The "Fall In Love With Teaching" edition

Office of Instructional Resources with Valentine's Day hearts

It's my pleasure to announce that the Instructional Design and Access team, which is part of the Media Resources Center, will become the Office of Instructional Resources, or OIR.  The OIR will be a hub of instructional training, resources, and support for anyone with an instructional role at Wichita State. This change recognizes the growing importance of instructional technology and design to Wichita State's success in providing excellent teaching and learning experiences for all during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The work of the OIR will be central to supporting quality instruction to improve student persistence and graduation rates as laid out in our strategic enrollment management (SEM) plan.      

Dr. Carolyn Speer will continue to lead the team as the Director of the OIR. Her team will continue to empower WSU's instructors as we strive to offer top quality teaching across our colleges.  The team will continue to build on their expertise and technical skills,  sharing those skills through training opportunities to all instructors and promoting high quality instruction in all modes.

A key initiative of the Instructional Design and Access team, the Academic Resources Conference, will continue under the OIR, serving as an important professional development opportunity three times/year.  This event has been a critical engine of shared ideas and skill-building, and the pandemic has only made this sort of training resources more critical.

--Dr. Carolyn Shaw, AVP for Strategic Enrollment Management

Introducing Your OIR Staff

We're making changes as we launch the Office of Instructional Resources, but a lot of really important things will not be changing. OIR will be a part of the Media Resources Center, as IDA was, and the team will still be made up of the same high-flying band of passionate, dedicated, and skilled people, and led by now-director, Carolyn Speer.
-John Jones, Director, Media Resources Center
Here's a quick look at the team:
Carolyn Speer, PhD, CPACC

Carolyn has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, working as a faculty member, administrator, and university staff. She began her career as an assistant professor at Friends University, a position she had to leave for a military move. She came to work at the MRC in 2014 and serves as an adjunct instructor in the Political Science and Criminal Justice departments. Her Ph.D. is in Adult and Continuing Education and focused on adult first generation students. She also holds MA's in political science and in history.  Carolyn is the Director of the Office of Instructional Resources.

Frehiwot Wuhib, PhD 

Freh has been dedicated to education since her teenage years. She has taught students from high school to college levels both abroad and here in the United States. Along side her teaching career, she is an advocate for equity in education. She joined the MRC in 2017. She has also served as adjunct Instructor for the School of Education at WSU. She got her PhD in Teaching and Curriculum from Syracuse University in 2017 where she focused on STEM education for underserved populations, and you can read her dissertation here.  Freh is the Senior Instructional Designer and Instructional Design Lead.

John Hammer, MFA

John came to WSU from the private sector as an educational program manager and content developer within the tech-industry. His passion for innovation helped build and maintain learning methodologies and delivery systems for effective and sustainable online learning in the technology, entertainment and design sectors for a global market. His dedication as an educator has been recognized by peers and industry, including the award of Student Choice, Faculty of the Year by the graduating seniors in 2012 at the Art Institute of California. John is currently working on his doctorate in Educational Leadership with a focus on adaptive learning systems for a diverse learner population. John is the Academic Creative Services Lead.

Taylor Moore, MA, PMP

Taylor started her career at Wichita State University as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Criminal Justice where she earned her MA. In 2015, she began at the MRC as an Instructional Designer, later transitioning to the role of Senior Educational Technologist in 2018. Additionally, she serves as an adjunct instructor in Criminal Justice and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through the PMI organization. Taylor is the Senior Educational Technologist and Ed Tech Lead.

Patricia (Mary) Morriss, MA:

Mary has been with the Media Resources Center for 25 years, starting with the telecourse program and moving on to online courses as technologies changed.  Today you know Mary best as the person who helps you with all things Blackboard through Blackboard support cases, phone calls and emails.  She also serves as an adjunct instructor in the Women's Studies and Philosophy departments. Mary has MA's in philosophy and in religions studies and has also done graduate work in communication studies. When she is not working for WSU, she also runs a no-kill animal sanctuary caring for approximately 500 animals.  Mary is WSU's Learning Management System Specialist.

Heather Merchant, MS: 

Heather began her career serving as the HSUS district coordinator for the 4th district of Kansas and after discovering her love for higher ed, joined the MRC in 2018. She earned both her BS in Geology and MS in EEPS (Geology) from WSU. She teaches geology for Wichita State’s Lifelong Learning program and will graduate with her MBA from Wichita State Spring 2021. Heather is WSU's Educational Accessibility Technologist, and while she works for several offices, she calls OIR "home."

