Thursday, August 25, 2011

One-credit seminars set for October

Jerry PetersonOne-credit in-person seminars are a good way to advance toward your degree.

WSU Online is holding October seminars in Everett, Spokane and Wenatchee.

Snacks will be provided and some of our academic consultants will be there to answer questions and offer advising sessions.

Go to the events page for more information.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nation agog as cutest baby gets cuter

IMG_6280It’s been nearly a year since we checked in on the cutest baby ever in the whole wide world.

Talia is the daughter of WSU Online Academic Consultant Thomas Wilson and wife, Naomi.

Talia was born in July 2010, and is now 13 months old.

“She’s growing like a weed,” reports Thomas.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grad earns master’s, ‘just getting started’

heidi hiatt     At WSU Online, graduates sometimes stay in touch with their advisors for years. We always enjoy hearing where their degree has taken them.
     Heidi Hiatt wrote us last September to describe her grad school studies in forensic psychology. This week, she wrote again to tell us she not only finished her master’s, she also graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. Congratulations, Heidi!
     Heidi’s favorite course was criminal profiling—“it’s like tantalizing dark chocolate for the brain”—and her career plans include working with crime and domestic violence victims. But her immediate plans include a month off to spend time with family before making any big decisions.
     “There are a lot of things I’d like to do in this field and I no longer have one specific goal in mind,” she said. “I would really like to continue on to a doctorate or law school. I definitely don’t feel done yet. I feel like I’m just getting started.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A new topography of knowledge

Richard RuppRichard Rupp, above, in a video from the new course.

     Most maps have two dimensions. Very few have three. Geographic Information Systems creates maps with a fourth dimension, a new topography of digital information.
     GIS works like this. Data is collected about anything that can be measured or calculated: Income levels, waterDSC_8486 pipes, traffic, soil composition, animal habitat, the widgets in a warehouse, the locations of people trapped in quake-crushed buildings. The data can come from traditional sources, such as a census, or from satellite photos and planes that use lasers to create 3-D maps of the landscape.
     Computers place the data over the relevant map. Different data sets can be layered over the same area. People can then make decisions based on a deep new stratum of digital information.
     This fall, students—regardless of their geospatial locations— will be able to learn about GIS in a new WSU Online course, Soil Sciences 368, Introduction to Geographic Information Systems. The course is taught by Richard Rupp, GIS coordinator at WSU’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences. Also this fall, WSU will begin offering a minor in geospatial analysis, which is a bit broader, and includes remote sensing and spatial statistics. More...      Though GIS technology is relatively new, the practical applications have been of astounding range. Farmers use it for planting, cities for planning, businesses for managing everything from inventory to parking spaces. Rescue workers in Haiti used it to save earthquake victims. The city of Portland uses it to map utilities, fight graffiti and tell commuters when their bus will arrive.
     At WSU, the technology is often associated with precision agriculture and natural resource science, as well as archaeology, geology and civil engineering. But it’s quickly becoming a crucial tool for commerce worldwide.
     “Business is the biggest use of GIS in the country,” Rupp said. “Government is number two.”
     The new online course will focus on geography, but the process applies to other data.
     “Students will learn not just ‘about.’ They’ll learn ‘how to,’ ” said Charmaine Wellington, the e-learning consultant at the Center for Distance and Professional Education who is working with Rupp. “They’ll create a map for each assignment.”
     The course will also include video created by the CDPE and screen-capture sequences made with Camtasia software.
     Rupp earned his bachelor’s in bacteriology from Iowa State University in 1980, and his Ph.D. in microbiology from WSU in 1986. He became interested in GIS about 15 years ago, just as it was growing into a major force. “I’m kind of a data freak,” Rupp said. “I love numbers."
     Rupp’s interest in maps goes back to when he was 10, when he started a National Geographic subscription.
     “Until my wife finally convinced me—in a weak moment—to get rid of them, I had a huge collection of National Geographic maps, going back 20 or 30 years.”
     He still subscribes, still admires the maps, but no longer saves them: “Now I can make my own.”

Monday, August 8, 2011

WSU Online turns tables, sends you rocks

Debbie WhitneyDebbie Whitney is enrollment manager at the CDPE.

     Some stones should be left unturned.
     From 2004-2007, students taking Geology 210 through WSU Online had to identify rocks in their neighborhoods, and send nickel-size pieces to the professor. Instead, students sometimes sent 30-pound boxes filled with “boulders,” as described by Debbie Whitney, enrollment manager at the Center for Distance and Professional Education.
     Faculty hauled boxes of rocks from Pullman’s Van Doren Hall to their offices, then threw them away later. “Their driveways got full of rocks,” Whitney said. One student submitted pieces of slate tile and marble countertop. The instructor left them at the CDPE, where they now serve as coasters.
     In 2007, back-weary CDPE staffers turned the tables. They began sending kits filled with small rocks and fossils to students for identification. But that didn’t mean students could stay home. They still must wander their neighborhoods.
     “I have the students go on self-directed field trips,” said Clinical Assistant Professor Kathryn Baldwin, who has taught Geology 210 both online and on-campus for the past decade. “They interpret the geologic history of their location, then write up a field guide and post it on a discussion board.” More...     In her on-campus course, she takes all the students to the same place. Her online students report back from wherever they happen to live.
     “What is really great is the rest of the class gets to see places all over the world, such as Egypt, Australia, and Japan,” Baldwin said.
     Jessica Zemaitis is a WSU Vancouver student who took the online course this summer. “I was thrilled we were sent out to the field to really learn about our amazing Earth,” she said. “The rock kit was a pleasant surprise. I was a little confused at first, but I kept at it until everything fell into place.”
     While Whitney is glad she’s no longer hauling rocks, she does miss the old days. “We used to send out microscopes from Montgomery Ward’s,” said Whitney, who has worked at WSU for 21 years. “We don’t ship nearly as much fun stuff anymore.”
     In fact, the CDPE doesn’t ship much of anything anymore. In 2009, CDPE staff created and launched an online media center, a single Web page where students can access nearly all course materials, including videos, slide presentations, animations, audio, and movie clips.
     Between 2008 and 2010, shipping dropped 82 percent, students stopped having to worry about mailings, and the cost of materials and copyrights plummeted. All of which makes 2007—in retrospect—look like the Stone Age.