The “BYU-Hawaii Experience” at a Distance…Is it Possible?

David O. McKay Lecture Given at Ellen Bunker
Brigham Young University–Hawaii 

February 11, 2016
Ellen Bunker
Associate Professor, English Language Teaching and Learning Department

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May I wish you all a very happy good morning and aloha!

As this lecture is, first of all, a time to remember and honor President David O. McKay and his vision and prophecy for this place of Laie in general and of Brigham Young University Hawaii in particular, and further, since I consider this as a time to acknowledge our responsibility to respond to and follow that vision, I will begin my remarks today with a quote from President McKay.

Let me begin with some statements near the end of the dedicatory prayer for the Church College of Hawaii, given December 17, 1958.

“Help us, O Father, to appreciate the sacrifices and accomplishments of the past. Give us power and intelligence to contribute to the pressing and progressive demands of the present. Give us inspiration in all efforts that tend to establish peace among nations, goodwill toward men” (McKay, 1958…do need pub date in 2012)1.

I propose to use these statements to structure my remarks today.

Appreciate the past

We should always seek to appreciate the “sacrifices and accomplishments of the past.” For us here at BYU--Hawaii, this means that we first give appreciation for the ancient inhabitants who designated this land as a place of gathering and refuge. Having such a place has many parallels in scripture and Isaiah states, “For thou has been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat…” (Isaiah 25:4)2. Based upon the blessing of the land from the past, our present efforts must maintain BYU—Hawaii as a place of refuge for all who come to this campus or study with us, to provide a refugee from distress and storm for, as President Tanner eloquently stated, we must be an Alma Mater to “the academic orphan and the stranger in the land” (Tanner, 2015)3.

Second, I’m grateful to speak following the 2015 anniversary year for Laie and BYU—Hawaii. May I thank the officers of the Mormon Pacific History Association for the conference that was convened on this campus, and the Laie Community Association and stake and ward leaders for the events that focused on families and individual efforts to build and sustain Laie. I am also grateful to Alf Pratte and Erik Shumway for the publication of their book BYU—Hawaii: Prophetic Destiny, The First 60 Years. Many who helped to establish and maintain the vision of President McKay up to our day are highlighted in this book.

Finally, I wish to thank President John Tanner for his leadership of the University thus far, for his establishing our current work on the founding documents and requesting that we reconsider them as we make decisions for what the University will become in the next thirty years. The anniversary events and the requests from President Tanner have been important in my decisions of what to discuss with you today.

In another portion in the dedicatory prayer, President McKay also referred to instructions given in the Doctrine and Covenants, instructions, which I am sure you agree, we still live under today. President McKay said:

This large assembly of Thy children, the program rendered in sermon and song, all buildings erected, equipment furnished, the instruments and mechanical devices that are in these buildings—all are in use and action because of divine instruction from Thee to the end that Thy children shall teach one another the doctrines of the kingdom and all things that pertain to the kingdom of God that are expedient to understand: things both in heaven and in earth, under the earth, things that have been, things that are, things that must shortly come to pass, things that are at home, things that are abroad, the wars and the perplexities of nations and the judgments that are on the land, and the knowledge of countries and of kingdoms—all this and more that Thy Saints may be prepared in all things to magnify their calling whereunto Thou has called them and the mission with which Thou didst commission them (McKay, 1953)4.

I would note that President McKay, in addition to mentioning the people participating in the program and the wide range of subjects we should study and learn, also mentions the buildings and mechanical structures. For much of history, formal education and learning has been a gathering at least to the vicinity of a teacher, but usually to the locale of a school, to the buildings that house the learning activities. The inclusion of that blessing upon physical structures should make us question if it extends away from campus to courses and products used to teach remote students. Is it possible for us to fulfill our prophetic mission using distance education?

Distance education: What has gone before?

Using President McKay’s prayer as a guide, we must look to the past. What do historical practices and research findings in distance education have for us to understand and appreciate before we move on to planning the future? What can we learn from the sacrifices of early distance educators?

