How Far We've Come!


Register for the OLC Innovate Conference

It's been quite a year, and to thank WSU instructors and staff for all their hard work, the Office of Instructional Resources has purchased an institution-wide pass to the Online Learning Consortium's Innovate conference.  OLC Innovate takes place online throughout the week of March 15-19, 2020, and sessions will be recorded and available later to all people who register. So even if you think you don't have time right now, you should register to take advantage of sessions later. Registration is fast and easy, and you can register here. Here is a link to the schedule, and we can also recommend you check out these "conference maps" by topic/interest area:

OAT Summer Grant Applications DUE!

The Open/Alternative Textbook (OAT) initiative is designed to promote, incentivize, and grow the use of freely available resources in Wichita State classes to reduce the economic impact of textbook costs on the student body.

The OAT Grant Program provides $2,000-5,000 grants to faculty who apply for the grant to redesign a course with no-cost resources, or to write or contribute to an open educational resource, or other alternative text that can be provided to the students free of charge. These grants are funded by SEM and the course fees.

KBOR is offering Open Educational Resource workshops on March 12, 23, April 1, and April 14. Register here.  And Wichita State Summer OAT Grant applications due Monday, April 12.


Time to Revisit Your Computer Security

Last year at about this time, IDA, ITS, and all other support offices were fielding complaints from instructors about lagging video, slow upload times, and other home network issues. We responded with a special edition of this newsletter called, "Security Extra."  In it, we explain why home networks can be a problem and we went on to give you advice from across campus on how to ensure the security of your computer, network, and data while you work from home. I recently reviewed that issue and found that it's still very relevant today. Have a look back and make sure you are protecting yourself and your data!


Call for Presentations for ARC21May and Aug

The Academic Resources Conference is what I like to call a "stone soup event." OIR provides the stone, the pot, and the water, but our campus and regional partners provide much of the food for thought. This year we will have a week of events May 17-21 and another week August 9-13. We are currently seeking presentation ideas for both weeks. If you are interested in presenting at the ARC, please fill out this application form.

For FunUse Snagit to Make You Own Gifs!

Wichita State makes the screen capture software Snagit available to all employees. It's a great and easy-to-use program, and we here in OIR can't go a day without using it. But I had no idea it could make GIFs! Would you like to learn how? So would we! We will be attending the OLC Innovate session "A GIF is Worth a Thousand Pictures" on Monday March 15, 2:00-2:45pm. I hope you will come too, and we can all learn together. Remember, registration is required for the conference, but it is free to all WSU employees (that's faculty, GTAs, adjuncts, and staff!), so get registered and let's make some cool GIFs.

Take it Outside!

Are spring days calling to you and your students? Maybe it's time to explore holding your class outside. Starting the week of March 22, you will be able to use one of six outdoor classroom spaces for your class. Reservations are required, though, so make sure you fill out this form with your requests. Please limit yourself to no more than two reservations at a time. You can find outdoor classrooms at the following spots:

  • Morrison Hall West Lawn
  • McKinley Hall West Lawn
  • Lawn between Engineering and Alberg
  • Hubbard Hall East Lawn
  • Wallace Hall West Courtyard
  • Corbin Hall Rooftop

Everyday CopingBurned Out by the Pandemic? 

Are you over all this? Feeling a little "done" lately? Perhaps the OLC Innovate session "I'm Stressed, Fatigued, and Burned Out: Self Care for Pandemic-Induced Online Instructors," would be just the thing to help you out. The session is Tuesday March 16 from 9:00-9:45 am., and is led by Tina Rettler-Pagel of Madison College. Of course, you'll need to register for the conference first, and yes, it's free!


Biology Dept Hosts Inclusion Speaker

In February, the Biology Department hosted Dr. Corrie Moreau for a discussion about the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the sciences. Dr. Moreau is a professor of arthropod biosystematics and biodiversity at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She was highlighted as a Woman of Impact by the National Geographic Society in 2018.  In addition, two species have been named in her honor. In addition to her passion for scientific research, Dr. Moreau is also engaged with efforts to promote science communication and increase diversity in the sciences. If you missed her talk, don't despair, because we have a recorded version below:

Improve Equity in Online Courses

Kevin Kelly, San Francisco University professor in the Equity, Leadership Studies, and Instructional Technologies department will be giving the OLC Innovate keynote presentation "Creating Equity-Based Digital Learning Environments" online on March 15 12:30-1:45. Registration for the conference is free to you.


