This is a story of firsts. Ruby Edgar, who is totally blind, enrolled in her first Wilmette Institute course—The Advent of Divine Justice: Guidance for Winning the Goals of the Five Year Plan—and participated fully in the course, preparing a Personal Learning Plan, reading the course materials, participating in the course Forums, and, at the end of the course, completing a Learning Self-Assessment. To top things off, Ruby then offered to help other blind learners to navigate Moodle, the Wilmette Institute’s learning software.
How did this amazing learning experience unfold? When the Wilmette Institute offered its course on The Advent of Divine Justice and simultaneously offered a free course to first-time learners, it received the following email from Ruby:
Hello Friends! I have never taken a course before from your services. My unique circumstance is that I am totally blind. However, I have online abilities so if I can get eBooks, or digital books online, I could take the course. . . . I have been reading your bulletins for years and have never taken an online course. Thank you so very much. . . . I am so interested in exploring this avenue because I am always interested in learning and growing!
A Wilmette Institute staff member responded by saying:
I’ll be happy to sign you up for one of our upcoming courses. Here is a link to the list of courses you can choose from: http://wilmetteinstitute.org/ourcourses/current-courses/. We have only a little experience so far serving the blind community, but we are pleased to have this opportunity to learn, and we welcome your feedback. Very few, if any, of our courses require books or materials that are not available digitally. Here is a link to learn about how we accommodate learners with disabilities: http://wilmetteinstitute.org/about-the-wilmette-institute/accommodating-disabilities/.
Ruby chose the course on The Advent of Divine Justice and had this to say in her Learning Self-Assessment at the end of the course:
Until now, I had only read a few quotations from The Advent of Divine Justice, but to read it in full with the guidance of the course materials and questions, I was able to put the book in a better perspective. I realize that to prepare for teaching is a continuous process of learning. However, we do not have to be perfect. We must have the spark of life, the love of God, in our hearts. All of this takes time and experience, but that is how we grow. It all begins with the individual, and as individuals change, the institutions of society also will grow.
I would like to take more courses with the Wilmette Institute since it has a great program for study of the Bahá’í writings. I love the questions because they are focused on the topic at hand and channel reflection of the readings. I yearn to study the writings more, and I realize what a priceless gem that we have and need to share with others.
Now that the course has ended, I would love to use the skills that I have, to write in a teaching forum or discussion group since there is nothing greater than the Word of God. I would apply stories and metaphors to explain a principle or topic of discussion. It seems that more learning is accomplished when a concept is broken down into things that people can understand, especially when one applies a law of nature to spiritual concepts.
Ruby’s assessment of what she had learned in the course was not the end. She sent another email to the Wilmette Institute staff:
Dearest Friends, I just finished the course on The Advent of Divine Justice. It was a wonderful experience. I want to let you know that it is fully accessible for blind folks. Moodle was a little difficult at first, but, with the help of the people at the Wilmette Institute, it was learned. If anyone in the future who is blind and needs help, please let me know. . . . I yearn to have all of the learning experiences in this life as is possible. I will be taking more courses as soon as my computer is fixed. I actually did the course on an iPhone and a Bluetooth keyboard. I’ll be glad to have Windows back. Thank you!
Ruby’s experience was a win for her and win for the Wilmette Institute: A blind Wilmette Institute learner successfully took an online course and has committed to taking more, and the Wilmette Institute gained experience in working with a blind person and also gained a volunteer in its online learning community who stands ready to help other blind learners navigate its course delivery system. For help, please contact the Wilmette Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.