Many educators consider distance education a relatively new field of study. I did, before I began my doctoral study, to the ire of my advisor, who knew better than I the historical background of the field. The term “distance education” was not popularly used until the 1990s (Moore, 1990)5, especially in the United States. Considering it new could lead educators to believe they are using new media in a new field, the consequence of which is that important theories, research, and practices from the past are overlooked (Moore, personal conversation, February 2, 1997)6. In addition, calling the field by the medium used to transmit learning materials, as in calling it correspondence education, video conferencing, or online education, also limits which historic practices and research would seem to have relevance for us today.

Some people claim that the process of educating learners distant from the teacher started with the Apostle Paul. His letters to the Saints scattered throughout his expansive mission field contained instruction and guidance and could be called “teaching letters.” While that might be true, the beginning of what today is called distance education is rooted in a general movement in both Europe and the United States of self-improvement and self-education (see Kett, 1994)7.  In the early 1800s, many people in many countries began seeking self-improvement. George Craik, for example, published a book in Britain in 1830 called The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties (a title to which some of our students might relate). The book was a collection of biographical sketches of self-learners, which became widely popular in the United States. Self-learners organized and attended evening classes, mechanics institutes, lyceums, Chautauqua gatherings (initially a summer camp for Methodist Sunday school teachers), and proprietary correspondence schools (Pittman, 2003)8.  In harmony with the feelings of the times and with the counsel in the Doctrine and Covenants 88, which was also given about this same time in 1832, early members of the Church participated in these types of events. For example, there are references in the journals of Joseph Smith to learning Hebrew from an itinerate teacher and to lyceum events (Joseph Smith Papers 1 and 2).

But all of these events, the mechanics institutes, lyceum lectures, and mutual improvement associations, were nearly all still gatherings of people together in one place to learn together. Some distance education historians credit the development in 1840 of the “penny post” in the United Kingdom and other such mail services in other countries as the true beginning of correspondence education, the historical pioneering efforts of today’s distance education.

In the United States, correspondence education became closely associated with university extension and independent study. In 1877, Illinois Wesleyan University arranged a series of courses to be taken “in absentia by nonresident students,” the first American university to offer a plan of correspondence courses. The program offered bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees to individuals “whose professional duties or financial situation prohibited attendance in a regular college” (Watkins, 1991, p.5)9.

University extension got a more stable connection with higher education in the United States with the establishment of the University of Chicago in 1890. Under the organizing vision of William Rainey Harper, the University established the first Extension Division. Harper had previously participated in both correspondence education and the Chautauqua summer sessions and convinced the founding trustees on the importance of the extension of education beyond the University campus. He created concentric circles of faculty and campus students, students and faculty of affiliated institutions, and correspondence students, with all these circles being surrounded by the general public.

Harpers work influenced other institutions, most notably the University of Wisconsin, which started its own correspondence study one year later in 1891. Barbara Watkins, one of the people chronicling this history, says that the University of Wisconsin had the goal of extending education “to the people—all the people”, which was quite a “radical idea whose time had come” (Watkins, p. 9)10.  

It is not my intent to recount the growth of extension and correspondence education, but to focus on how the founding associations, early practice, and research can inform our decision making. The movement that began in extension and correspondence education and has expanded to the use of open and distance learning today, has much to guide us.

My doctoral research (Bunker, 1998)11 centered on the publications produced by what became the largest and best known of the professional associations related to correspondence education. The association began in 1936 as the International Council on Correspondence Education (although the name was later changed to the International Council for Open and Distance Education). The first conference included participants from Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

The first conference was held in 1938 in Victoria, British Columbia, with the second conference, delayed by World War II, held in 1948 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Conferences have proceeded uninterrupted since that time, as you can see from those listed on the screen.

The analysis of the conference publications for the International Council for Open and Distance Education, or ICDE, reveals a clear set of shared assumptions, practices, and aims. One of the key aims, shared throughout the history of the association, was the “unremitting allegiance to the belief in the value of providing access to education for all learners, no matter how dispersed or disadvantaged by economic, personal, or political situations” (Bunker 2003, p. 60)12. Discussion of access to learning appears as a dominate topic at every conference and showed a commitment to serving learners no matter how dispersed, disadvantaged (Bunker, p 60)13 or, in our terms today, “orphaned” (Tanner, 2015)14. This commitment, carried on from early work in extension and independent study, was of paramount importance to conference participants.

