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Cougar PAWS Progress Report Office of the Provost

Cougar PAWS Progress Report

April 28, 2015

The Cougar PAWS (Promoting Academic Ways to Success) initiative was set forth by the Provost to support a culture of innovation and success in academics at Washington State University. The initiative is creating real change in several key areas. Students, faculty and staff are utilizing new tools, implementing new strategies and working together in ways that are improving the classroom environment, setting students up to excel and providing resources for faculty to apply technology in creative ways.

There are three areas of emphasis within the Cougar PAWS initiative:

• Supporting faculty innovation and excellence in instruction

• ŸStrengthening academic preparation and student success

• ŸProviding tools and policies that facilitate academic support and student success.


Course redesign grants: Several high-enrollment STEM course leaders from the College of Arts and Sciences and from the College of Veterinary Medicine are piloting more student-centered instructional delivery, with funding from their colleges and from the Office of the Provost. Success will be measured by increases in the percentage of students who successfully pass courses that have been remodeled and updated for improved student learning. Lessons from the redesign pilots about what approaches successfully engage students and lead them to improved performance will be shared.

University Teaching Innovations Series: In August, 2014, was established as a clearinghouse for information about instruction-related workshops being offered across the system. The site provides links to online teaching resources, including links to WSU’s e-learning site.
Faculty-led workshops on topics ranging from “flipped” classrooms and student engagement to concept-mapping and course evaluations are receiving positive feedback. Since December of 2013, more than 200 faculty members have attended workshops. A survey of faculty and instructors is being conducted to elicit input on workshop topics for the 2015-16 year.

Facilitating opportunities for academic/student affairs collaboration: Through the University Student Success Council, which meets monthly, the Provost’s Office is assisting faculty, staff and administrators who aim to collaborate on success initiatives. Council members include administrators, faculty, staff and ASWSU representatives from all campuses.

Technology specialists: Global Campus hired two technology specialists in the past year to help faculty implement technology-based instructional innovations into their on-campus or online courses. An emerging technologies and multi-media specialist started in July, 2014 and the instructional technology training specialist was hired in February, 2015. The two new Global Campus employees have been instrumental in preparing and delivering Blackboard Learn training, working one-on-one with faculty to implement new technologies, and launching the Test Kitchen.

More specifically, the technology training specialists provide support for “flipping” classes, in which faculty have students view lecture and preparatory material ahead of class time and use class for highly engaging and adaptive learning activities. The technology specialists are also helping faculty migrate to the new Blackboard Learn system, which has been in a pilot phase during the spring, 2015 semester.

The technology specialists also play a major role in the Technology Test Kitchen, which is helping faculty incorporate technology into their teaching. Through ongoing workshops, presentations and open labs held in Holland Library, Room 150, educators can explore and get hands-on help to employ technologies into their teaching. Video tutorials and supplemental material on each of the Test Kitchen’s featured topics are posted online. Future sessions will be available to help faculty throughout the summer and into the next academic year.

WSU Teaching Academy: The WSU Teaching Academy ramped up its activity over the past year. In December, the Academy added 25 educators, giving the WSU teaching community more opportunities for training, professional development and mentorship.

Among the events and activities the Teaching Academy has participated in were: the “A-Game” author faculty session, the Teaching Innovations Series, TA training workshop, conducting faculty focus groups to assess needs for teaching assistance from the University, and co-sponsoring the visit from Dr. Robert Bjork with the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Academy. Since the fall, the Academy collaborated on the Faculty-Led Teaching Innovations Workshop series with the Provost’s Office and Global Campus, conducted faculty focus groups to assess needs for teaching assistance and provided the annual university-wide TA training workshop for graduate assistants. There are 19 Academy members available for class observation and feedback; eight are available for teaching portfolio guidance, 17 for individual mentoring and 11 for group mentoring. If you’re interested in the WSU Teaching Academy, visit its new website.

Innovation seed grants: Grants funded through the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teach and Learning Endowment were selected in 2014 for the 2014-15 academic year. There were 13 e-learning grants awarded from a record number of proposals and reports from the recipients will be received in summer, 2015. The grants are intended to help faculty pursue innovative instructional projects, fulfilling the endowment’s mission to, “recognize and reward innovative ideas to enhance learning and teaching at WSU.”



