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IWU changes Homecoming Court nomination process

Indiana Wesleyan University has altered the way students nominate candidates for the Homecoming Court this fall with the implementation of the MyIWU portal.

According to Registration Specialist Pat Travis, who is coordinating the Homecoming Court events this year, students can find a place to vote for their classmates under the “Announcements Across Campus” section on the MyIWU home page. The voting ends Thursday at 12 p.m.

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This voting format is a change from past years, where students had to access an external website called SurveyMonkey to make their selections.

“With [SurveyMonkey], there were so many complications with trying to break [the voting] down, so I worked with IT to make sure it got on the portal,” said Travis.

Another significant change to the process is how students will get to know the Homecoming Court nominees. Traditionally, Travis interviewed the candidates with the highest number of votes from each class in a chapel service, so students would know who to vote for their king and queen. Now, she said, those interviews will happen at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24 at McConn Coffee Co., preceding Crema.

“With the chapel format being changed and Dr. [Jim] Lo having all the scheduling already done for the semester, he said there wasn’t any time to do it,” said Travis.

At 10 p.m. Sept. 24, following the interviews, students can vote their favorite candidates for Homecoming King and Queen, Travis said. The coronation will then occur at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1 in the Center School parking lot, following Homecoming festivities that start at 6:30 p.m., also in the parking lot.

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New students appreciate extended NSO

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Photo courtesy of Brandon Hill

This year all students new to Indiana Wesleyan University moved in nine days prior to classes in order to attend a week long of New Student Orientation, which was packed full of workshops, sessions, community service and fellowship.

According to Director of Student Orientation Melissa Laraway, who was also the director of New Student Orientation this year, extending NSO to a week-long event allowed the students to get better acquainted with the campus before the rest of the student body moved in. She also thinks it helped the incoming students become closer with one another.

“They were here with just their class for a week,” Laraway says. “I’m excited to see how that contributes to class unity.”

Laraway, along with Chair of NSO Coordinating Team Brandon Hill, said they treated the schedule as a conference. They also allowed the new students some freedom to make the schedule their own, such as choosing workshops to attend based on their personal needs and interests.

Will Frecker (fr) enjoyed going to the workshops and found one particularly based on his needs.

“I went to one about the food services,” Frecker said. “I am allergic to wheat so I learned about the gluten-free options.”

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321 Improv performed at Sactivities. Photo courtesy of Brandon Hill.

There were several activities the new students could attend during the week nights, including “Sactivities” hosted by the Student Activities Committee that showed the new students what SAC is, The McConn show hosted by Student Government Association, 80’s dance night and more.

IWU also put together an NSO Welcome Team, which consisted of students who helped set up and tear down events and answered any questions the freshmen had.

The NSO Coordinating Team also gave incoming students a passport for them to get a feel for where everything is on campus. According to Hill, it contained 40 different offices on campus where students could go by the offices and a little bit about what they do. One freshman, Natalie Fletcher, took full advantage of this opportunity.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the campus and go to all the different offices,” Fletcher says. “The passport time gave me the opportunity to meet faculty members, and all of them were very nice.”

Faculty also decided to take out LDR-150, a class all new students were required to take which helped them figure out their life calling. The class consisted of the people in their NSO group during the weekend. Instead of LDR-150, there is now a First Year Experience course.

Every new student was assigned to a group for the entire NSO week with one professor and one upperclassman, called their peer educator. The group will turn into one of their general education classes, and their professor and peer educator will stay with them during the remainder of the semester.

Kenzi Ahnert (so) is a peer educator for Dr. Mark Perry, and their class is Principles of Communication. Each day during NSO week they would meet two times and discuss the assessment tests the incoming students took during the summer as well as get to know one another.

On Friday of that week, they participated in community service with the rest of the incoming students. Perry’s class painted preschool rooms at his church in Wabash, Ind.

Ahnert and Perry noticed how close their class became just by seeing how they were coming into the first day of class.

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Family service at NSO. Photo courtesy of Brandon Hill.

“I really started to see them open up after the service day project,” Ahnert says. “[On the first day of classes] it was cool to see them come in and be talkative because in my classes it was so quiet because no one really knows each other yet.”

“I had a really good time with my class, I think there has been a bond made between the students,” Perry says. “I hope I can be involved with it every year.”

Despite the business of the week, Morgan Kinkead (fr) thought living on campus a prior to classes helped her feel more comfortable with adjusting to college life.

“There were certain days that too much was going on,” Kinkead says. “But overall I would rather it be a week than just a weekend.”

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IWU adjusts to LearningStudio

Last fall’s announcement of a switch from Blackboard to a new online learning management system finally came to fruition at the beginning of the fall semester for students at Indiana Wesleyan University’s residential campus.

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Blackboard had been replaced by LearningStudio, an online learning management system which has been in the works for three years, according to Dr. Lorne Oke, executive director for the Center of Learning and Innovation.

In the first two weeks of school, students and faculty alike have expressed mixed opinions to the new system of online learning.

Dr. Katie Karnehm, who teaches courses in the Division of Modern Language and Literature, said the transition to LearningStudio has not been a smooth one for her. She said the problem is not that the system is difficult to use, but rather how time-consuming it is.

“[LearningStudio] just seems kind of clunky and counterintuitive, with three or four different steps to do most things,” Karnehm said. “My issue isn’t that it’s gone terribly awry and half my students aren’t [enrolled], but just that doing things takes so much time.”

