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Skills-Based and Learner-Centered: On-Campus and Online

By Alan Young
Managing Director, Online Programs

In 2021, Ensign College will launch fully online degrees and additional online course options. For local Utah students, this will provide more scheduling choices for both on-campus and off-campus learning experiences – even after the pandemic has passed.

The online degrees will also be available to learners throughout the world through our new expanded partnership with BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Church members who have not had access to higher education will now benefit from Ensign College programs. We now have the ability to provide gospel-centered educational opportunities wherever Church members live.

Each online course experience is being designed natively for the online environment. Technology has advanced far enough that almost any learning experience can occur in either the online or the on-campus environment. On campus, the learning activities are designed around students being physically gathered together in a classroom. For students without an option to come to campus, online learning activities are designed in inspired technologies for powerful, Spirit-centered learning and skill development.

I came to Ensign College earlier this year as the Managing Director of Online Programs. A major factor in my decision to join the Ensign College team was our strong emphasis on skills-based, learner-centered higher education. As I have learned more about Ensign College, I have been delighted to discover that this focus on powerful learning and teaching goes even deeper.

Deep Learning

The Ensign College learning experience (on-campus or online) is based on principles of deep learning. We are not just interested in a learner's ability to recall information. We focus on the ways in which each learner is coming to know, and also to do, and to become. Deep learning is made possible through the companionship of the Holy Ghost and the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.

Spirit-Centered Learning

Learners at Ensign College trust in the promise to covenant Israel "that they may always have his Spirit to be with them" (D&C 20:77). As learners act in faith, with obedience and trust in Heaven, their individual capacity is expanded. As I have (virtually) rubbed shoulders with the students and employees of Ensign College, I have seen individuals magnified by the gifts of Heaven.

Learner-Centered Courses

Each learner takes responsibility for their own learning. Ensign College courses are not organized around content to be "covered." Courses focus on the learner and the learning goals they have the potential to reach. Learning activities place students in a position to act in faith, rather than being acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14). Instructors become valuable coaches and mentors to learners in their learning journey. Peers become valued friends and partners in the learning journey.

Learning Pattern

In any setting a learner can successfully apply the principles of the learning pattern: to prepare, to teach one another, to ponder and to prove. Ensign College courses are organized in a way to expect and enable learners to apply the learning pattern.

Skills-Based & Immersive Learning

Ensign College programs focus on skills as well as knowledge. Every program combines technical and soft skills that are marketable in the workplace and allow those that are willing to more effectively serve the Savior and fellow disciples in His Church. Courses are not an academic to-do list. Courses put the learner in the driver's seat. With a coach/teacher and peers by their side, learners are put into authentic, challenging, real-world situations where learning accelerates.

Whether online or on campus, this culture of deep learning has and will make a significant difference in the lives of learners. It has been happening for many years on-campus in Salt Lake City. Now this special learning environment at Ensign College is going "into all the world" (Mormon 9:22).

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