Thursday’s announcement that Wichita State will convert all classes to an online-only format on Monday, March 30, has the university community preparing for the vast array of logistical challenges that lay ahead.
WSU has purchased 200 Chromebooks and 200 laptops to loan to students and instructors who don’t have the technology they need to access online classes.
WSU Interim Chief Information Officer David Miller said the devices, which are currently being shipped, will cost the university a combined $94,000.
“We want to try and make sure that we’re being as responsive to the needs of the students as we can,” Miller told The Sunflower on Friday.
“We’re kind of guessing as to how many devices might be needed here. We’re just trying to prep to be prepared, and so hopefully it will be enough.”
WSU President Jay Golden said that after two weeks, the university will reevaluate whether classes should start meeting in-person again or remain online-only. He said canceling in-person classes for the remainder of the semester is not out of the question.
That doesn’t bode well for students who don’t have access to a reliable internet connection. Miller said that’s not something WSU can help students with.
“We don’t have any way to address that for them,” he said.
“The reality is, we’re not going to be able to solve every problem for everybody. I mean, that’s just the honest answer.”
Campus is to remain open while in-person classes are suspended, but WSU is encouraging students to stay home.
Miller said devices will likely be split up between WSU’s academic colleges based on enrollment size.
“The college would basically be in charge of the actual distribution of those once they hear from a student that they don’t have any device available,” Miller said.
According to WSU’s online FAQ, colleges that use specialty software are looking into options for how students can have access to these programs under changing circumstances.
Miller said that due to limited supply, new laptops and Chromebooks are only for people who have “nothing else available to them” to access classes.
“If someone has a device that’s going to work for them . . . even though it may not be ideal for them, we need to make sure and ask them that they, you know, do that with that device,” he said.
Miller said he expects the newly ordered university devices to arrive soon, but he doesn’t want to speak too soon.
“For the Chromebooks, the expectation is that we’ll have them late next week. For the laptops, I think it was March 25,” he said.
“Again, I want to be cautious though. That doesn’t mean we’ll actually have them. You know, if there’s disruptions with FedEx and all kinds of other things, those are unknowns for us right now.”
Miller said that once the devices arrive, WSU’s IT Help Desk will be on call to help work through technology issues.
“I think the expectation would be, if we give a device to someone and they have problems getting on the internet, they don’t know how to how to connect to the Wi Fi, or they don’t know how to get to their online class, they’re going to either have to coordinate that with their faculty member and/or the IT Helpdesk.”
According to the FAQ, the Media Resource Center has started training a group of more than 50 faculty, referred to as “Online Faculty Fellows,” who are “serving as resources to their peers” to help with course design and Blackboard usage.