Glenn Gunnels, BGS: 
Glenn has served the State of Kansas for over 37 years, working as an employee at the University of Kansas before coming to WSU.  He's worked for the MRC for over 20 years providing technology support for faculty.  In addition to his work for WSU, Glenn has taught workshops in cosmology and mysticism through Wichita Free University.  His interests include classical and Flamenco guitar, art history, and iconography.  Glenn is WSU's Technology and Design Project Coordinator and the "face" of OIR.
Aidan Pulaski

Aidan is a sophomore at WSU. He is a collaborative design major focusing on filmography and audio production and works in Academic Creative Services.

Hello World with Valentine's Day hearts

What Does OIR Do?

The development of the Office of Instructional Resources is a natural progression of the work of Instructional Design and Access.  Nevertheless, the transition provided us an opportunity to stop and think about who we are and what we do for the university. As part of that process, we developed a charter outlining our values, vision, purpose, and core functions.  Over the next year, you will see OIR settle into these new roles as we work to improve our webpages and increase the amount of training we make available to WSU instructors.  All of our efforts will be guided by our core beliefs with the intention of meeting these goals:

  • Maintain and grow expertise in trends in higher education and adult education
  • Maintain and grow expertise in higher education and adult education pedagogy, course design, instructional methods and techniques
  • Create and maintain our own, "home grown," course quality program for WSU instructors to use on a voluntary basis as they see fit
  • Identify, maintain, and support educational technologies
  • Offer regular "live" and "on demand" training for WSU instructors and interested others, both in our own core areas of expertise and in partnership with other offices
  • Bring Shockers and others together to share expertise around these goals 

What to Expect as We Transition

Our immediate goals for OIR include revamping our website so it is easier for instructors to find our trainings.  The training demands caused by the pandemic led us to develop hundreds of webpages with training, but unfortunately the pace of development led us to having a web presence that is in need of better organization (and, frankly, some spell checking!). Over the next few months, we will be updating our training and moving things to a new home under the "OIR" umbrella and away from IDA.  Don't worry! As we move things, we will test links, update short URL's are focus on the usability of our site.  With luck, the only thing faculty will notice is a general improvement in our resources and organization.

In addition to website cleanup, OIR will also be working to prepare the campus for our eventual transition from our current Blackboard Learn online environment to the much improved and streamlined Blackboard Ultra environment. This will be a gradual process as well, and we will provide support and training all along the way. 

Finally, another big early task for our office will be the development of a "home grown" course quality program. This program will replace the Quality Matters program with something that is more flexible and better-suited to courses here on our own campus.  Like with QM certification, our new quality program will be entirely optional for interested faculty.

Teach with decorative Valentine's Day Hearts

Thinking about Metacognition

As a part of ARC21Jan, Dr. Moriah Beck spoke on her efforts to improve student learning through training around metacognition. She was inspired to try this technique after reading the book Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation by Saundra Yancy McGuire, and thanks to the efforts of the great people at University Libraries, you can now get the book electronically. You can also view Dr. Beck's ARC21Jan session here:

Blackboard with decorative valentine's day hearts

Why Do Things Change So Much?

From time-to-time we receive the general complaint that things like Blackboard and other educational technologies "change too much" from semester-to-semester. Why, the complaint goes, does WSU change things around all the time? 

Sadly, the answer is that we are actually not in control of the pace of change in educational technologies. Technology itself is simply evolving very, very rapidly.  All we can do is to work to keep up.  We are empathetic to the pain that this pace of change causes on our campus, and we try to insulate folks from the worst of it by providing as much notice and training as we can. We are open to hearing suggestions about how we can improve in these efforts, so please let us know your ideas by sending an email to

Blackboard Ultra is Coming Soon

Speaking of change, starting with the major Blackboard upgrade we went through in late December, Wichita State has begun the very slow and deliberate process of moving from our current Blackboard Learn environment to the much-improved Blackboard Ultra environment. Our first big change that people will notice will come in late May as we change the look and feel of our Blackboard landing and course pages.  After that, interested faculty will be able to choose to use the old Blackboard Learn interface for their materials or transition to the new Blackboard Ultra area.  These will coexist for well over a year before we all move to Ultra permanently, so there will be lots of time to see the new area, get trained, and to transition your classes. Our current target is to have all classes in Ultra by December 31, 2022. 