The second shared aim of the conference data show a strong commitment to providing education equal in value to traditional education. Distance educators continually sought academic credibility, acceptance of shared standards, and overall quality of learning in discussions and presentations in all conferences.

Knute Broady, chair of the first conference, stated by equality of education opportunity we mean extending education of equal quality to everyone, no matter how humble his birth, no matter where he may live, and no matter what his reasonable aspirations may be. We think that is a very practice ideal—an ideal to which we can all subscribe, and I trust that everything that we do in this conference will be evaluated in terms of it (Broady, 1938, p 10)15.

These twin concerns for access and quality, represented here in Broady’s statement and which I found to be in the data for all years of the conference proceedings, are also found in other distance education literature (Garrison, 1993)16. An unremitting commitment to providing access to educational opportunities which are at the same time of high quality, will also be necessary for any of our attempts at using distance education on this campus.  

In the ICDE conference proceedings, the oft stated concern for quality led practitioners to persistently call for more research into the methods and practices of distance education. From the beginning, the ICDE established research committees and made an effort to disseminate the findings from the research. Although some of the findings remain, even to this day, somewhat fugitive, quality research was conducted and reported on from institutions in quite a number of countries.

As we consider what we can learn from the past, it might be of interest to review the list of research topics generated from that first conference in 1938. Please note that CI stands for correspondence instruction.  Do any of these topics seem of use to us today? I’ll mention just a few but you can run your eye over other topics at the same time. What about the first one,

  • “What becomes of graduates of correspondence instruction schools? How do they fare?”

Didn’t someone ask that same question in a recent faculty meeting about our graduates and the instruction and preparation they receive on campus?

  • “What classes of students, what specific needs should be served?

Ask those working in distance education at BYU—Idaho if they have this question? They now serve more than 60,000 students from that campus, with around 55 % studying at a distance (Gilbert, Nov. 2015 meeting on BYUH campus). They expect at least 20,000 students to apply for the Pathway program this fall semester.

  • What is the cost of [distance education]?
  • How can library facilities be organized for [distance] students?
  • How far should we go in the use of remote/local teachers and mobile materials versus bringing students to the BYUH campus?

This question is critical in our decision making on this campus as we envision where BYU—Hawaii will be thirty years from now. Don’t you agree?

A fourth concern of the conferences from the beginning was the intent to include educators working in correspondence education from many countries rather than being a national organization from any one country. They wished to share experiences and combine resources. At every conference, there were presentations from many countries. We can also look at the work of distance educators in many countries as we plan how and when we would use these resources.

Finally, since access to education for learners who could not or would not come to a campus entailed a need for some type of interaction, the discourse data from the ICDE Conferences show continual efforts by conference participants to enhance that interaction. Discourse about the use of media was present in every conference but never raised to the level of a major theme in any of the conferences. The lack of dominance of technology as a topic is a bit surprising given that new communications technologies are always causing excitement in the field of education, but I believe we could take instruction from this and not follow a common, but less effective pattern, of choosing the technology first and designing the pedagogy second.

More could be said about the aims and patterns in the literature from the ICDE Conference Proceedings, but looking specifically at some of the theories and models that began to appear in the broader distance education literature over the same years as the conferences, can enlarge our understanding for today.

Building on the past: Theories and models of distance education

As distance education emerged as a distinct form of education, practitioners began forming theories and models to guide developments and courses. These theories aimed, to quote a main textbook on the foundation of distance education, to “provide the touchstone against which decisions…can be made with confidence. This would replace the ad hoc response to a set of conditions that arises in some ‘crisis’ situation of problem solving, which normally characterizes this field of education” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, Zvacek, 2003, p. 37)17. With the touchstone of distance education theory, we can more confidently answer the question if distance education can be effectively used to carry out our assignment from President McKay.

