GBHEM and GBOD renew and expand e-readers for theological education agreement
By Marcie Smeck
NASHVILLE, Tn: A pilot project to provide e-readers loaded with theological texts has proven so successful that GBHEM General Secretary Kim Cape and GBOD General Secretary Tim Bias renewed their joint agreement, continuing this interagency collaboration until December 2016. The renewed agreement extends the “E-Reader Project” and includes a partnership with the African Association of United Methodist-related Theological Institutions (AAUMTI) and its sixteen United Methodist theology schools in Africa. The new agreement also includes four theology schools in the Philippines.
The pilot project at Gbarnga School of Theology (GST) in Liberia tested simple and effective ways to help theology schools in remote, low-power areas have access to current textbooks and reference books necessary for a solid theological education in the Wesleyan tradition. In the evaluation of the 18-month pilot project (January 2013-June 2014), GST faculty reported that the use of the e-reader had raised the level of classroom discussion because students now have had the opportunity to read assignments before class. Faculty had previously written notes on the chalkboard for students to copy or depended on lectures as the main source of content for students.
“The successful and positive results of the e-reader pilot project in Liberia last year encouraged us to step forward together with GBHEM to create even more access to theological resources by expanding the project to other United Methodist theological schools in Africa and Asia. Both agencies are called to develop leaders who make disciples of Jesus Christ and to equip and educate the saints for the transformation of the world,” said Bias. “Together we develop and equip leaders to build up the church for the work of God’s transforming the world. We are excited to see how using digital devices and content can be a part of equipping our brothers and sisters across the world for the work of ministry,” he continued.
The e-reader team is refining English content and developing French and Portuguese content. In the next year the team will be meeting with the leadership of the 22 theological schools, providing their first e-readers and planning for the implementation on each campus in 2015 and 2016.
“This is a wonderful partnership with GBOD. It is a perfect complement to our ongoing work—promoting theological education in fast growing central conferences, expanding access to theological resources and enhancing the teaching/learning environment at each institution, no matter how remote they are,” Cape said.
The team settled on a “library model” for the work with AAUMTI schools in Africa. Going forward, the students will be able to freely use school-owned e-readers (checked out from the school library) and may be able to receive their own e-reader when they graduate.
Funding for the “E-Reader Project” comes from annual conferences, local churches, individual donors, universities and a student fee each semester, which helps offset the price of the e-reader and its content. To learn more or donate online, visit www.umcereader.org.
Smeck is interim director, Office of Communications General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.