Be and Ultra Pilot Pilot Participant

Those people who would like to take their time learning about Ultra will have that opportunity, but what if you are an "early adopter" and want to get started right away?  Well, for those interested few, we are offering an "Ultra Pilot Pilot" program. Simply put, we will provide Ultra accounts in our "Test" environment for any instructor (of any rank) who would like to play around in Ultra in advance of our official piloting of the system in the fall term of 2021.  Yes, this is a pilot before the pilot... or the "Pilot Pilot" program! If you are interested and would like to get an account in our test environment, send a request to We ask that anyone who participates in the Pilot Pilot also be sure to join our Facebook group too, as that is where we hope to share a lot of information about Ultra with each other and with the larger university community.

Library with decorative Valentine's Day hearts

Learning to Love Online Teaching Too

One year ago, many faculty were "forced" into online teaching as an emergency response (remember how shocking this page looked last year?). Now, one year in, we still have the emergency, but we also have more time to reflect and plan.  Teaching remotely has many new things to learn, and can lead to even more ways to appreciate how developing the craft of teaching is a rewarding, lifetime goal. Your University Libraries are here to help you find the resources you need to grow in your mastery and love of online teaching.  To get started, check out this Libguide for teaching online and then have a look through this OneSearch listing of recent online pedagogy resources available full text/online. Maria Sclafani, Coordinator of Library Instructional Services also recommends several Chronicle of Higher Education articles such as How to Recover the Joy of Teaching After an Online Pivot and 8 Strategies to Prevent teaching Burnout.

First Year Seminar with valentines day hearts

First Year Students are a Joy

From Aaron Rife, First Year Seminar Facutly Coordinator:

Whether we call them “freshmen” or “first-year students,” every year we receive a cohort of new students at WSU, which is just fantastic (and kinda the point of our existence, right?!).  I would like to briefly highlight a few joys inherit in teaching students who are new to university.  I have had the opportunity to teach a class for first-year students (First-Year Seminar plug here!) over the last five years; here is what I have noticed:

  • New students are overwhelmingly excited to learn. Sure, not everyone, I am realistic!  But let us remember that students are choosing to come to our university, they want to be here.  (I was a high school teacher for seven years, teaching college freshmen is not the same as teaching captive high schoolers, so let us drop that canard.)  New students at WSU have continually proven to be intellectually curious and have often surprised me with their willingness to tackle difficult material.
  • New students work hard. Again, sure, some students work harder than others, absolutely.  Honestly, the juniors and seniors in my other courses are hard workers too.  My favorite thing about Wichita State is that I get to work with and teach highly motivated students who in many cases are working their way through an education and/or are the first people in their family to go to college.  I very much appreciate how I can throw (with support!) challenging material at my students, and they will handle it and grow in their ability and knowledge.
  • There are no stigmas for new students not knowing how to do something. I spend a good chunk of time in my FYS course teaching students how to navigate electronic databases, find peer-reviewed sources of information, then consolidate those sources to make an informed argument about a topic.  For the most part students do not know how to cite, how to write a bibliography using APA or Chicago formatting (sorry MLA, I have beef with you); they struggle knowing when to paraphrase and when to quote.  Which is great, because I get to help them, with no guilt or embarrassment.  Sometimes, we teach students who do not demonstrate the skills they need to do well in our classes. With first-year students, we get to introduce skills and provide foundations to build on throughout their college careers, without students feeling shamed for not knowing how to do something.
  • New students do not work the system. Again, sure, some students do.  But by and large, first-year students do not know the system and they have not picked up manipulative habits, such as the infamous dead grandmother/large exam correlation.

The general theme here is that new students are special, in part because they are new!  With support and encouragement from those of us who teach, new students gain skills, knowledge, and even passion for a field of study.  And that is a pretty great thing to get to be a part of. If you are interested in resources available on our campus and aimed at helping new students become successful at WSU, whether you teach a First-Year Seminar or not, check us out online.

Faculty Advancement with valentine's day hearts

Come Chat With Friends

Do you miss chatting with your colleagues in the hallways? Do you miss hanging out with peers at Shocker Hall?  Gery Markova, Director of Faculty Advancement, has just the thing for you! Every Thursday at 11:00am starting February 18, she is hosting "Teaching Talks on Thursdays," a virtual get-together where you can ask questions, tell stories, and have some time with your friends and peers. So, "save the date" and the Zoom link and plan to drop in on Thursdays!

Microsoft with valentines day hearts

Put a Bird (or a heart?) on It!

Looking for a emoji to send someone on Valentine’s Day?  Use the command Windows key + ; to reveal a list of emojis on your Windows machines... On your Mac, use Ctrl + Command + Space. Try this in your favorite applications. This trick will work almost anywhere you can enter text (including the Blackboard text editor!).  💕🦉💖