From ANN, Feb. 16, 2015:   The Global Adventist Internet Network conference (GAiN), the annual forum of Seventh-day Adventist technology and communication professionals and enthusiasts, concluded yesterday (Feb. 15). More than 3,800 people in 100 countries viewed the online sessions, the highest attendance yet. Presentations were available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

For the first time, the event was hosted online, with three sessions held per day to accommodate the times zones of a global audience. Past conferences were held in cities such as Dubai, Hong Kong and Baltimore.

Seventh-day Adventist Church Chief Information Officer Nancy Lamoreaux opened the conference by asking how the Church and its members plan to continue embracing technology to spread the gospel. Despite the focus on technology, Lamoreaux emphasized the need to make personal contact in order to change lives.

Presentations and discussions addressed cyber security, app development, geographic software (GIS), online currencies, ministry, education and gaming.

North American leaders previewed a web portal aimed at bolstering distance learning opportunities for ministers, lay leaders and students. The initiative, named the Adventist Learning Community, will enable church entities and schools in North America to share courses and certification resources.

“Distance education for ministerial and educational purposes is a paradigm shift for how our church does business,” noted Adam Fenner, director of the Adventist Learning Community. Fenner said the Adventist Learning Community, which will go online in March at adventistlearningcommunity.com, promised to streamline the way that the Seventh-day Adventist’s North American Division (NAD) offers distance education.

As an example, he noted that five Adventist universities in North America currently offer identical courses online and employ separate staff to support the programming for each. “The quality of the courses would be much better, both in terms of content and media, and the cost to build and deliver the courses would be significantly less for the church as a whole,” Fenner said. Certifications are in the works for Family Ministries, Adult Ministries, Adventist Community Services, Youth Ministries and philanthropy, Fenner announced.

In another presentation, Dean Waterman, who serves as a pastor in Virginia, promoted the model of a multi-site congregation. The concept is one that plants a campus tied to the primary church, jumpstarting the church-planting process. Often, the branch location shares worship services through live-streaming.

Garrett Caldwell, the associate Communication department director for public relations at the Adventist Church world headquarters, participated in a presentation promoting the denomination’s online visual identity standards. In late 2013, the denomination released a corporate Web framework encouraging Church entities and congregations to maintain similar branding.

The identity framework is available at framework.adventist.org. “The identity standard is an extension of our logo. It strengthens our brand,” said Williams Costa Jr., Communication director of the Adventist world church.

Jesse Johnson, president of netAserve, shared about StudyTracker, a Bible study system on the netAdventist platform. StudyTracker works with cards that include a paper USB drive and near field communication, or NFC, to electronically deliver Bible studies. It also offers a smartphone app that handles campaigns and events by offering a scannable QR code to track attendance at meetings.

On the final day of the conference, DP Harris, vice president for information systems at Loma Linda University, promoted creating games for education and ministry. “Our challenge as educators is to create a learning experience that is engaging, challenging and achievable,” Harris said. “Games are now on the forefront of reaching people all over the world.”

Daryl Gungadoo, research and development engineer for Adventist World Radio, said Adventist World Radio is currently making a game that teaches AWR operations and engineering. Players attempt to send programming from the network’s mega station in Guam to countries throughout Asia by bouncing radio signals off the earth’s ionosphere.

Videos from the five-day conference, including a behind-the-scenes look at how it was produced, will be posted on the website gain.adventist.org.