1.1 The History of PathwayConnect, Online Learning and the Creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide
At David A. Bednar’s inaugural speech as president of Ricks College, which would soon after become BYU-Idaho, he said the following:
“It will be necessary for us … to serve ever better the thousands of students we have on campus while simultaneously reaching out to bless the lives of tens of thousands of young Latter-day Saints throughout the world…. We must learn to assist and bless institute students and other LDS youth in Rhode Island and Rome while effectively serving our students on campus in Rexburg.”
President David A. Bednar, Inaugural Response, February 1998
In 2007, BYU-Idaho launched an initiative aimed at educating students that did not live on campus—the online degree program. Individuals who met the university’s academic residency requirement (completed at least 15 credits at BYU-Idaho or any other CES institution) were eligible to apply to complete one of a handful of associate and/or bachelor’s degrees online.
Two years later, in January 2009, BYU-Idaho launched Pathway (currently known as PathwayConnect). This unique program utilized the flexibility of online learning while also incorporating a weekly gathering with other students—a combination between traditional campus-based and online educational platforms. Additionally, participation in PathwayConnect fulfilled the university’s residency requirement, which meant that, unlike the online degree program, PathwayConnect students did not need to have any previous experience with BYU-Idaho to be eligible to participate.
The program was originally introduced in three locations: Nampa, Idaho; Mesa, Arizona; and Manhattan, New York. PathwayConnect has now grown from 50 students in three U.S. cities to tens of thousands of students in numerous locations worldwide.
On February 7, 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the creation of BYU-Pathway Worldwide. The new organization would be responsible for all PathwayConnect and Church Educational System online degree-seeking students. BYU-Pathway would have full access to the resources of the Church to assist in the worldwide efforts of education. Students, missionaries, priesthood leaders, and employees alike, would play an integral part of this important work.
“For the first time in the history of the Church, an affordable, locally delivered Church-based higher education can be offered wherever the Church is organized. As part of the team who shares that stewardship, we feel a great responsibility to construct this temple of learning into something the Lord can use to build His kingdom across the earth.”
President Clark G. Gilbert, BYU-Pathway Worldwide Inaugural Response, November 2017