PathwayConnect is a one-year educational program that prepares students for a degree program by building confidence and teaching foundational academic skills. With more than 550 locations in more than 100 countries, BYU-Pathway is changing the way people receive education. After completing the PathwayConnect program, students can continue their education by pursuing certificates and bachelor’s degrees online through BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
PathwayConnect was previously unavailable because of the requirement for student cohorts to gather in-person for weekly discussions. The gatherings, traditionally held each Thursday at designated locations and overseen by Church service missionaries, are a key collaborative part of the PathwayConnect program and were previously available only in locations where enrolment demand was high enough and could accommodate the travel of students involved.
Virtual Gatherings Open Worldwide Educational Opportunities
Just a few months ago, after extensive pilot testing, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, granted approval for worldwide virtual gatherings as a permanent part of the BYU-Pathway programs.
'The implication of this is that PathwayConnect can now be taken by basically anyone in the world, any time they want,' said Brother Brian Ashton, second counsellor in the Sunday School general presidency and vice president of field operations for BYU-Pathway Worldwide.
The new virtual gatherings are essentially the same as the weekly 'in-person' gatherings, explained Clark Gilbert, president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide. The only difference is that everyone is on a screen together rather than physically in the same room.
Brother Ashton noted that the virtual gatherings have proven to be just as effective for the community and academic purposes of the programs: 'This opens it up for almost anyone in the world.'
'Everyone thinks of online learning as independent study, but all our programs are cohort based,' President Gilbert said. 'They all have interactive learning activities, the instructors actively engage with the students, and with virtual, the students are gathering in a virtual discussion every single week.'
In each cohort, whether location based or virtual, the students know each other by name and are constantly building relationships and helping each other. President Gilbert added, 'We're about educating the whole person, and part of that means you become a different person, and that includes a community as an input and an output. So the whole learning environment is interactive and collaborative.'
Even with the freedom and flexibility offered by the virtual gatherings, Brother Ashton noted that the online course groups are still created geographically as much as possible. In some areas, the virtual gatherings will end up spanning several time zones. Brother Ashton clarified, 'The First Presidency asked us to keep them organized geographically. And one of the things we all like about that is that people form friendships and, in some cases, people who have met online through the programs have ended up getting married.'
President Gilbert added, 'People who would never have met otherwise are having that opportunity by working to progress as individuals.'
Drawing Closer to God
More than 70 percent of people who enrol in BYU-Pathway Worldwide are those who would not have gone on to higher education without an alternative option like what PathwayConnect can offer. With the addition of the virtual gathering option, enrolment is expected to increase.
'It's something that can help the mom who has always wanted to go back to school but couldn't drive to a PathwayConnect gathering,' President Gilbert said.
Brother Ashton added, 'Even if you don't have a GED or a high school degree or whatever the equivalent is in your country, we can help you get to where you can be successful in university or in a career.'
The purpose of BYU-Pathway Worldwide is — helping individuals to find their purpose by developing the skills and knowledge necessary to be more self-reliant and successful in their future education and career opportunities.
For example, Jade Ellen Moreira Pereira was just 15 years old when she had a stroke. Life changed dramatically for the high school student in Caico, Brazil as she underwent two surgeries and extensive physiotherapy to recover. After finishing high school and enrolling in a local university in 2017, she suffered a cerebral edema — swelling caused by a build up of fluid around her brain — that left her with partial paralysis on the right side of her body.
'It was a difficult time, Pereira explained, but she didn't want it to stop her from pursuing her education. So, in 2018, after making progress with her movement through physiotherapy, she decided to start an online degree program at a Brazilian university.
'I enjoyed the course, but I was looking for something more,' Pereira said. That is when a friend told her about BYU-Pathway Worldwide and the opportunity for students from nearly anywhere in the world to enrol in the PathwayConnect program. For Pereira, enrolling in PathwayConnect changed her life. But even more than that, she said it changed her connection with God.
'I never thought I would feel closer to God because I was studying at a university,' Pereira said. 'The program makes me remember why I am here and why I need to acquire knowledge. I don’t feel better than anyone else, but I feel better than myself and the most important thing I've learned — that all the things I do in this life have an eternal reflection.'
Since enrolling in the program, Pereira said she feels more actively engaged in working with God to achieve her goals. And for anyone considering if the program might be right for them, she advised, 'It will change your life, your perspective and your actions. If you have this chance, take it, you won’t regret it. It will be rewarding.'