The Masters of Divinity program at the United Methodist University in Liberia is fully operating a digital learning process facilitated by the Central Conference Theological Education grant. Professors are presenting their lectures through power point while students are doing their assignments using desk top computers provided by the program. According to Rev. Dr. Yatta Young, dean of the divinity program, the entity was empowered by the global United Methodist Church through the Central Conference Theological Education grant. Though behind in the age of technology, Dr. Young said the US$21,000 grant has made learning easier at the school and students are now finding it easier to follow the lectures of the professors in a convenient environment. We don’t have to interpret hand writings of our students before correcting their papers, Young affirmed.
The UMC Liberia educator said her quest has been to reach the students of the masters of divinity program to the level of other students around the world who are technology savvy. She also said making lecture notes visible to the students was a challenge for the professors and the students themselves, adding, “the students now have their attention fixed on the professors.” She further indicated that using Microsoft power point as a lecture tool makes discussion between the professors and student easier. She lamented the absence of needed books, saying, I hope my students will benefit from the E-Reader Project of the global church.
Dr. Young further told UMNS that she is negotiating with the Higher Education and Ministries, Discipleship Ministries, and the United Methodist Communications to have the desk tops fitted with internet that will enable students to do their research online. Right now we are using these desk tops for students to do their assignments and other papers while instructors are using them for their power point presentations,” she asserted.
Though new to the technology, some of the professors are using it quite well while others are still struggling to use it in the presentation of their lessons. Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Saywon said lecturing through power point is a new experience for him and his colleagues at the UMU Masters of Divinity School. “We need special computer lessons to be able to prepare our lessons and present them to the students,” Saywon said. He pointed out that most of the stress that accompanied teaching has been removed since the technology was introduced, adding, “thanks to our partners for making this technology available to us at this time.”
For her part, student Theresa Freeman said they don’t have to keep their heads down copying notes while the professor is lecturing. She indicated that students now focus on both the professors and the screen and are in better position to ask questions. “Learning is better right now even in the absence of books because we can see on the screen what the professors are discussing,” she affirmed.
The one year old UMC Liberia master of theology school now has over 25 students from several denominations in Liberia including the Salvation Army Liberia Command, the Church of the Lord Aladura, and the Don Stewart Christ Pentecostal Church program. The school is the UMC Liberia way of making their pastors theologically ready for ministries in the church and the community.
The UMU Graduate School of Theology has an array of faculty with doctorates in several theological fields. It is expected that the UMU, Higher Education and Ministry (formerly GBHEM), and the Discipleship Ministries formerly General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) will enter into partnership that will help to provide text books through the e-readers project for students of the school.
E. Julu Swen, reporting.