Communication instructor Colby Miyose transitions to online teaching with compassion and empathy

Colby Miyose is approaching the transition to online teaching using the “Three C’s” or three types of communication: consistent, constant, and compassionate.

By Kiaria Zoi Nakamura.

Colby Miyose
Colby Miyose. Courtesy photo.

In moving forward with teaching and adjusting to new practices such as social distancing and quarantining—what many are deeming the “new normal”—communication instructor Colby Miyose first and foremost wants his students to remember that “you can physically be alone, but you should never feel lonely.”

Based on that, the foundation of his new teaching methods goes beyond the virtual classroom by encouraging everyone to reach out to another person daily and to continually create connections with others. He reminds his students that “getting through this is not an individual effort, but it is a community effort.” Perseverance will happen, he says, by showing compassion and empathy to others.

“My priority is the students and my main concern about the conversion [to distance learning] was how would the students be affected not just academically, but their social, emotional, and physical wellbeing as people,” he explains.

Miyose is one of the many educators at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and around the world who have worked hard to make the transition to distance learning a smooth one. His dedication and compassion as a teacher of communication have enabled his students to thrive, even under restrictions about meeting face-to-face.

Born and raised in Hilo, Miyose went to school right across the UH Hilo campus at Waiakea High School. He continued his post-secondary education at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he received his bachelor of arts and master of arts in communication. He then came back home and worked as a lecturer at UH Hilo for a few years after which he decided to pursue a doctorate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While completing that, he remains at UH Hilo as an instructor.

Communicating a new way to learn about communication

When initially notified of the new UH COVID-19 Guidelines that he’d have to implement, Miyose recalls feeling “stressed, confused, and anxious.” But he allowed himself to endure these feelings for only a short while. He snapped out of this initial headspace when he remembered his priority: the students. And then he got to work.

He says in designing the new virtual classroom, he tried to mimic what it would be like to be in-person with his students. The syllabus stayed the same, just the modality was different. He began by taking measures to continue his chosen teaching styles known as “critical pedagogy” and “multimodal teaching.”

“I don’t like to just stand in front of a group of people and talk,” he explains. “I use video clips and arts-based learning such as drawing and painting for students to express their own identities in the concepts that they learn.”

Miyose also notes that he approaches the transition to online learning using what he identifies as the “Three C’s” or three types of communication: consistent, constant, and compassionate.

For example, he found that by continuing to hold class at a consistent time allowed for normalcy within his students’ lives. He also maintains a constant line of communication to remind students of deadlines and important assignments. Through it all he remains compassionate so as to accommodate the needs of every one of his students.

The teaching methods are working. In an anonymous survey that asked students last spring to recognize which educators they felt dealt with the transition to online teaching the best, one student’s comments note that Miyose “swapped to online learning the quickest and was the most prepared.” The student was thankful to Miyose for assigning work in a clear manner with ample time for them to ask questions if they had any.

The student goes on to say that Miyose is “about as accommodating, communicative, and devoted to student learning as can be” and that he “was really helpful during these times and performed amazingly.”

Multimodal teaching

Miyose maintains that not much has changed in terms of the content he’s chosen to explore, but that he has had to get a bit creative to adapt to the heavier reliance on technology. Like many teachers, he finds himself using Zoom but also incorporates other programs such as FlipGrid, Calendly, and GoReact.

He uses FlipGrid to facilitate the feeling of student interaction by posting a prompt to which students can respond and react to one another’s posts, providing feedback to each other digitally. The communication instructor believes this has helped “fill the void of not actually being face-to-face by having these nonverbal and verbal aspects onscreen.”

Calendly permits Miyose’s students to schedule virtual appointments with him. A clever substitution for office hours, Calendly is synched to Miyose’s personal Google and iPhone calendars, sorts through his schedule, and provides students with time slots for them to speak with him.

“My students this semester are using Calendly quite a bit and the cool thing about being online is you don’t have to meet in an office from 2 to 4 PM,” he says. “I’ll try to work around both the student and my availabilities, so if they can only meet at 7 PM, then we’ll meet at 7 PM.”

As a communication instructor, Miyose teaches public speaking and a major component of that course is giving a speech to an audience. While that would seem like an impossible feat under the COVID-19 restrictions, he has found a way around it using the computer program, GoReact.

The program allows students to either record their presentations on a mobile device or through the program itself after which their speeches are uploaded onto a site visible to both the instructor and other students registered for the class. GoReact allows viewers to comment on a video of a speaker and the program automatically logs down the timestamp of the video at which the comment was made. This makes referencing certain aspects of a classmates’ speeches a lot easier.

Tips for colleagues

Miyose says he treats the conversion to online teaching as creating “long-distance relationships.” He says he has grown as an instructor through the experience. “Learned about a bunch of new technology,” he says.

The hardest part for him about the whole thing was figuring out the logistics—he knew what he wanted to do and how, but he needed advice on how to achieve it.

“I went to workshops and talked to the distance learning and IT team at UH Hilo,” he says. “I figured out what was the best and most cost-efficient teaching programs that required no payment on behalf of students.”

He says faculty supporting each other through coalition building is key, the “needing to come together to vent about one another’s struggles to help one another.” He recommends faculty join departmental communities.

“It’s relaxing to know that everyone is facing the same [challenges],” he says. “Talk to colleagues across the state, nation, and world.”


Story by Kiaria Zoi Nakamura, who is earning a bachelor of arts in English with a minor in performing arts and a certificate in educational studies at UH Hilo.