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Wichita State Expands Blackboard Work To Create One-Stop Shop for Student Services

Wichita State University has begun expanding its adoption of Blackboard products and services to provide better support for students, faculty and staff and put in place "the necessary infrastructure" for enrollment growth and support of accreditation activities.

The work ties into a goal expressed in the university's 2013 strategic plan to "capitalize systemically on relevant existing and emerging societal and economic trends that increase quality educational opportunities." The goal encompasses "review of over and undersubscribed programs," "reallocation of funds," "new ways of delivering education" and "new infrastructure."

Ultimately, the work with Blackboard is intended to support a new "one-stop shop" for student services. In a prepared statement, the company said that the various projects underway would lead to a "single, virtual system" for managing student applications, enrollment, registration, academic advising, financial aid and student accounts.

"This is about giving students the help they need, when they need," said Anthony Vizzini, vice president for academic affairs and head of the division that will be responsible for the one-stop system. "It is a proactive approach to helping students be successful and keeping them on the on the path to completion."

Wichita State reported that Blackboard is accessed as much as 450,000 times on a given day during a semester by 1,200 instructors and 14,000 students.

The expansion began in November 2013 when the Kansas university adopted Blackboard's Mobile Learn, which allows users to access certain Blackboard Learn features on mobile devices. Students can use an app to access grades, handouts and assignments; instructors can use it to interact with students and access and update much of their course content

At the beginning of 2014, to address the evolving requirements of the Blackboard initiative, the institution's Instructional Design & Technology department shifted its focus from being an "e-learning helpdesk" to a bigger emphasis on course building and faculty development. Now phone and chat support for users is provided by Blackboard itself.

The newly revamped university department intends to introduce new forms of faculty development, including online synchronous and live sessions, training on course quality and sessions on accreditation.

The university also moved to hosted versions of the company's learning management software and adopted Blackboard's Collaborate Web conferencing service and instant messaging application.

In February the university tested integration between Blackboard and Ellucian Banner, its student information system. This month two new features are being rolled out: virtual offices will be generated for all employees to support Collaborate or Web conference sessions; and all colleges, departments and programs will be able to enroll employees and students automatically in their organizations.

Over the summer Wichita State anticipates deploying Blackboard Analytics with reporting and dashboards.

Through the various stages of the implementation the university has set up teams to work with campus constituents, including one for 24/7 support, another for managed hosting and Web conferencing. Eventually, new teams will be set up to address analytics and the virtual campus.

More information about the deployment is available on a "Blackboard Planning" site.

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