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Portal use picks up quickly

Day-to-day use of myWSU, Washington State University’s portal, has rocketed since its launch in January, with faculty, staff and students using it to conduct key communications and business. In short, myWSU has proven to be an easy and effective tool for contacting and informing groups of students, accessing e-mail when out of the office or town, and conducting a variety of business. As a result, the number of users is expected to continue growing rapidly.

Financial aid a recent user

Individual instructors and administrative units are among the driving forces behind the growth in myWSU use, as is the portal’s Web mail feature.

Most recently, the Office of Student Financial Aid used the portal to mail notices to 9,000 students about their 2004-2005 financial aid status and directed students who had incomplete financial aid information to myWSU to complete their applications. The office ultimately hopes to create a seamless procedure for students working through the financial aid process by integrating their online applications with Web-based loan processing from third-party agencies.

“The portal is an increasingly important tool in day-to-day university life,” said Nils Peterson, myWSU project manager. “This is a perfect example of that. It would not surprise me if we reached 10,000 users by graduation.” MyWSU will have assisted 40 percent of the 25,000 current students, faculty and staff if that goal is reached.

The Office of Financial Aid was the second unit to make a large-scale commitment to myWSU as a key communication mechanism. The Student Advising and Learning Center earlier announced its intention to stop delivering official notices via U.S. mail beginning in the fall semester. By then, thousands of students will be affected when all of SALC’s notices are sent through the portal. SALC also is exploring other ways to integrate myWSU.

Partners use portal for survey

Collaborating staff in the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology and the General Education Program are using myWSU to help them contact and survey current junior and senior students who took GenEd 110 and 111 — two world civilizations courses required for graduation. Survey results will help staff determine whether these courses are achieving their goals and how they might be improved.

“A portal notice seemed to us the efficient way of getting the information to the student body in question and obtaining their views in an efficient manner,” said Richard Law, director of General Education.

A number of other units have used myWSU for other purposes. The Murrow School of Communication is utilizing the portal to communicate with students about advising, certification status and registration in restricted courses.

Campus Involvement uses the portal to alert students of leadership opportunities and campus activities.

“Since using myWSU is free, it is a great way to reach students through an additional venue,” said Kelly Brantner, director of communications and special events for Campus Involvement. “I believe we will become increasingly dependant on myWSU as more students use the portal on a consistent basis.”

Faculty communication aid

A new feature on myWSU allows senders to easily target their notices to specified lists of individual recipients. Originally, such lists could only be created by entering individual Network IDs into the notice form for one-time use. Now senders can create lists of Network IDs, save the lists in a text file on their own computer and target the notice to that list via file upload.

Faculty and staff have been the catalysts for many student visits to myWSU. As of March 1, 28 faculty in 35 classes had posted class links in the portal, including all students enrolled in Management Information Systems 250.

In addition, students in 550 classes access myWSU to link to other course-related sites. Distance Degree Programs allows DDP students to link onto myDDP from myWSU, and the libraries recently added a link for materials that faculty have put on electronic reserves.

A great traveling tool

Faculty and staff have found myWSU’s Web mail service to be especially useful when traveling on business or working from home. More than 4,200 users have accessed this feature.

John Webb, assistant director of digital services and collections for WSU Libraries, uses Web mail to access his messages nearly every evening and weekend from home. He said he appreciates the convenience of being able to access his e-mail from any computer that has an Internet connection and a Web browser.

“If I am at a meeting and computers are provided for the use of participants, not all of them have a secure Telnet program,” he said. “The Web mail requires only a Web browser, and that is what the network is all about these days.”

Marguerite Rose, editor and Web manager for DDP, also relies on myWSU’s Web mail. She is in Can Tho, Vietnam, this semester working part-time with DDP. Rose said, “The idea of being able to access my e-mail through the Web anywhere there’s a machine with a browser and Internet connection is great.”

All WSU students, faculty and staff who have not yet set up their portal accounts are encouraged to do so. Choosing specific subscriptions in their accounts allows users to receive information pertinent to their positions at the university. MyWSU can be accessed at http://my.wsu.edu.

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