Otto Peters, doing pioneering theoretical work in Germany, looked at distance education as a “form of study complementary to our industrial and technological age” (Peters, 1983, p. 95)18.  The first to use the term distance education, Peters suggested that the following categories could be used for the analysis of distance education: rationalization, division of labor, mechanization, assembly line, mass production, preparatory work, planning, organization, scientific control methods, formalization, standardization, change of function, objectification, and concentration and centralization (Simonson, et al., 2003)19.

While his theory as he initially stated it focused more on the organizational component of the production of distance courses, programs and institutions, and was criticized for its lack of attention on the teaching/learning transaction, his theoretical work supported the development of extremely large distance education institutions. One of the first was the Open University in the United Kingdom, which was chartered in 1969. The open and distance university movement worldwide has created many institutions with extremely large enrollments. Called mega-universities by John Daniel, who served in the administration of several distance and open universities, including as Vice-Chancellor for the Open University in the UK, these large institutions enroll more than one hundred thousand students each year.  While it is a bit difficult to estimate how many students are now studying at a distance at these open universities today, the number would be in the many millions. For example, enrollment numbers, as claimed by the Websites of the respective universities, are nearly 4 million at Indira Gandhi National Open University, 3.9 million at the Open University of China, and nearly 2 million at Anadolu University in Turkey. While my plan was to order the university names on the slide in order of enrollment, these numbers are hard to determine because of varied definitions of “enrolled” student and the inclusion or exclusion of affiliated campuses and campus-based program.  As a comparison, some campus-based state university systems, such as the State Universities of New York, rival the open universities in total enrollment, but none are listed with enrollments much higher than 500,000.

To manage such massive enrollment does take a total educational system, as described by Peters in his industrial model of distance education. However, this industrial model was deemed insufficient in itself by many in the field and other distance theorist made responses.

Börje Homberg chose the interaction between student and teachers as the fundamental idea undergirding distance education. He called them “guided didactic conversations” (Homberg, 1981)20. He envisioned that the learning, motivation, creation of rapport, and support and engagement of the learner in activities and discussions could all be enveloped in this empathetic, guided conversation. Later, Holmberg added to this concept other elements that described the larger universe of various distance courses and programs, but the core concept remained with guided, didactic conversations (Simonson et al., 2003)21.

Theories by Charles Wedemeyer and Michael G. Moore address the autonomous or independent nature of the learning setting, with learners choosing where and when they study and institutions supporting this type of learning. The independent nature of study characterized much of the university extension-based programs mentioned earlier and were important in the establishment of the open universities. Moore eventually called his ideas the Theory of Transactional Distance. In this theory, the distance in distance education is a pedagogical distance and not a geographic one. He advances that three elements are necessary to bridge this transactional distance: structure, dialogue, and autonomy. Structure and dialog are both teaching elements, relating to the special teaching behaviors required to bridge the transactional distance.

Structure includes any materials created as part of the course design—textbooks, study guides, broad- or narrow-cast audio or video, objectives, assignments, or schedules.

Dialogue includes interactions and communications between learners and teacher, and learners and learners. These interactions can be carried by any communications medium: the penny post or modern email, audio or video conferencing, telephone, video posting in course management systems, or teacher assignment feedback systems.

Autonomy, on the other hand, is a characteristic of the learner. It relates to both the students’ ability to make choices within the learning materials and the capacity to sustain the learning activity. Under this theory, learners have varying degrees of autonomy; conversely, courses or programs may permit or require diffing amounts of autonomy (Moore, 1996)22

These elements are not static; there is no “best” ratio between the three. The ratio is determined by the learner, educational setting, content, objectives, learner support needs, type of technology used, and so forth.

In the ELT Department, we used primarily the Theory of Transactional Distance in the development of our online EIL classes. We established at the beginning that we would, for example, need dialogue. How do you learn to interact in a language without opportunities for dialogue? We had to plan how these could be optimized with students in at least eight different time zones and how you could have interaction without overwhelming teacher and tutor responsibilities. Further, we knew that more of the content for an EIL class taught online could be pre-structured into the learner management system, producing different patterns than in a campus face-to-face class. We also assumed that our learners would most likely have low levels of personal autonomy, in the sense of sustaining their learning over time, based on their age, educational culture and style of their home country education systems, and that their autonomy could also be related to their ability to have  immediate access to required technologies or study time. With the assumption of less capacity for sustained, autonomous learning, activities were embedded in the classes to support the development of self-regulated learning. Also, as decisions were made to match the campus calendar and have students study in a cohort group, students’ range of choices, such as when to begin and finish a course, or when to submit assignments, would have to be restricted to some degree by course structure.