Dr. Amy Luedtke, a psychology professor, has different feelings about the new system. She said she used Blackboard heavily in her classes before the switch, and had very few issues understanding how to use LearningStudio, with the help of faculty training sessions.

“Just like there were some complaints on the student level, there were some complaints at the faculty level,” Luedtke said. “But once I really started to get familiar with [LearningStudio], I think it’s user-friendly.”

Luedtke added “not exaggerating, there were about 20 different training sessions, people to email or resources to look at to learn how to use LearningStudio.”

Shane Wallin (sr) said he didn’t have much of a problem with LearningStudio, despite having to make the switch after using Blackboard for three years at IWU. He believes the complaints his fellow students have about the system are overblown.

“Every issue I’ve encountered [with LearningStudio] has been pretty minor. We’re at the beginning of the year, and we haven’t gotten used to it yet,” said Wallin. “Everyone just needs to take a chill pill and be patient.”

Incoming students came to LearningStudio with a different perspective. They had not experienced Blackboard at IWU and many were not used to online learning management systems. The school provided training for them at New Student Orientation, according to Abigail Johnson (fr), but for many, it was still a difficult transition.

Johnson said she used Blackboard a little bit in high school. But outside of that, she isn’t accustomed to online learning.

“I like to be told about [assignments] verbally instead of online,” Johnson said. “It’s tough right now, but I’ll get used to it.”

The Student Orientation Tutorial for LearningStudio is located at the bottom of the "My Classes" tab on the MyIWU portal.

The Student Orientation Tutorial for LearningStudio is located at the bottom of the “My Classes” tab on the MyIWU portal.

Assistant Vice President of Information Technology Gary Green said he has heard all types of complaints from faculty and students about LearningStudio, but that IT is focusing on ones that are related to students not being enrolled in classes. Most of the other complaints, Green says, will work themselves out over time.

“Change is the biggest challenge,” Green said. “There’s going to be some learning curve with LearningStudio to start, but that’s natural.”

Oke said the switch to LearningStudio, while students and faculty may struggle with it at first, is a very worthwhile move. According to Oke, LearningStudio is much cheaper for the school than Blackboard, and also makes looking at course information easier, because LearningStudio is part of the MyIWU portal, not a separate website. Lastly, the switch develops IWU’s partnership with= Pearson, the learning company that developed LearningStudio.

“It would be a misunderstanding to simplify this as just a switch from Blackboard to LearningStudio,” Oke said. “Essentially, this change is part of a bigger relationship that is very beneficial to the university.”

Like Green, Oke concluded that a lot of the issues people have will work themselves out over time. He suggests that students embrace the change and use it as an opportunity to prepare for the work world, which will involve learning new technologies.

“Every adjustment you learn to make is a positive, productive experience for you in learning how to deal with different technologies,” Oke said. “It is literally learning how to problem-solve.”

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Unified chapel brings changes to scanning system

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Photo by Becka Roth

Monday morning, many students were pleasantly surprised by a quick exit from the first combined chapel in years, thanks to a new scanning system.

The new system consists of scanners on the inside of the inner chapel doors, similar to the ones placed outside dorm halls. In past years, student workers stood at the doors and used a handheld device to scan people in and out. Students can now scan themselves in and do not need to scan out when leaving.

Part of the reason for this change, according to Chapel Coordinator Jennifer Martin, was to expedite the mass exodus from the chapel, now that all students attend the same service.

“I definitely missed [the scanner] the first time,” said Kristen Hardman (so). “But I think it will be easier and faster.”

The change was not, however, based entirely on logistics.

“I hate the idea of these guns!” said Dean of the Chapel, Jim Lo, in reference to the scanners used in past years. “To me it kind of gave the wrong image, I want chapel to be friendlier to those that are a part of it.”

The new way of scanning in is not as closely monitored as in past years, making it easier for students to cheat the system — something the chapel administrators have discussed and are very aware of.

“I feel the majority of our students here are people of integrity, and they’ll stay for the whole service,” said Lo. “I think we can trust our students.”

Swiping both at the beginning and the end first began as a response to a few students who had a tendency to exit chapel early. According to Lo, this has now been changed because “why should we penalize everyone for just a handful?”

Lo said that chapel is ultimately a student’s personal relationship with God, and “if they lie about it, the Spirit will speak to their hearts.”

If the situation was to get out of hand, and “droves of students” were leaving early, the new system would have to be reevaluated, according to Martin and Lo.

So far, many students have expressed a positive reaction to the unified chapel service.

“Students love the sense and the energy of having so many people in there,” said Lo. “The students that have emailed me or stopped me are just so thrilled!”

In past years it wasn’t always easy making two chapel services the same, said Lo, explaining that “what the Spirit does cannot be replicated.” With a single service, this is not an issue.

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Photo by Becka Roth

Because of all the changes, there is no longer a need for students to serve as chapel scanners. Even so, the idea of having students greet and converse with those entering chapel stays strong. Chaplains will be out among the students asking how they are and building relationships before and after service, Martin said.

The only way any of it has been possible has been through the great effort of the entire team involved, according to Lo. “They don’t get the praise, but without them, we could not do what we’re doing,” said Lo, in reference to Wampner, Martin, and the tech team.

“I’m so thankful the school was willing to, in a sense, take a risk and allow it,” said Lo.

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