8th February, 2021

The Pandemic’s Impact on Theological Education, a Global Pre-Launch, and Media Skills Training

Greetings from Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Executive Director

Greetings from the Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD) and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life (OCRPL).

As we enter into 2021, it is our desire to continue working alongside theological institutions and networks to find innovative and sustainable ways of navigating these challenging times. It is our hope that, despite the pandemic, God will continue to use the crucial work of theological educators to build and strengthen His church.

In this edition, we have highlighted some key ways we have begun carrying out this vision in 2021. We begin with a brief report on our listening events for theological institutions across Africa and Asia. The purpose of these was to hear about the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on theological education and to ascertain what needs might arise over the next months. We received over 120 responses to our survey, and look forward to sharing a full report in the coming weeks.

We are also delighted to invite you to the global pre-launch of our grassroots-training programme called The Shepherd’s Academy. This programme aims to bring theological education to some of the estimated two million untrained church leaders across the global South. Finally, towards the end of the newsletter we have included details regarding our low-cost Learning Management System. If you are looking to integrate online learning into your institution, please do get in touch with us.

One of the primary purposes of this newsletter is to connect those in our global community with one another. As such, if you have any comments or stories we can share, please contact us at admin@ocrpl.org

Understanding the Impact of the Pandemic on Theological Education

Over the past year, we have sought to come alongside institutions and offer various types of support such as training in online and sustainable education. We have also sought to raise awareness of these challenges to our partners and supporters. Given the pandemic has continued into 2021, on January 29, we hosted listening events for theological educators, networks, and institutions in Asia and Africa with the purpose of understanding more about the ongoing impacts of the virus on theological education.

We sent out a detailed survey that posed a range of questions addressing the pandemic, online education, and sustainability. During the meeting, representatives were asked to expand on these challenges and explain how they have overcome them in more detail.

Amongst the challenges named were generating income, paying staff salaries, lack of access to online resources and technology, adapting to online pedagogy, expensive internet connectivity, adapting to government Covid-19 regulations, and of course, Covid-19 infections. There were some helpful examples of how institutions had sought to overcome these challenges – some institutions reduced fees by 30%, others staggered the return of students in batches, attended training such as the OCRPL webinar on Online Theological Education, and invested in online Learning Management Systems and better internet connections. Particularly concerning finances, some institutions restructured their budgets and spending, others moved towards sustainability by planting crops, starting a poultry project, and initiating horticultural projects.

As we listened to the representatives, it was clear that the challenges have been great, and in some cases devastating. However, we were greatly encouraged by the reports of innovation and creativity in both the delivery of courses and in moving towards financial sustainability. Dr Chris Sugden raised an important concern that there are still some key areas in theological education which require further innovation and restructuring. Certainly, the pandemic has offered us an opportunity to rethink how we deliver and structure theological training to make it more accessible, contextual, and sustainable for those who would most benefit from it. 

A full report of this meeting, survey, and the points raised during it is forthcoming.

Invitation to The Shepherd’s Academy Global Prelaunch on Wednesday February 10

We are delighted to invite you to the Global Pre-Launch of The Shepherd’s Academy on Wednesday, Feb 10 at 12:00-13:00 GMT (14:00 CAT / 15:00 MSK / 17:30 IST / 18:30 MMT / 20:00 PST).

Recent statistics show that there are over 2 million untrained church leaders in the global South. In light of increasing persecution and marginalisation, equipping the Church and her leadership becomes crucial. The Shepherd’s Academy has been founded to work with existing institutions, networks, and churches to deliver a training programme that meets these needs. Our mission is to provide accessible, affordable, applied and academic training to existing and aspiring grassroots church leaders who do not have access to formal theological training. This will enable these individuals to train on the job and continue doing ministry in, for and through their contexts.

This programme will be officially launching in June 2021. We are now beginning the admissions process, as well as looking for institutions and churches to partner with us in this endeavour. This event will be an opportunity to find out more about this programme and potential partnerships, as well as the chance to hear from some key partners, church leaders and theological educators.

We would encourage you to be a part of this event. For a zoom link, please contact info@shepherds.academy

Upcoming Media Training for Churches and Theological Institutions

Many of our partner churches in Africa and Asia have requested us to provide focused and specific training in media skills. This is because, over the past year, they ran into unexpected challenges when asked to give press releases, press interviews, write articles, and give interviews for television.

As part of our witness to communities and countries, it is important that churches and theological institutions develop effective media strategies and practices. OCRPL will therefore be providing training that equips institutions and churches to be proactive in their engagement with the media. Our first training day will be on Friday February 26, when we will cover press releases, reporting on events, and interacting with and developing relationships with public media.

This training is being held for those in churches and theological institutions whose responsibilities include writing newsletters and representing the church/institution in the public media.

Further information on this event will be provided soon.

A Learning Management System (LMS) Made For Your Theological College for as little as $50 per year

A pressing need, which emerged in the listening events and various workshops we facilitated in Asia and Africa over the last year, was for a low-cost Learning Management System (LMS) that could facilitate online learning. In response, we have developed a robust and affordable LMS (starting from $50 per institution per year) which has the capability to host all your institution’s online learning, including lectures, classes, reading material, assessments, and more, that can facilitate courses from Certificate level all the way through to PhD level.

  • The LMS allows you to develop interactive courses, with video, audio and other multimedia content, enabling the student to engage well with your course.
  • The LMS provides the tools to allow students to submit assignments, easily grade the student’s work, and manage students and classes effectively. It features online exams and quizzes to test the students’ knowledge.
  • The platform makes communication with students easy with the help of group discussion forums, announcements, Zoom classes and more. 

It is an accessible and straightforward learning environment, providing powerful features to give your students a rich learning experience, and allows for easy global access through our responsive LMS design.

This is available to launch immediately. If you would like to have a virtual tour of the LMS, find out more regarding fees, set-up, or how you could integrate this into your institution, please contact us by filling in our inquiry form: https://www.gildlearning.com/resources/learning-management-system/