While there are quite a number of other theories and models in the field, these will suffice for today to help us consider our own distance education path at BYU—Hawaii.

What does distance education look like in the present?

Remember that access has been a key aim of earlier distance educators, followed by quality, a call for research, and an intelligent use of technology. The field of distance education has seen an exponential increase in application and innovation, with many, new institutions using these techniques in new educational settings, and technological inventions which keep appearing on the scene, begging to be used. Let’s look at just a few examples, to see how these key aims are supported.

The University of South Africa, or UNISA, began using correspondence education in 1944 through the extension division, becoming officially a distance university in 1997. This university, the first of the modern open universities, was nearly the only way black students could access higher education during the apartheid years. Nelson Mandela, in fact, studied at UNISA from his prison cell, earning a bachelor of laws degree. His biography on the Web says he graduated in absentia (“Biography Mandela,” n.d.)23.  In 2004, UNISA merged with two other distance education service providers in southern Africa and is now the largest distance institution in Africa. With a move to online content, UNISA claims they are trying to resist the lure of expensive new technologies because of the commitment they have in keeping costs low for students. UNISA has an enrollment of over 250,000 from 130 countries. (BYU—Hawaii has a ways to go to reach that number of countries).

Let me tell you about a visit I made to the University of South Africa and you can see an application of Otto Peters industrial model of distance education. While on their campus, my host took me to the registration and distribution center. I watched students registering in person fill out their course request form. It was sent down a chute to the floor below. In the basement, employees were skating around with wheeled carts, finding the course material listed on the registration form. When they completed the selection of course materials, the entire set of materials was shrunk wrapped, the student’s registration form was taped to the top, and it was sent back upstairs on a conveyer belt. Students that registered in person had their course materials a few minutes later; student registering through the mail had their course package arriving by post. In this industrialized manner, course packets, complete with all the text, audio, visual, and lab supplies needed by the learners, were given at registration. This system allows them to serve many students each year.

Take another example from another place. Children living in remote areas of Australia have been served by the School of the Air for many decades now. Starting in 1946 as a supplement to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and using at that time the pedal powered radios normally used to contact medical professionals, the School of the Air helped teach children living in remote areas over the radio and through occasional visits from a teacher who arrived on the airplane with the doctors. Over the years, the type of radio has advanced, and today, Internet technology is used, but the School of the Air still operates in nearly every state of Australia.

Radio has been used in other cases. Take for example the “radio in a suitcase” used for adult and lifelong learning in a wide variety of underserved communities. The slide shows a picture from a project in the South Pacific. The radio and transmitter are portable and relatively easy to use.

The Church has had long interest in and use of radio and other broadcast technologies. KSL was purchased in 1925, but when President McKay became president of the church in 1951, he began to “unleash [the] potential” of broadcasting (Prince & Wright, 2005, p. 124)24. In 1954, he said “Today it is a simple matter for us to teach all nations. The Lord has given us the means of whispering through space, of annihilating distance. We have the means in our hands of reaching the millions in the world.” (McKay, 1954)25. Arch Madsen, one of the early leaders of KSL, stated in an interview that President McKay said the Church was not in the broadcasting business to make it money….”We’re in the business of broadcasting to learn how to use it to further the work of the Lord” (Prince & Wright, 2005, p. 127)26.

From radio and television, the Church has continued to learn to use technologies for the work of the Lord. A quick glance at the Church Social Media sites shows how well people working on these technologies and initiatives have progressed in sharing gospel messages. [show video of LDS Social Media pages]. Notice while the video is scrolling through several pages that the Church now has content on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and Hashtags.  Within each of these platforms, a variety of pages lead to more content.

