Infrastructure, Website, and Social Media
During the last 15 years the WKU campus has experienced a technological revolution as the University has remained on the cutting edge of technological advancements that benefit students, faculty, and staff. From the days of waiting in long lines to register for classes and using Netscape email to now having a wireless campus with the latest in cloud computing and mobile connectivity, Information Technology at WKU has certainly come a long way.
Technology provides conveniences for students
Students who now register for classes online using TopNet cannot imagine the days of waiting in lines at the Registrar’s Office with a paper registration card. TopNet allows students to register for all courses online and allows faculty and advisors to manage grades and course data online as well.
With more than 2,500 courses available, many students take all or part of their classes online via Blackboard, which was first introduced in the late 1990s. Today, on average, there are more than 20,000 daily Blackboard logins. IT-supported student technology centers are located all across campus, and some labs are open 24 hours, seven days a week.
ResNet was created in 2000 to distribute network equipment to students living in residence halls and to help students access the WKU network. All residence halls are wired for network access, and a campus-wide wireless network is available for anyone to use. Today, ResNet is a full computer service center for students, assisting with hardware and software support, replacement, data recovery, and spyware removal.
Innovations and upgrades
In 1998 the first Faculty Computer Replacement Project was completed with the purchase of 40 computers. Today, this $300,000 annual project replaces 200 computers for faculty, ensuring they are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to perform their work. Between 1998 and 2002, Banner, a system for higher education records management, was implemented on campus to manage Student Records, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Finance, and Purchasing.
Further advancements took place in the next few years including the release of iCAP, an online degree audit technology that enables students to track degree requirements and progress online. This time period also saw the installation of the first wireless network on campus, and an upgrade in Video conferencing / Distance Learning classrooms to modern, IP-based data networking.
In 2007 the IT Training Program shifted to an online video tutorial format as the primary method of providing technology training to WKU faculty and staff. IT Training has since developed more than 560 video tutorials in 25 categories.
New innovations in 2010 included the launch of Qualtrics, a cloud-based research survey system. More than 500 students, faculty, and staff have created almost 1,600 surveys since inception.
Since 2004 WKYU-PBS has earned a total of 11 Regional Emmy Awards in eight different categories, most recently earning the only Technical Achievement Emmy Award to ever be awarded to a Kentucky organization. The award was for an LED lighting system that was implemented in the campus studio, decreasing energy consumption by 97 percent. It is the only all-LED system of any PBS affiliate in the United States. The lighting system was also recognized with the 2011 National Educational Telecommunications Association Enterprise and Innovation Award. WKU was named as a 2012 Computerworld Laureate in the Environment due to the impact of this project.
WKYU-PBS unveiled a new state-of-the-art high definition production truck in 2012 to serve the WKU viewing audience from nearly any location, showcasing the people, places, and culture of south central Kentucky.
Website and social media
The wku.edu website was first introduced in 1997, and the most recent rendition is supported by a Content Management System which has created campuswide website standardization with WKU branding. The website logs nearly one million visits per month on average.
Students are able to connect with one another and with the University via the website and social media, which has become a major communication tool. Facebook and Twitter accounts were first launched in 2009, and now thousands of students, alumni, and friends of the University connect on a daily basis.
2011 and 2012 saw an increased use of social media tools including WKU’s Interactive Virtual Tour, featuring a 3-D map of campus. The tour includes photo and video galleries and allows online visitors to have a campus experience right from their computer.
The WKU on Facebook app, a custom social network specific to WKU, launched to provide current and incoming students a private social community to connect with each other both before they come to WKU and during their studies. WKU formed a partnership with Google Street View in 2012 and hosted a team from Google to collect 360-degree campus imagery to provide Google Maps and wku.edu visitors with a birds-eye view of campus from any computer anywhere in the world.
The free iWKU Mobile app provides iPhone, Blackberry, and Android users a mobile application that includes a campus directory, maps, news, and library info. The iWKU app has more than 24,000 active users.