I've been wondering with the huge influx of missionaries, plus the recent discussion of expansion at the Provo MTC and the closing of the high school in Mexico to convert to an MTC there, and the inevitable eventual decline in number of missionaries after a couple years when the older missionaries are through the system, what the future is for the MTC. How do you build an infrastructure than can expand quickly as well as contract as needed? The total number will be greater than it has been traditionally, but there will be a small dip in two years, no matter how you do the math.
I think you could do some of the MTC virtually, with software to teach some of the language starting immediately when the call arrives, and having those who are waiting to go, go on splits with the local missionaries. Maybe the full-time mission call would include a short-term call as a stake or ward missionary.
Depending on the length of time between receiving the call and leaving, there could be a lot of time to learn the language fairly well. There's Rosetta Stone and Mango Languages and likely other language learning software that could be licensed for cheap. Given the large cost of infrastructure at the physical MTCs, if you traded that away, it would cover much of the cost of developing a new software product focused on church terminology. The church has a lot of technology and expertise in distance learning and training that could be leveraged here. Some of the practice in a new language could be facilitated directly through the technology itself, and then video conferencing could allow for remote instructors and fellow students to practice certain aspects of the language as needed.
Mission prep classes could (and do) teach most of the teaching methods that are learned in the MTC. I had a mission prep class during Sunday School my senior year in high school, and I took a mission prep class in Institute my freshman year at college. There was also a temple prep class fit somewhere in there as well. Maybe the senior year Seminary is focused on missionary work and temple preparation. It's convenient now, how you have four years of high school and four major topics to rotate through - Book of Mormon, Old Testament, New Testament, and Doctrine & Covenants. You'd have to combine two of those somehow. Maybe D&C could be refocused on mission and temple prep. I don't think it would be too much of a stretch, given how much of the D&C is relevant to missionaries. The other three could be rotated through a three year cycle and D&C/mission/temple prep would be done every year for the seniors. Some aspects currently covered in the D&C could be moved in to the Book of Mormon year as needed. It's a logistics issue more than anything. The most problematic aspect would be dealing with early morning seminary and the smaller class sizes that exist when you get further away from Utah, but it's not insurmountable. Are we hastening the work or are we hastening the work?
I could see a three to five month period at home preparing after the call, in addition to all the preparation going on in the previous year before papers are submitted, and then as soon as the visa is available, you're in your new country. For those who don't need to learn a language and/or are going to their own country, you get the same mission prep classes and splits with the missionaries, and go on the predetermined date.
The benefit I see to the MTC is the 100% focus all the time on missionary work. Life doesn't get in the way. It's intense and compressed. There is an opportunity to find those who needed to repent of something before heading out to the actual mission field. But with more involved bishops and stake presidents, as well as getting the missionaries out before they have a chance to visit the land of Siron in college, in addition to the increased focus during the senior year of high school to prepare, I think the same preparation could be accomplished. It would just be spread out in bits and pieces over a year period rather than compressed into getting it all at once in a 3-8 week period.
A full-time mission is intense on a daily basis but also requires long-term focus. The MTC gives them a chance to live the gospel 100% during a few weeks in the MTC, which gives that day to day view of what the mission is like. But it doesn't do anything to prepare them to sustain their focus on something for a year or two. Focusing on mission preparation at a moderate level but for a full year or more beforehand will give them that long-term vision for their missions. Ideally they make changes and mature before leaving on their mission because of that sustained focus.
Perhaps there is still a quick MTC experience, much shorter than they have now. Perhaps there is no MTC. Maybe it's just for those who didn't graduate from seminary (all the more incentive to go to seminary). Maybe it's just a quick check on progress with the language. I just can't think of anything they could learn better in the MTC than they will learn with their trainer after actually hitting the mission field or beforehand from their families, teachers, local missionaries, and priesthood leaders. There are no more discussions to memorize. Is there something the MTC does that can't be replicated elsewhere?