Mobile devices constitute a newer area for innovation in make learning materials accessible throughout the world and to our scattered membership in the Church. In many ways, mobile systems circumvent the need for extensive infrastructure and, therefore, bring resources to people much more quickly. The Open University of the United Kingdom, in a promotional video on their Website, show how they are using cell phone technology to help with the teaching of English in Bangladesh. [Open University of the UK video, retrieved at, English in Action, (2:20-4:06)]27.

The Commonwealth of Learning has developed what they call the “Classroom without Walls” to have connectivity without infrastructure power or Internet access. [Commonwealth of Learning (Dec 6, 2012). Classroom Without Walls. Retrieved from (1:00-2:35)]28.

Here is an example of cell phone use for women goat herders in India. They received training through a Commonwealth of Learning program called Lifelong Learning for Farmers. In January of this year, The Times of India (Jan. 6, 2016) reports that more than one thousand women goatherds in the Bodi West Hills region now use voicemail and mobile phones to achieve higher productivity in goat rearing. They have registered a company called the Goat Farmers Producers Company Limited. 

All of you also know of other innovations and developments that lead to learning solutions we might consider in our envisioning of BYUH.

The Pressing and Progressive Demands of the Present

As we accept President Tanner’s invitation to help envision BYU—Hawaii in thirty years, we should look at some insights and understanding that he has already gained about this place. Reviewing a few statements from President Tanner’s “Inaugural Response,” I would like to connect them to today’s discussion of using distance education within the framework of our mission at Brigham Young University Hawaii. Here are a few that should guide us in determining if the “BYU-Hawaii experience” is possible at a distance.

President Tanner said that we need to be “a school that concerns itself both with ‘practical salvation’ and…with what President McKay called the higher purposes of education.” Can we create distance learning materials to these demands? For example, what is more central to a practical salvation or the higher purposes of education than the development of character that President McKay repeatedly stressed? In addition, can we provide practical learning that addresses the immediate needs of the learners where they are and not ones that serve only our academic interests?

President Tanner also said he sees “a university that is really good at helping international students learn English. And I see a school that shares this expertise with other Church schools and entities, thereby playing a critical and distinctive role in the larger Church Education System.” This one applies directly to us in the English Language Teaching and Learning Department, but it is one in which you really all can and do help. For example, Beth Haynes loaned us several issues of the Journal of International Business Studies that reviews language issues in the workplace where English is serving as the lingua franca. As faculty, your knowledge in your field as well as your experience in working with and teaching international students will be important in any courses developed and designed to be used globally. As we collaborate with other CES institutions, your experience will be important in structuring learning materials.

Again, President Tanner sees “a school that serves its vast target area by leveraging resources through collaboration and technology.”

First, let’s look at collaboration. Using distance education can give us opportunities to collaborate in ways not possible in the past. For example, the new Center for English Language Learning, with Neil Anderson as the first Director, is committed to collaboration to produce “quality online and face-to-face instructional materials for English language learners” and to work with “faculty within the Church Education System who work with English language learners.” The Center also has a focus to “prepare English language learners for vocational and/or academic learning opportunities” (Johanson, 2016)29. We are currently working with BYU Idaho on the development of a fifteen credit English as an International Language Certificate. In the future, we invite you to join us in these efforts of collaboration, especially when the production of materials might relate to your academic areas.

We can give access to many students in many places with the plethora of communication technologies, the wide reach of the Internet and World Wide Web. However, the reach is not ubiquitous, and, in many countries where LDS Church membership is high, Internet penetration is low. For example, the Internet usage data collected in November, 2015 shows that in Mexico only 49% of the population have direct access to the Internet. This corresponds with information we have been given from the Self-Reliance Center offices that 50% of Church members in Mexico do not have regular access to the Internet. Brazilian Internet penetration is less, at 39%. While some countries in Asia have very high rates of Internet penetration, such as South Korea at 92%, other countries have much lower rates, such as India and Indonesia with about 30%, or the Philippines with 43%. The variation continues through other countries in our target area, with 40% in Tonga or 19% in Vanuatu. We should consider ways we can still use distance education to grant access to learning for members in these countries without a sole focus on Internet-only resources.

