set virtual foot on my first BBS, the 'net has been my shtetl. It seems entirely natural to me that these days I take classes, plan conferences, maintain friendships, and share much of my writing online. What's been new for me about Tiferet is the "video" part of videoconferencing. I'm so accustomed to text-based interactions that I had imagined video would seem corny, over-the-top.
But I like it. Especially when there are students in the classes who I don't
yet know. These days when I
sign up for an ALEPH telecourse (via conference call) I recognize
almost every voice, and can quickly match voices with the faces and
bodies I know in person. But the last Tiferet class I took was
filled with people who didn't know each other at the start of
the session, and it was useful to have a sense for what everyone
looked like, how they smiled, how they moved.
Full disclosure -- I just joined an advisory council for an artist's colony / beit midrash called Tiferet Village, a sister project to the Tiferet Institute. I don't think that shapes my opinions about the value of distance learning in general or the Tiferet Institute in particular, but I mention it because it's related. Also because I'm honored and excited to be involved. Hopefully I'll blog more about it as that project moves from vision toward reality...