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UH Hilo Adjusting to Distance Learning and More

Bonnie Irwin

Education has shifted to the phrase "distance learning" — and that's true at every level — including for college students. But that's just one of the adjustments that has taken place at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Bonnie Irwin is the chancellor at University of Hawaii at Hilo.  Normally, campus is bustling, with around 33 hundred students and 250 full time faculty, plus 600 support staff.  Like the other UH campuses, all classes are now online. But campus is not deserted.

"We still have just over 200 students living in our residence halls. For some of those students it's actually a better place for them to be than at their homes because of the spread of the virus. We have to have support people in place to support those students.  Other offices, most of them are on a rotational basis."

Irwin says there have been challenges in the new online learning model for both students and faculty.

"We spent a lot of time during spring break putting together a training program, resources for faculty.  Faculty are stepping up to help each other. Not to say that people still aren't struggling. We are keeping our library open for students and faculty only so both our students in residence and our local students have a place to come to use the wifi and use computers. We have students who don't have internet access at home. "

UH campuses have been trying to increase enrollment, and the COVID-19 crisis may influence the future decisions of students and their parents.

"We 're actually hoping a lot of our Hawaii resident students think seriously about UH so they can stay closer to home."

Irwin says she and her team are planning for fall, for both online classes and ways students can still be involved on campus with whatever constraints exist.

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