Skybridge is a great way for students who are not able to attend classes on the Kahului campus to still get one of the best benefits of being part of a classroom — real-time interaction with other students and the instructor. Fall 2019 courses offered via Skybridge on my home island of Molokaʻi include such diverse subjects as Financial Accounting, Music in World Culture, Systems Analysis and Design, and Hawaiʻi: Center of the Pacific.
On Molokaʻi, a team of three student workers are rostered to staff the Skybridge contol room, doing a sound and vision check-in with the Kaʻaʻli 107 classroom in Kahului before class starts. This helps them to be ready to correct any problems that might arise during class time. Ronnie Poaha-Kaohi is the tech during my Wednesday HWST100B class. After responding to the sound and vision check, she returns to the control room. There, she works on projects assigned by her supervisor, ready to respond to any situation that might arise, such as a computer failing during a student presentation.
Ronnie explains that the desk at the front of the classroom, which is ordinarily where an instructor would be in traditional class, is utilized by students giving presentations for exams. The three large screens high on the wall behind that desk show the instructor in Kahului, the output from the instructor’s computer, and a composite image of the classrooms in Kahului, Lahaina, Hāna, and Lānaʻi.
Managing the classroom setting and supervising the Molokaʻi Education Center’s student workers is Theresa Tamanaha, Distance Education Specialist for UHMC. Her own path as a student is one many will be familiar with: Starting off at UH Mānoa but needing to return home to care for a family member, she put her education on hold for several years. Later, Theresa finished her bachelor’s and went on to complete a master’s via the Distance Learning opportunities UHMC offers on Molokaʻi, which also include cable, online and hybrid classes.
Although Skybridge classes can seem a little intimidating at first—for example, you have to speak through the microphone on the desk when responding to the instructor or taking part in a classroom discussion—they are a very rewarding experience. And, because Skybridge uses a videoconferencing system, individual classrooms can be linked independently from Kahului to form smaller discussion groups or (in my case) to practice pronunciation.
Mahalo nui to all the student workers and staff who make Distance Learning possible, and to the instructors using Skybridge technology who make it fun!