Articles Announces Online Course Dedicated to Jewish Prayer

By Henry Kronk
January 18, 2018

As countless online courses and programs prove, there is no typical form, method, or subject of eLearning. While MOOCs focusing on pragmatic lifestyles (like the Science of Happiness or Learning How to Learn) have grown in popularity, the online learning space has seen a surge in a different aspect of daily life: faith. Starting later this month, will offer ‘The Heart of Prayer,’ a short online course dedicated exclusively to Jewish prayer.

The four-part course will be led by Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan and go live starting Monday January 22 at 6:00 pm EST. New 30-minute classes will follow each week at the same time. The first lecture will answer “Why We Pray,” proceed to “The History of Jewish Prayer,” “A Tour of the Daily Prayers,” and conclude with “Guided Meditation.”

jewish prayerThe topic of study should prove to be salient for practicing and non-practicing Jews along with interested members of the public. While a dedicated member of the Jewish faith might attend synagogue regularly, few know enough Hebrew to follow the service and understand exactly what and how they are praying. The practice of Jewish prayer stretches back thousands of years and it’s easy to misunderstand a given custom or take it out of context.

The Nuances of Jewish Prayer

“It’s a lost art,” Rabbi Kaplan says in the course’s introductory video. “In tefillah [Jewish prayer], you are the maestro,” he continues. “It’s not a passive experience where you sit back and watch the show. You are the director, and prayer is there to achieve what you want. Prayer is the service of the heart.”

Rabbi Kaplan is a lauded scholar of the siddur, the Jewish prayer book, and has published numerous books on the subject. He also lectures regularly at the University of Maryland and serves as the director of the state’s Chabad-Lubavitch. He is also the religious leader of the Shul at the Lubavitch Center in Baltimore and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs over the years. In other words, this is the Rabbi you want to learn prayer from.

The Digitzation of Faith

While an online setting will likely never replace physical institutions of faith, many leaders and believers have found digital technology to enhance their practice.

In the Christian faith, for example, many seminaries have begun to move their programs online and close their campuses. According to a recent report from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), which comprises 270 institutions in North America, online enrollment has doubled in recent years. The number of students attending brick and mortar seminaries, however, has fallen by 26%.

“The overall trends seem fairly clear,” said Tom Tanner, director for accreditation and institutional evaluation at ATS, according to Christianity Today. “[D]istance education enrollment is way up and extension education enrollment is way down.”

This summer, Fuller Theological Seminary, one of the country’s preeminent educators of future priests, shuttered three of its campuses.

“Because Fuller Online has prompted an expansion of our global footprint, these are exciting times for a seminary community … [T]he significant increase in online enrollment has been matched by a decrease in enrollment on our geophysical campuses,” stated Fuller provost Joel Green. “To offer one snapshot, while winter quarter online enrollment has increased by almost 50% from 2013-2017, enrollment on our regional campuses has decreased by about 30% during the same period.”

While new technologies impact just about every aspect of modern life, the institutions and entities that rely on tradition are often slower to change. But examples of eLearning like “The Heart of Prayer” from promises to supply hungry believers with the manna they seek.


  1. Good points, it goes to show, when we move beyond our comfort zone (narrated powerpoint) quite a bit more can be accomplished. The difficulty often lies in the design, not so much the execution of the tool. Speaking of tools, don’t forget to let your readers know that there are other options out there like Lectora and dominKnow that can easily be used to develop this type of content and bring their own pros (and cons) in terms of capabilities.

    Another thing for developers to start thinking about is designing these items as responsive so they can be easily interacted with on smaller and larger devices and stepping away from “shrink the page” designs/tools. At dominKnow – we developed one such sample interactive video based course that was responsive which may be of interest.

  2. Just ran across a tool called Badgr that seems like it might also be a good fit for this. It looks like it can create pretty sophisticated branching pathways that even have a tech-tree look and feel. Very familiar to those of us who grew up playing games. Looking forward to checking it out.