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From left, Youxin Zhang, Jamie Sickel and Helen Torigoe.

Kapiʻolani Community College’s Teaching Online Preparation Program (TOPP) received the 2020 University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Strategic Innovation in Online Education Award—the second national award it received in the last year.

The TOPP team includes instructional designers Helen Torigoe, Jamie Sickel and Youxin Zhang. They created a professional development program for faculty designing a new online class or redesigning a pre-existing one.

With students showing a greater interest for distance education courses, Kapiʻolani has raised the bar on its online education program. Since 2016, TOPP has trained 94 faculty on campus.

Mary Angela Baker, UPCEA awards committee chair said, “This award recognizes an institution of higher education (i.e., campus, system, or consortium) that has, at an institutional level, set and met innovative goals focused on online education and been strategic in the planning, development, implementation and sustainability in line with the institutional mission.”

In 2019, the TOPP team was also recognized with the Campus Technology Impact Award in the Teaching and Learning category.

More about TOPP

TOPP is an online professional development program that guides faculty to develop skills and knowledge to deliver classes across-the-curriculum to learners who are physically separated from the college.

Moving from face-to-face classes to teaching an online class is an investment in time and effort, and a new learning curve for many. TOPP participants undergo eight weeks of training during the semester or six weeks during the summer. Serving as content management experts, faculty learn, practice and build a sound curriculum for their classes.

“The TOPP program is integral in preparing to teach an online class,” said Amy Shiroma, a faculty member with the hospitality and tourism education department and an early TOPP participant.

“By participating in the program as an online ‘student’ I was able to receive the necessary tools and learn the processes to develop an effective online class and also experience the results of the organization from the students’ perspective. As a result, student evaluations for my online course have been extremely positive. If I had not been through TOPP I’m not sure I would have been bold or prepared enough to enter the online teaching world.”

Most faculty completing the training praise the leadership of the TOPP designers and facilitators. “Without their patience and encouragement,” said one, “I would have given up after the first week of training. But each of the instructional designers made me feel worthy and important. They were guides on the side and were very supportive throughout the learning process.”

For more information on the program, please visit the Teaching Online Prep Program website or contact the Kapiʻolani CC instructional design team at

—By Louise Yamamoto

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