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Interview: Dorothy Hirata, Distance Learning Manager, Kamehameha Schools

Dorothy Hirata, Virtual Strategies & Distance Learning Manager at Kamehameha Schools joins us today to discuss distance education.

Tell us about the distance learning programs offered at Kamehameha Schools.

At Kamehameha Schools (KS), we offer a variety of distance learning programs.

They include: 1) A���o Makua Distance Learning Program servicing parents/caregivers of learners in KS programs, KS alumni and other adults who want to learn more about Hawaiian history, language and culture, 2) ���Ike Hawai���i Distance Learning Program servicing high school students interested in learning more about topics related to Hawaiian culture, history and literature, 3) Online Instructor Training Institute servicing educators interested in learning more about integration of technology and becoming distance learning instructors, 4) Archived, self-paced programs that are available via streaming video to learn the Hawaiian language, music and other discussion forum topics about education (Kulaiwi, Nahenahe and ���Ike Pono programs). For more detailed information, please click here.

What is the typical duration of each of your programs?

The duration of each distance learning program offered varies. The A���o Makua Distance Learning Program offers online course ranging between 3-4 weeks, while the ���Ike Hawai���i Distance Learning Program offers semester long courses. The Online Instructor Training Institute is a year-long program and the archived programs normally consist of 45 minutes to 1 hour long video segment for each lesson.

What would you say makes Kamehameha Schools programs different and better than other comparable online programs?

I think our Kamehameha Schools distance learning programs are unique because we focus specifically on topics related to the Hawaiian culture. Blending Hawaiian culture and technology is a challenge for us because there is a need to honor cultural traditions, while moving our learners forward with 21st century technology. Finding the balance is key. During the development and facilitation process, our team strives to address diverse learners at a distance, such as integration of multiple intelligence activities and implementation of project-based, authentic assessments.

In addition, our staff recognizes the significance of providing hands-on learning experiences to accompany the knowledge gained in a distance learning environment. As a result, a huaka'i (field trip) component was developed for our high school program for students to experience and bridge their knowledge with the physical experience of visiting cultural sites once a semester. Throughout the semester, we also strive to connect with parents and involve the entire ���ohana (family) because family values in the Hawaiian culture is very important. Activities within our online courses are designed to have students interact with their ���ohana members, which may include talking story with their parents and grandparents to learn about their mo'olelo (stories) of their ancestors.

There is some debate as to whether or not online degrees are as worthwhile as traditional degrees. What steps does Kamehameha Schools take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom?

At Kamehameha Schools, all of our Online Instructor Training Institute classes for educators are aligned to National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) and our ���Ike Hawai���i courses for high school students are aligned to national standards. One of the benefits in distance learning is the ability for an instructor to differentiate learning and provide individualized assistance to students. Since all students come in at varied background and levels, instructors have the advantage of providing a self-paced learning environment while coaching students to success. From my observations, our distance learning instructors develop much closer relationships with their students, allowing students to receive the same education or better in a distance learning environment.

If a student enrolled in one of your programs was interested in finding an internship in their field in their area, do you have any means of assisting them in acquiring an internship position?

Our distance learning programs are fairly new and we have not had a chance to develop an internship program matching learners to their field of interest.

Does Kamehameha Schools offer any job placement services to your students and graduates?

In our distance learning branch, we currently do not offer any type of job placement services to our students and graduates.

Is financial aid available to students in your programs?

Our programs currently do not charge tuition. We do charge a minimal fee, which covers the course materials for each course. For those who are in need of financial assistance to cover course fees, learners can request a fee waiver form.

Do you have any advice for students enrolling in online classes for the first time?

For students enrolling in online classes for the first time, I would encourage them to get to know their instructors and classmates and not be afraid to ask questions at anytime. When I am teaching a distance learning course, I personally enjoy receiving email and communication from my students.

What do you enjoy most about your position at Kamehameha Schools?

My passion is distance learning, so I enjoy being able to work in the field that I am interested in while being able to contribute to Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop's legacy.

To Request more information about the distance learning programs available through Kamehameha Schools, Go here to visit them online.

Thank you Dorothy, for sharing and participating in this piece for Online Degrees 2.0

That concludes our interview!

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