Joshua Bateman appreciates the in-person feel of his online class.
“Without her instruction in the SOS, this class would be much more difficult,” said Bateman, a Marketing major who spoke of Katie Landgraf’s intermediate financial accounting course at the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu.
The “SOS” Bateman is referring to is UH West Oʻahu’s new Synchronous Online Studio, the result of an effort to provide positive learning experiences in the shift to online instruction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accounting Professor Franklin T. Kudo and Landgraf, Assistant Professor in Accounting, came up with the idea for the SOS during the summer, and created it with the help of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Information Technology Director Therese Nakadomari.
“We both not only enjoy in-person classes, but felt we needed to do more to engage and motivate our online students,” Kudo said.
Located in the Administration and Health Sciences Building in room A-221, the SOS is designed for IT-assisted broadcasting. The studio has lighting and a camera manned by an IT technician, who can record faculty as they move around the room and who can also adjust sound levels as needed.
“This room is for those who like to walk around when they teach or need to use whiteboards because they have around 16 feet of whiteboard space,” Nakadomari said. She added that there is a side whiteboard with a Kaptivo, a whiteboard capture device that allows faculty to record what they write on the board and save for their class.
The room also includes a large, 75-inch monitor, so faculty can see their students while they teach.
“The SOS room gives me the emotional high of teaching an in-person class,” Kudo said. “During this period of time instructors need to be motivated as well.”
Landgraf added, “I miss being in the classroom, so this studio really gives me and the students the in-person feel we all long for.”
Within difficult courses, students need to engage with other students to see that they are not the only ones struggling, and they also need to surround themselves with a support system, Landgraf emphasized.
“This room allows us to ask questions and watch while students process the material as we go along,” she said. “Without the live feature, I would move to the next topic without knowing if they really grasp the concept.”
Julie Treece, another student of Landgraf’s intermediate financial accounting course, said her learning experience from Landgraf’s synchronous class taught from the SOS is rewarding because it adds dialogue to the content they are learning.
“Each student has a different background and knowledge on the subject of accounting and they ask intelligent questions that the professor can expand on,” said Treece, who is majoring in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting and Finance. “The interaction and questioning environment is important for students because it widens our scope of knowledge and is not subjected to just the text.”
Landgraf added that while she misses face-to-face contact with students via in-person classes, one thing the Synchronous Online Studio has provided that face-to-face instruction cannot is the ability to see what students are surrounded by while they are learning at home.
“I see parents with children. I see siblings with headphones. I see the insides of vehicles as an escape. And I see basement walls in the background,” Landgraf said. “Students are jumping through so many distractions and challenges of life, but are still working hard and pushing forward. This reminds me of how determined and unstoppable our students are, even in the most challenging of times.”
Both Kudo and Landgraf recently surveyed their accounting students regarding their learning experience with the synchronous course lectures taught from the SOS.
“From what I gathered from the data, the majority of students — meaning those who strongly agree and agree — ‘learned more’, are ‘more engaged,’ ‘more motivated,’ and ‘increased their desire to continue their education with UH West Oʻahu’ because of this synchronous environment,” said Landgraf, citing the survey results.
Among those engaged and motivated students was Bateman.
“I can say that Katie’s class has been one of the best I’ve had at UH West Oʻahu, online or in person,” Bateman said.
In addition to the SOS, there is a second studio designed for instructor-driven broadcasting, Nakadomari noted. The room, in A-223, has a Meeting Owl Pro (a 360-degree smart conferencing camera) so faculty can broadcast their class, as well as a whiteboard with a Kaptivo.
The UH West Oʻahu IT Help Desk handles reservations for the two rooms on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations can be made through the web form at https://westoahu.hawaii.edu/it/request-help/.