In the winter of 2021 we, as a people, are still reeling from COVID-19. The pandemic has brought not only a disease of the body, but also diseases of the human spirit: stress, depression, desperation, economic deprivation, and even human loss that so many have tragically experienced. Our hearts are broken for humanity in this winter of our lives.
Allow me to address seminary higher education for a moment. Many educational institutions have had to go online for the first time. Erskine Theological Seminary is committed to “multimodal teaching and learning.” That means that Erskine Seminary wants to provide unsurpassed pastoral education and training at the highest academic and spiritual standards through multiple means: residential, online, hybrid of the two, intensives, semester-long, and even mobile education (coming). Each mode of education requires unique techniques. At the end of the day, though, it is always one teacher and one student passing along the things of God to shepherd the flock of Christ. That never changes.
Online teaching and learning is an art . . .or, maybe a science. I am not sure. However it might be categorized, we all know that there are mysteries afoot in this relatively new and changing expression of teaching and learning! Things are often done a wee bit differently online than in residential courses. The reason this is so is that, well, online—synchronous and asynchronous—is a decidedly different mode of teaching and learning. There are positives and negatives to that difference. Yet, we have learned that we must be intentional in doing certain things to unleash deep learning, which is our goal for you (I define “deep learning” as moving from retention of information to use of information to create formation). I believe that online teaching and learning has advantages, in particular, in the area of cultivating independent research (“following the footnote trail). This is a skill I want you to learn, for you will undoubtedly use this acquired skillset in pastoral ministry each week (in the preparation and delivery of sermons, in counseling, in administration, and in the further theological inquiry).
To that end, of deeper learning, I have prepared some things I have written to help seminary students. Here are some bits of help for you as you continue your learning journey. You will find templates, and other resources, as well as essays on the subject before us.
This winter is one of disruption. May God allow us to use this time to grow closer to Him, to share His grace in Christ with others, and to go deeper in our own preparation to shepherd the Flock of Christ.
Resources in Online Research and Writing
Michael Milton. “Academic Voice in Theological Higher Education,” January 19, 2021. https://michaelmilton.org/2021/01/19/academic-voice-in-theological-higher-education/.
Michael Milton. “For Online Students: Why Discussion Board Posting Is a Big Deal,” January 23, 2021. https://michaelmilton.org/2021/01/23/for-online-students-why-discussion-board-posting-is-a-big-deal/.
Milton, Michael A. “A Philosophy of Teaching.” Faith for Living, Inc., May 21, 2019. https://michaelmilton.org/2019/05/20/a-teaching-philosophy/.
———. “A Taxonomy of References in Writing Graduate-Level Theological Papers,” June 21, 2019. https://michaelmilton.org/2019/06/21/a-taxonomy-of-references-in-writing-graduate-level-theological-papers/.
———. “Academic Research and Writing Resources: All About Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles.” Faith for Living, Inc., April 1, 2020. https://michaelmilton.org/2020/04/01/peer-reviewed-journal-articles/.
———. “Following the Footnote Trail: The Deeper Learning Model in Theological Higher Education.” Faith for Living, Inc., January 14, 2019. https://michaelmilton.org/2019/01/14/following-the-footnote-trail-the-deeper-learning-model-in-theological-higher-education/.
———. “Online Citation Management.” Faith for Living, Inc., February 19, 2020. https://michaelmilton.org/2020/02/18/online-citation-management/.
———. “Seminary Announces Online Teaching and Learning Course Opportunity.” Faith for Living, Inc., May 27, 2020. https://seminary.erskine.edu/seminary-announces-online-teaching-and-learning-course-opportunity/.
———. “Teaching in Theological Higher Education: A Modest Proposal.” Faith for Living, Inc., January 12, 2020. https://michaelmilton.org/2020/01/12/teaching-in-theological-higher-education-a-modest-proposal/.———. “What Is Theology & Why Is It Important to Understand?” Salem Communications, no. 02 October 2020 (2020). https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/what-is-theology-why-is-it-important.html.
———. “Writing the Weekly Research Paper.” Faith for Living, Inc., July 24, 2016. https://michaelmilton.org/2016/07/24/writing-the-weekly-research-paper/.
———. “Writing the Weekly Theological Research Paper.” Faith for Living, Inc., 2017. https://michaelmilton.org/2017/05/31/writing-the-weekly-theological-research-paper/.
Here are two books that will help you in thinking about the challenges and joys of independent research and writing, one of the practices, and goals of all higher education, and, in particular, useful in the deep learning goals of Online Teaching and Learning (OTL).
Mullaney, Craig M. The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education. Illustrated Edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.
Shore, Zachary. Grad School Essentials: A Crash Course in Scholarly Skills. 1st Edition. University of California Press, 2016.