All too often the path to college becomes difficult to navigate due to work, family, and economic conflicts. But a new university online learning program is helping thousands of younger and even older adults who may have given up on the idea of getting an education.
Pathway is a distance-learning program from BYU–Idaho. It extends a flexible, low-cost opportunity for Church-sponsored higher education to thousands of students in a growing number of locations around the world. Pathway has soared from three pilot locations in 2009 to more than 85 today from Alaska to South Africa. More than 6,000 students have been touched by a Pathway experience.
Pathway enriches lives as well as provides valuable education. The three primary objectives of Pathway are to get the gospel in students’ hearts, help students become capable learners, and prepare students to lead and support families.
In keeping with BYU–Idaho’s rethinking education slogan, Pathway was developed around an ingenious yet simple solution: combine online classes at an affordable cost with a weekly gathering shepherded by a local Church service missionary couple.
Online classes provide access to education
During the first year, students take just five credit hours of classes per semester, including institute. This allows them to continue working and nurturing their families. Most teaching is done online, and the weekly gatherings are held nearby in a local church facility. Students can have the kind of experience that many others have had at a Church school without ever setting foot on campus.
At the end of the first year of Pathway, students may qualify for BYU–Idaho's Online Degree program at the same low tuition rate they started at. They may also consider transferring to a local college or trade school or to BYU–Idaho in Rexburg. The online program currently offers five professional certificates, five associate degrees, and nine bachelor degrees.
In the United States, the cost per credit hour for Pathway students is less than half that of a similar course taught on the BYU-Idaho campus in Rexburg. It’s even lower in most other countries. This is possible because online attendance is scalable, existing facilities are used, and volunteer missionaries provide help when needed.
For students who complete the first Academic Start year online, tuition stays at the same low level all the way through completion of a two- or four-year degree. This has a tremendous impact on faithful missionaries who return to their homes in developing nations only to face a hopeless situation on college prospects.
Weekly gathering provides spiritual boost
In addition to online instruction, students meet every Thursday evening for an academic review and to take an institute class. Following BYU–Idaho’s Learning Model, students control their own learning through preparation, teaching others, and evaluating their progress.
Local shepherding adds confidence
Another key element of the program is that a local service missionary couple is called by a local stake president specifically to shepherd Pathway students. They don’t teach, but encourage and help motivate students to help each other, and reminding them when assignments are overdue. Pathway currently has over 450 service missionary couples around the world.
Pathway is priesthood led
While Pathway is an online program of BYU–Idaho, it is priesthood led at the local level. An area seventy or stake president must request a program in his area, provide access to existing facilities, coordinate with the institute program, and call local service missionaries. Bishops and branch presidents encourage participation by their members. Ward and branch councils provide encouragement and follow-up.
Pathway helps priesthood leaders in their stewardship to bless lives by giving Church members an educational opportunity they otherwise would not have had. Students can be accepted without a high school diploma or GED and are not required to have an ecclesiastical endorsement their first year. This opens the door for any Church member willing to adhere to strive to live the BYU-Idaho Honor Code.
In addition to the Honor Code, other levels of commitment are designed to help students succeed. Students must have daily access to a computer with high-speed Internet. They must study 15 hours a week, maintain a B average, and attend a weekly gathering with other Pathway students. They are also required to have some proficiency in the English language.
For more information visit: Pathway