In this two-part blog series, we’d like to touch on the technology trends in theological education. In today’s electronic world, we cannot ignore the fact that technology now plays a significant role in the lives of students of theology and their future ministry. Currently, more than half of Association of Theological Schools (ATS) member schools offer comprehensive distance education programs, and 26 schools offer the M.Div. and/or professional M.A.’s (Standard B) degrees fully online.
Technology advancements, such as those made available through modern learning platforms, are playing an increasingly significant role in the delivery of theological education that helps streamline communication between teachers and students, improves collaboration among peers, and helps schools and administrators improve the quality and efficiency of communication and administrative activities.
While technology advancement is still regarded skeptically by some, other examples of successful technology adoption abound. For instance, at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, students are encouraged to see themselves as citizens of “the world village united in Christ.” Wesley’s student body of more than 500—80% of them studying online—includes 42% racial/ethnic students, an international contingent from 10 different countries, an age range from 22 to 82, and a mix of 38 denominations in addition to the sponsoring Wesleyan Church. More than 75% of Wesley’s students are following a personal desire for more education, not any denominational requirement.
If you are embracing a modern learning strategy for your seminary or religious learning institution, here is one of the technology trends to watch for.
Support for multiple learning modalities increases student and faculty flexibility
As noted above, students today are increasingly studying online or are engaged in hybrid or self-paced learning programs, and this is true of theological learning as well. A modern Learning Management System (LMS) platform should be able to flexibly support all forms of learners and learning styles, and should be easily adapted to allow instructors to teach the way they want to teach versus having to fit a predetermined model and workflows. For instance, Seattle Pacific University has leveraged hybrid learning to reimagine its M.Div. to better engage students within dynamic and varied models of God’s work in the world through congregations, nonprofits and/or educational spaces. The university’s model is comprised of three structural commitments:
- A modular approach allowing flexibility and multiple points of access and applicability
- A context-centered approach, with exemplary organizations and leaders serving as models and teachers
- Faculty who are both experts in their field and inhabit a vocational call to be teachers/facilitators who garner their expertise for the empowerment of their students in their respective vocational callings
In part 2 of this series, we highlight the other three technology trends to watch for.