Theological seminaries are custodians of the finest in education and scholarship. No law school or medical school should be superior to Erskine Theological Seminary in terms of Content Management Systems and Learning Management Systems. Likewise, whether one has 200 students or 2,000 students, a faculty and staff of even the smallest school can provide education without limits.
I want to share information on one very important term that describes a very ancient pedagogical practice still in use in Great Britain, although the term is relatively new.
Multimodal Education: Multimodal education describes a mission-oriented and student-centric approach to teaching and learning that utilizes a plurality of strategies to achieve student learning outcomes (Milton, 2021).In Britain (in addition to online teaching and learning now introduced), every faculty member conducts multimodal education through (1) lectures; and (2) small group tutoring in the professor’s study. That may sound elementary, but that is one ancient and traditional expression of multimodal teaching. One could add to that the work of St. Paul, which was to add an epistle. Thus, one student would have received individual mentorship from Paul, lectures (preaching) in worship, and distance education via letters. He would have also had multiple sensory experiences of learning: auditory, visual, and tactile (on-the-job training).
MULTIMODAL EDUCATION means:
(1) Multiple ways of teaching due to multiple ways students learn (audio, visual, tactile learning [hands on], conceptual; e.g., in one course online, I like to incorporate multiple means of reaching students, ensuring that I will likely reach some on their learning styles. So, we use lecture, discussion, research and writing, small group discussion, tutoring (in small groups in the professor’s study, like the British faculty and students do after the lecture; this is the superior, classical way), and even gaming (I actually did this at UNC-Chapel Hill in studying for the Master of Public Administration for the Army, in which we gamed through issues related to decision-making in public policy and consequences).
Figure 1. Multimodal Education, Anthony G. Picciano, “Theories and Frameworks for Online Education: Seeking an Integrated Model,” (Open Sourced paper on ResearchGate.net:
(2) Multiple ways of delivering education because of environment and cultural factors (e.g., online, blended, residential, and even mobile learning, or m-learning):
“Mobile learning (m-learning) is education via the Internet or network using personal mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones to obtain learning materials through mobile apps, social interactions and online educational hubs. It is flexible, allowing students access to education anywhere, anytime” (Norris et al., 2016).
Mobile learning provides a way for educational institutions to deliver knowledge and educational content to students on any platform, anyplace and at the time of need. Students use mobile apps and tools to complete and upload assignments to teachers, download course instruction and work in online social groups to complete tasks.
The phrase mobile learning is most often used to describe the technology the mobile devices and apps used in the classroom, however it may also be used to describe the support of always-on learning with mobile technology” (Beal, 2021).
(3) Multiple ways of educating: Residential or online or hybrid for a semester, residential or online or hybrid in one or two-week intensive classes, modular (8 or 16 weeks), or professional education residential or online.
(4) Multiple ways of learning: SummaryMultimodal education is nothing new, although the term is new. However, there has been a revival in teaching and in theological education. We are remembering that people learn differently. We are recalling that the Lord Jesus used multiple means to proclaim the Kingdom of God. The Apostles, by adding epistles, were the most productive distance education faculty in history.
There is a common denominator in multimodal education. The common denominator is that the methods are student-centric, not faculty-centric, and require a high degree of independent research and self-motivation for learning. I would also add that it requires intentionality on behalf of the teacher and the institution. Nothing has changed in education at the end of the day, especially in pastoral education and training. The picture remains: one student, one teacher, gathered beneath a tree, teaching and learning the things of God and the practice of ministry.
Now, we realize that vision in multiple ways, maximizing the opportunities to prepare men and women to fulfill the Great Commission.