UH Hilo ​Strategic ​Planning​ Listening Tour: Bridging barriers and expanding access through distance learning

Distance learning provides access to students who are constrained by diverse factors that prevent their participation as on-campus students. DL also provides faculty access to teach from a distant location.

By Kathleen Baumgardner

This story is the third in a series on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo Strategic Planning Listening Tour. UH Hilo is in the planning stage of a new Strategic Plan. The process is being guided by Kathleen Baumgardner, strategic planning project manager, who started her appointment at UH Hilo on Oct. 1, 2018. Currently, a listening tour, a series of conversations with faculty, staff, students, alumni, community members and business partners, is being conducted.​ During one of the planning meetings for distance learning, the topic of innovative methods and unconventional online courses led to a discussion with Christine Waters-Banker, PhD, ATC, from the Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Science.

Christine Waters-Banker
Christine Waters-Banker

In the fall of 2017, when Adjunct Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Exercise Science Christine Waters-Banker graded her first test in a class dedicated to the care and prevention of athletic injuries, she quickly realized the students weren’t doing as well as she’d planned. She began analyzing the problem by looking at the test questions most missed. She looked at data on Laulima, the university’s online learning and collaboration system, to determine if students were dedicating the time needed to succeed.

She also worked collaboratively with her students to find a solution and explained that a grade of C was given for showing up and doing solid work, and As and Bs were given to students who went above and beyond.

Harald Barkhoff
Harald Barkhoff

But most importantly, she took the advice of Harald Barkhoff, professor and chair of the KES department, when he suggested that she would learn a great deal by asking her students to write about themselves and their experiences with the course.

Today, Chris asks all her students to journal. The reflections of her students are invaluable and reveal their unique situations.

Chris found that she has many more nontraditional students in her classes at UH Hilo than she ever experienced at University of Kentucky or University of Calgary. Her UH Hilo students are supporting families. They are athletes with extensive travel schedules. They hail from neighbor islands and have dreams of completing their degrees in order to make a difference in their communities.

Many of her students are the first to attend college. Some are working as personal trainers and are interested in pursuing physical therapy. Chris gets to know each student and has even scheduled a final around a student’s due date.

Now Chris sees her role as one who bridges barriers, expands access, and challenges her students to succeed.

Access through distance learning

A keyboard with a purple key labeled Distance Learning.
Photo Marina Shemesh via flickr.

In the 2007-2008 academic year, 1,134 students registered for online classes in the University of Hawai‘i System. In 2017-2018, there were 4,538 registrants. Distance learning serves students who are committed to higher education but are constrained by diverse factors that prevent their participation as on-campus students. Distance learning also opens up opportunities for faculty members and clinicians like Chris Waters-Banker to teach UH Hilo students while bridging barriers and expanding access.

Chris began her career teaching on the UH Hilo campus, but is now living in Calgary, Canada, and teaches three UH Hilo KES classes from a distance. This is not a typical scenario, but Chris is a key member of the KES department—she is a board certified clinician and is involved in the restructuring of the program. Cindy Yamaguchi, a UH Hilo online teaching and learning specialist, points to the innovative nature of Chris’s KES courses and the value provided to distance students. The need for Chris to stay connected with students is critical.

When asked what she has learned from teaching classes at a distance, Chris says, “I have to keep digging for feedback and I build it into assignments with entry and exit surveys and journal entries. I need to keep evolving with the students, so I know if they are getting what they need.”

As a clinician, Chris uses case studies, a laboratory manual, and video to reach her students. She developed a series of videos, including demonstrations of practical injury care applications, as well as videos about the many professions students might pursue.

She gives students timed online quizzes in order to access their decision-making abilities. She hosts online question and answer sessions. Chris credits Cindy with opening her eyes to new tools that impact her students like the use of a values inventory, so they might set personal goals with purpose.

Chris’s online classes fill to capacity each semester with a cap at 20 students. In addition to typical assignments, her students also complete group projects using Laulima and message boards. Each group selects a project manager, sets timelines and goals, and completes research, writing assignments, and presentations.

Because of prior class work to identify each student’s individual strengths, they are able to build effective teams. One class is currently completing group projects to design infographics for an injury of their choice. The project requires them to incorporate statistics and anatomical information, while targeting a lay audience. According to Chris, once relationships are built, and with a bit of guidance, the students come alive.

Redefining the KES program

Faculty members of the Department of Kinesiology and Exercise Science, including Chris, have been working together to develop and redefine the program structure. Classes are being reordered and renumbered so that the sequencing is more effective. Several of the courses that Chris teaches are experimental, such as KES 394.This professional development class delves into potential professions, and how to complete informational interviews, professional resumes, and build strong applications for graduate school.

The strategic planning process

This story was uncovered during a Listening Tour session designed to invite participants to create the future they want by building on the best of the past. Stories like this help inform the strategic planning process and serve as evidence of UH Hilo’s purpose, aspirations, and what the university community sees as its values and mission.

Members of the UH Hilo community are encouraged to participate in the strategic planning process. One way to provide input is by answering the “Question of the Month,” found on the UH Hilo Strategic Planning website. This will help inform the strategic planning process.


Kathleen Baumgardner
Kathleen Baumgardner

Prior to coming to UH Hilo to manage the strategic planning process, Kathleen Baumgardner co-founded and operated a nonprofit organization, a donation-only farm-to-fork restaurant that has served nearly 90,000 meals. In addition to nonprofit strategic planning, she served as the director of strategic communications for Colorado State University’s College of Engineering. She worked on two strategic plans at Colorado State and another while serving as the Director of Communications at Knox College in Illinois. In addition to these planning efforts, she has focused on branding activities and communication strategies to actively support strategic goals and initiatives.

Also in this series:



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