boy working on laptop
Marvin Jake De Peralta

While distance education (DE) may seem daunting for college students, the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu’s DE structure has helped students near and far pursue their degrees with ease over decades.

UH West Oʻahu has been a DE leader among the 10-campus UH System since its beginnings. Through the recent shift to majority online learning following the COVID-19 pandemic, it leveraged its existing distance learning infrastructure to its advantage.

DE programs originally began for the purpose of serving neighbor island students,” said UH West Oʻahu Director of Distance Education and Coordinator of the Office of Professional Development and Academic Support Gloria Niles. However, consistent registration in online course sections demonstrates that distance modes of delivery are popular for many students located on Oʻahu as well.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated advancement in online learning, the faculty have worked diligently to continually improve the digital learning experience for students,” Niles said. “The Office of Distance Learning is looking forward to leveraging these efforts to ensure that in the post-pandemic era, UH West Oʻahu is well prepared to implement what UH President David Lassner referred to as, ‘a healthy mix of in-person, hybrid and online instruction.’”

Supporting students, faculty with online resources

At the start of the spring 2020 semester, 40% of all courses at UH West Oʻahu were already fully online and 50% of student registrations were in fully online courses. While many faculty members had experience teaching online, an estimated 30% of faculty did not.

The UH West Oʻahu Office of Distance Learning partnered with instructional design teams from campuses across the system to share much needed online resources, and many of the UH campuses and the UH Online Innovation Center opened training sessions systemwide.

Niles added that the pivot to remote instruction in spring 2020, followed by the continuation of offering classes primarily online through the summer and fall 2020, required upgrades to classroom technology, such as computers and video cameras. Two recording studios were also constructed for faculty to deliver synchronous online instruction or to record lectures.

In addition to faculty assistance, DE students such as Marvin Jake De Peralta, who is completing his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the comfort of his home in Kīlauea, Kauaʻi, appreciate what UH West Oʻahu offers to support students’ educational endeavors as distance learners.

De Peralta recognized UH West Oʻahu’s Noʻeau Center for providing him with the resources to improve his writing skills in his writing-intensive classes and tutoring to help him understand difficult concepts, especially in his math class.

“Overall, UH West Oʻahu has made me feel supported through this distance learning journey,” said De Peralta.

Read the full story at Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

—By Zenaida Serrano Arvman