“E-Learning: Uniformly Training Church Members,” Liahona, Jan. 2006, N5–N6
E-learning technology is helping to address one of the Church’s current challenges: training with a consistent message a diverse Church membership spread throughout the world.
In September 2002 the First Presidency announced that annual worldwide leadership training meetings broadcast by satellite would teach and train local leaders to apply the Church’s doctrines and principles on a local level. During the first worldwide leadership meeting, President Gordon B. Hinckley emphasized the importance of uniform training.
He said: “We are all one Church, the Church of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. We should be performing our duty uniformly to bless the lives of all for whom we are responsible” (“Missionary Service,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 21).
E-learning is helping members learn the skills and responsibilities related to their callings. Besides delivering a consistent message, online training has several advantages, including being interactive, far-reaching, and flexible.
E-learning lessons are presented in an interactive slide show format. These lessons include video and audio clips, application questions, practice scenarios, interactive dialogues, and tables and charts with suggestions related to the training topic.
Recently released training for the Primary and Young Women auxiliaries takes advantage of interactive techniques to present the content. Steve Brimley, e-learning manager in the Church’s Audiovisual Department, said these techniques have been used in several courses and help maintain users’ attention throughout the lessons.
In addition to reading a handbook and other materials, members can view interactive lessons that show them how to do things related to their callings, such as how to fill out a Church audit form, talk to a young woman about Personal Progress, or conduct music.
“From the beginning we have tried to teach concepts visually, not just simply telling them what needs to be done, but showing them what needs to be done,” said Brendon Brown, an instructional designer with the Church’s Member and Statistical Records Division.
The visual approach to teaching is especially helpful as Church instructional designers teach concepts to members spread across a wide spectrum of cultures, experiences, and learning styles.
Early Church uses of e-learning, such as the Church music site and www.providentliving.org, proved successful at providing training for certain skills.
“I think these sites showed e-learning was a viable, cost-effective way to reach a worldwide audience for certain types of training,” said David Nielson, director of the media design and production division of the Church’s Audiovisual Department.
Members’ access to e-learning is made possible by new technology and increasing access to the Internet. Currently, e-learning courses are posted on www.lds.org, allowing members to complete the lessons at home on a personal computer. Internet access is also available in meetinghouses with family history centers. Some 4,400 family history centers operate throughout the world.
One of the advantages of e-learning is its flexibility. E-learning allows users to receive training anytime and anywhere there is Internet access.
“People appreciate flexibility in their learning so they can learn at their own pace and on their own schedule,” said Brother Nielson.
The average training lesson lasts 15 minutes. Members can view each lesson as many times as they want.
Also, unlike forms of training such as printed handbooks, electronic training lessons can be updated quickly. Updates to e-learning can quickly reflect current Church procedures. New video clips or audio instructions from General Authorities can be added to slide shows to reflect policy or procedure changes.
E-learning lessons can also be translated as the need arises. Online training for Church clerks and auditors is being translated into 14 languages. During their first month online, the translated versions of the training lessons were among the most viewed lessons in the clerk and auditor training.
While many of the lessons mimic the one-on-one tutoring members might receive from their priesthood or auxiliary leaders, Brother Nielson said e-learning cannot replace the personal teaching relationship available in local wards and branches.
“E-learning will never replace live teaching from the Brethren or local priesthood leaders,” Brother Nielson said. “However, for certain skills that members can learn in their own homes or in a Church building, this can be an effective method of training.”
Training, both in worldwide leadership meetings and online, continues to unify members’ work to accomplish the mission of the Church. President Hinckley said about that mission to save souls: “There is no greater work. There is no more important work. There is no more compelling work than this which the God of heaven has given us responsibility for accomplishing” (Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 11, 2003, 21). Existing online training may be accessed in the Serving in the Church section of www.lds.org or by accessing lds.org in your language.