February 8, 2021
BYU-Pathway Worldwide experienced tremendous growth in 2020, which has inspired the organization’s goals for 2021: to remove obstacles that keep potential students from higher education, improve the student experience, and prepare to scale even further to better serve a worldwide student body. While institutional in nature, these goals are driven by BYU-Pathway’s mission to develop disciples of Jesus Christ — the foundation for all efforts of BYU-Pathway.
One of BYU-Pathway’s greatest achievements in 2020 was record-breaking student enrollment — serving more than 50,000 worldwide. Adding to this milestone, student retention reached 83% in September 2020 — a 10 percentage point increase over the previous year — with 5,718 students continuing to an online degree from PathwayConnect.
Because student retention is greatly impacted by the success network of BYU-Pathway — the combined effort of mentors, service missionaries, and instructors — efforts will be made to improve its impact in 2021. These individuals will be able to better serve students by receiving “recommended actions,” or messages raising a red flag that a student may be at risk and suggesting how they can be helped. Data systems automatically recognize student needs and route messages to the individual most able to assist. Similar messages to students will be piloted with nudges through popular messaging apps, email, and their student portal to help them stay engaged in their education.
Knowing that students who complete BYU-Pathway Worldwide’s PathwayConnect are 10 percentage points more likely to persist to the second year of their degree program, BYU-Pathway will pilot mentoring students in their second and third semesters, in addition to current first-semester mentoring.
Improve Student Experience
Because student retention is tied directly to the quality of the student experience, BYU-Pathway will polish the digital platforms students use, including the BYU-Pathway Portal and Degree Planner. Recommended paths — a new feature in the Degree Planner — will guide students along the best route to a degree that will lead to better employment. Simplifying the online degree application and strengthening BYU-Pathway’s data system will also contribute to a straightforward experience for students.
In other efforts to improve, BYU-Pathway will continue to strengthen its brand, including emphasizing the purposes of PathwayConnect. Research has shown that many perceive PathwayConnect as a university preparation program for inexperienced students rather than an online, reduced-cost start to a degree that can benefit all students.
Online instructors, previously only hired in the United States, make it possible for BYU-Pathway to serve a worldwide body of students. In 2020, the organization tested a new approach by onboarding 10 adjunct instructors in the Philippines. The pilot is projected to grow to 150–250 international instructors by September 2021.
President Clark G. Gilbert said, “Our instructors are pioneers. I can feel that the Lord is working through BYU-Pathway to change the future of the Church. It really is a miracle what’s happening at BYU-Pathway.”
Behind the scenes of BYU-Pathway’s scalability is its significant attention to improve the development of its digital products. Strengthening project teams will allow the organization to better serve with products that not only satisfy, but delight users.
Creating a seamless and systematic partnership process with other Church Educational System institutions is also vital to meet the needs of BYU-Pathway’s ever-growing student body. This includes establishing frameworks for planning, coordinating, and data sharing with partner institutions, BYU-Idaho and Ensign College. Partnering with Ensign College will provide new options for students, including a bachelor’s degree in communication and new certificate opportunities.
BYU-Pathway looks forward to another year of growth and accomplishment in increasing student retention, improving the student experience, and scaling even further.