Quick Reminder: Ultra is Coming!

Major changes are coming to how our Blackboard landing and login pages look. We will implement those changes right after Spring term ends, probably on Friday March 14.  After that, piloting for Ultra classes can begin for Summer and Fall terms. Interested in being part of those pilots? Contact us at, and we'll get you an account in the Test environment now, so you can begin playing around. There is training and a robust peer network available to our "piloteers"! Not an early adopter? Don't worry, the change to Blackboard Ultra will take time, and you will have much of 2022 to complete your courses' transition.

Around Campus

Does Your Master Classroom Have a New Camera?

Thanks to federal COVID-19 funding, many master classrooms have been upgraded with cameras and other functionality to make it possible to broadcast lectures from those classrooms to overflow rooms or participants at home.

The feed from those cameras can be viewed and in limited ways controlled remotely by Campus Media Services staff. This use is limited to service to the classroom technology. The network feed doesn’t include the audio from the room, and it is not used to monitor anything in the room except the performance of the equipment, and to help staff back in the Campus Media Services office to do some support and troubleshooting remotely.

If you would like to read more, we have a webpage for that!

GTA Corner

Remind Grad Students of LinkedIn Benefit

All WSU employees can access LinkedIn Learning courses for free, and that includes, of course graduate students, whether they are GTAs or not. There are over 16,000 online courses available in LinedIn Learning, and the platform is very easy to use an intuitive. Please let your graduate students and GTAs know about this benefit. All the information they need can be found online here.


Using Breakout Rooms in Teams

Stop for a moment and cast your mind back one year.  Imagine what you would have thought if I had told you this:  "Microsoft Teams now has breakout rooms."

I'm sure for most readers that sentence would have been unintelligible.  What is "Microsoft Teams"? Why would I need "breakout rooms"?  But today things are different. We have all had a year of Zoom and Teams meetings, and one thing that stood out about the Teams meetings all along was the lack of breakout rooms. Well, guess what? Microsoft Teams now has breakout rooms!  Yay!

To learn more about this feature and how to use it, please check out Ali Levine's short article. And if you are all about the Teams these days, make sure to check out the Teams Hub.

First Year Seminar

Aaron Rife Muses on How Far FYS Has Come

The story of our First-Year Seminar starts with a discussion of the university’s previous student-success course for freshmen, WSU 101.  After much discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of the 101, faculty and administration began to look at a new instructional model for WSU, one that combines student success, general education outcomes, and allows instructors to teach specialized material that meshes with their own academic interests and knowledge.  One thing led to another, and during the 2014-2015 academic year, WSU’s General Education committee proposed our own first-year seminar program.  Aimed at students who were new to a university and to WSU, the seminar would combine the expertise and curricular interest of faculty across WSU with student success material, teaching new students how to take advantage of the many resources our campus provides.

Wichita State’s FYS program piloted in the fall of 2016 with 11 courses taught by 12 different instructors.  As of today, we have 55 separate courses with others on the way.  Students can learn fields like business, chemistry, environmental geology, history, music, philosophy, sociology, and technology while ostensibly learning about comedy, comic books, food, Harry Potter, Rock n Roll, and Sherlock Holmes.  Additionally, students get to make contacts with vital WSU staff, such as the Career Development Center, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Student Success, and the WSU Libraries.

The program so far has shown success and promise.  Student satisfaction with FYS courses has been relatively high in the last five years, and FYS team members have largely reported teaching an FYS course was a valuable experience.  First-year students who took an FYS course have had higher persistence rates than their counterparts at WSU, which is pretty darn great.

Which leads us to the future.  In the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022, all incoming new-to-university first-year students will take a first-year seminar.  This is an enormous undertaking at Wichita State, one that has involved almost every college on campus (just missing one!), the fantastic folk at OneStop Advising (shout out to Lisa Hansen and team), our amazing WSU librarians (looking at you, Maria Sclafani), on top of dedicated and thoughtful faculty, instructors, and staff across our varied departments for making this a reality.  There is a lot left to do, but our next cohort of students are going to have an opportunity to learn interesting, interdisciplinary concepts while getting a little extra preparation for their undergraduate career.  If you want to learn more, check us out online.