A caution for us is contained in the writings of Jacques Ellul, who wrote several books about the controlling nature of a technical system. He warns that when we are

“…confronted with the technological phenomenon and the new milieu we live in, we must have ‘mutants.’ Not the mutants of science fiction—the technological human beings with a robot’s brain—but quite the opposite. To be a mutant a person needs to become someone who can use the technologies and at the same time not be used by, assimilated by, or subordinated to them. This implies development of the intellect and a development of consciousness…” (Ellul, 1981, p. 82)30.

Ellul further states that we have to position ourselves from a viewpoint outside the system to clearly see it, but since we are in the system, where does the view from outside come from?  For Ellul, it comes from the “Christian faith and the Revelation” (Ellul, 1988, p. 91)31. God is outside our mortal world, and to Him we must turn for the appropriate revelation. What options for technology are available? We should seek for inspiration and intelligence, as President McKay stated in his prayer, to address these needs.

Remember, President McKay left a blessing on “all buildings…, equipment…, [and] the instruments and mechanical devices that are in the buildings.” We must remember, as we seek to extend access to our students in many lands, this blessing on our creations and devices, including the technologies we choose to use. President McKay also said, “May there radiate from these buildings an aura of light as tangible as personality radiates from each individual, influencing all to live clean and upright lives, to seek truth diligently, to be inspired so to live that others seeing their good deeds may live to glorify Thee, our Creator, our Father, our God” (McKay, 1958)32. We must have our distance education courses, resources, instructors, and tutors radiate this light.

Efforts that “tend to establish peace among nations and goodwill toward men”

Finally, President Tanner sees BYU—Hawaii as a “sacred place, blessed by prophets many times over” and “an historic place of gathering.”

Can we preserve these blessings, especially those connected with the gathering to this sacred place, through materials, courses, and contact using mediation with technology? This is of upmost importance and should be considered central to all we do in creating distance education materials. Any distance education materials it is now possible to create must still fulfil this prophetic assignment. This is the greatest challenge we face in using distance education. How do we make of these courses and experiences a “living laboratory,” as President Romney suggested (Romney, 1973)33?

How do we create the interface and exchange that still helps us build respect and tolerance when the interaction is mediated by technology? Distance educators around the world have worked on related issues, such as social presence, dynamic synchronous and asynchronous interactions, and quality in education that crosses borders and cultures (Daniel, 2009)34. Is what they are talking about enough? I posit that is it not. What more is needed?

In one sense, what is needed most is the love of God, which, when we receive it, creates a love for our fellow beings on the earth and gives us the ability to see them as brothers and sisters. With that acknowledged as a truth, and something we try to do in every Church setting, why is it that we have had a gathering place at BYUH with the assignment to support efforts that tend to “establish peace” and “goodwill”? Why were we asked to be a “living laboratory”?

I believe this is the crux of the situation. We must, as President Tanner has reiterated, be “a place where people from many nations learn together in purity, peace, unity, and love,” and a school from which “will go men and women whose influence will be felt for good towards the establishment of peace internationally.”

Can access to education be given? Yes. Can this education have the necessary quality? Yes, if we are careful. Can we find and use the research already done? Yes, we must. Can we generate some useful research findings on our labors? We should, in spite of busy teaching schedules. Can we use technology judiciously and make it serve our needs for learning without us becoming the servants of the technology? Yes, if we seek inspiration. Finally, can we infuse our efforts with the aloha spirit and warmth of love the blesses us here on campus? Yes, if we pray often, as President McKay did in the dedicatory prayer that the Lord will, “Give us inspiration in all efforts that tend to establish peace among nations, goodwill toward men” (McKay, 1958)35, but it will not be easy.

As we address the use of distance education within our prophetic assignment, may we seek for the revelation that will guide us. Finally, one uplifting word from President Thomas S. Monson to encourage us on our journey.

God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation (Monson, 1988)36.

Thank you.


[1] McKay, D. O. (1958). Church College of Hawaii dedicatory address and prayer. December 17. Something wonderful: Brigham Young University—Hawaii foundational speeches (2012). Brigham Young University-Hawaii. 

[2] Isaiah 25:4

[3] Tanner, J. S. (2015). Inaugural Response.

[4] Biography of Nelson Mandela. Retrieved from (retrieved 2/4/2016).

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