In recent years, the landscape of theological education has witnessed a significant transformation. The digital age has ushered in a new era, where possessing digital competence is becoming an essential requirement for job openings at theological institutions such as seminaries, colleges, and universities.
In this article, we will delve into the importance of digital competence in theological institutions, explore the required digital skills, and discuss strategies for digital advocacy within this context.
Digital Competence in Theological Institutions
Historically, theological institutions showed limited interest in examining digital competency. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a rapid adaptation to online education, compelling institutions to improve their digital skills. As we emerge from the pandemic, it remains imperative to consider the role of digital proficiency in theological education.
In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, the acquisition of digital skills and competencies has become crucial. The technological abilities one possessed in the past may no longer suffice, necessitating the need for upgrading skills and knowledge.
This is to suggest that the repertoire of technological abilities that one may have previously possessed may no longer suffice in terms of functionality, necessitating the need for upgrading some skills and abilities. Alternatively, the knowledge that you and I claim to possess may become obsolete and impractical for the specific work or task at hand, unless we upgrade our digital skills.
In light of this reality, and as theological educators, it is vital to ask whether digital capabilities and skills matter and what specific skills are required.
Required Digital Skills
To determine the necessary digital skills, institutions and individuals must first understand the nature of their work and its connection to digital proficiencies. This self-assessment can reveal areas that require skill enhancement. Consider questions like: What digital tools do you use, and to what extent are you proficient in using them?
The initial inquiry aims to facilitate a deliberate understanding of the very nature of what you do, particularly in its connection to digital proficiencies. The task would provide insights into the collective abilities possessed by your team or institution/organisation, while also prompting self-assessment of your own digital skills. If an individual possesses lower-level skills, it might be beneficial for them to reflect upon the significance of their position within the institution or to consider enhancing their job-specific skills.
For example, at The Shepherd’s Academy, a theological institution, several digital tools are integral to designing, developing, and delivering online theology courses. Specifically, it requires proficiency in using Google Suite, a basic understanding of the key functions of Moodle (a learning management system), adeptness in utilising Zoom/Google Meet for real-time learning and virtual meetings, appropriate usage of WhatsApp for informal communication (backchannel), and effective use of Trello and Slack for collaborative teamwork and project management.
Digital skills encompass various domains, such as digital information management, content creation, communication and collaboration, knowledge and learning, and personal well-being. Evaluating our proficiency in each of these areas is crucial for ensuring digital competence.
Digital skills not only serve short-term goals, like online course delivery, but also have long-term implications for digital advocacy. Institutions and individuals can contribute to enhancing digital literacy among theological educators and future generations.
One way to promote digital literacy is by understanding the digital divide within your specific context and working to bridge the gap. Additionally, debunking misconceptions surrounding technology and online education is vital. Institutions can organize webinars or workshops on digital competencies for theological education, sharing knowledge and best practices.
Collaboration with other theological institutions to design and develop online theology courses is another practical step towards digital advocacy. By sharing resources and expertise, institutions can collectively improve the quality of digital education in theological studies.
Summary and Further Reflection
In summary, the need for digital competence in theological institutions is undeniable in today’s digital age. This article has raised essential questions regarding digital competency and examined the specific skills required within theological education. As theological educators, it is crucial to assess our digital proficiency and actively contribute to digital advocacy in our field.
In your respective institutions, consider the following questions:
- Do digital capabilities and skills matter, and what are the required skills and capabilities?
- What specific digital skills should be developed within your institution and among individuals in your professional setting?
- What digital tools do you use, and how proficient are you in using them?
- In what ways can your institution contribute to enhancing digital literacy among theological educators and future generations?
Embracing digital competence is not merely a choice but a necessity to ensure the continued growth and relevance of theological education in the digital era.