Launch into Learning: This initiative focused on getting students off to a good, fast start in their academic journeys, lowering barriers to success, providing specific tools for academic assistance and providing resources for ongoing help.

The Provost’s Office and Student Affairs, in collaboration with advisors, ASWSU, colleges, Enterprise Systems Group, Institutional Research, the Registrar’s Office, the University Student Success Council, and others have been providing information and tools to promote and facilitate deeper academic engagement in the first week of class. This includes improved real-time information for enrollment management, communication efforts to new and continuing students to help them navigate registration, financial aid, waitlists and more, assistance for faculty and encouragement to make syllabi available sooner, more academic programming during Week of Welcome (WOW), and more, ongoing preparedness support throughout each academic semester.

Assessment data has connected student participation in the programming with improved levels of class attendance, retention rates, and semester GPA. This information will guide further development, including plans for 2015 orientation events and new-student outreach, Week of Welcome and coordination of student support into the first weeks of the semester.

Week of Welcome: The 2014 edition of Week of Welcome included an increased academic focus, and follow-up surveys indicated a positive effect on academic preparedness and success. In fact, survey results suggest that participation in Week of Welcome activities of all types was associated with positive outcomes for students that reflect overall well being, academic integration/commitment/efficacy, and social connections.

All new students received a copy of “The A Game: 9 Steps to Better Grades,” and there were sessions with author Ken Sufka for both students and faculty/staff. A total of 444 students, graduate assistants, faculty and staff attended the sessions, held over four days at the beginning of the semester.

Calculated Success: The pilot of the Calculated Success program included 20 students and was held in August of 2014. This two-week summer class combines a one-credit math course designed to prepare students for their first math class at WSU, with a one-credit University College course. The program is specifically designed to smooth out first-year students’ transition to college while increasing their chances for success in their first college math course.

The Calculated Success participants stay on campus and can acclimate before the semester begins. They are evaluated throughout the two-week program and at the end, the program coordinator recommends which math course each student should take, based on their placement exam scores.

The program received positive feedback from students and was successful in transitioning students into the university environment and in improving their math placement scores, by 42 percent. Two sessions are planned for 2015 and WSU-Tri-Cities is also working on a Jump Start program. Assessment efforts will continue to explore the extent to which the program helps students succeed in math classes and in their academic careers more generally.

Academic skills development: Academic skill development was successfully integrated into Week of Welcome and lower-division courses.

Approximately 500 first-year students taking Pullman or Global Campus-based sections of Animal Science 180, Communication 138, Engineering 101, Hospitality and Business Administration 182, Kinesiology 138, Math 100, and University 104 took a diagnostic questionnaire on behaviors and attitudes leading to academic success or its opposite. The questionnaire (the Learning and Study Strategies Inventory, or LASSI) provides personalized, actionable results. This collaboration among the Academic Success and Career Center, the Office of Undergraduate Education, and Student Affairs is providing follow-up through both personal intervention as well as web-based and interactive resources. Success will be measured by course grades and semester GPA compared to control groups.

Students who completed the LASSI did slightly better in their fall semester than students who did not complete the assessment as measured by GPA, deficiencies, “W” grades, and “F” grades. Data from the LASSI will be provided to help the team of administrators understand how specific student populations might benefit from this intervention and how more classes might take advantage of the underlying principles applied in this pilot.

Automatic enrollment in selected freshman English and first math courses: The pilot year of automatic enrollment in select freshman English and first math courses was a success. Most students requiring developmental courses in math and/or English were automatically enrolled for Fall 2014 in English 100, Math 100 and Math 103 directly from placement testing, in order to ensure students get assistance early and stay on degree tracks. The challenge remains to provide enough math sessions to meet demand. The goal is for all to complete these courses by the end of their fourth semester.

A report on the outcomes is pending when spring semester data becomes available.

Direct to Degree: The Save a Seat program (which replaced Direct to Degree) is in place for the Doctor of Pharmacy, and expansion is imminent. In collaboration with Recruiting, several colleges are test-marketing this program by which entering students will be advised by student services specialists from the college or program they designate as their current area of focus. Marketing materials are being developed.

CougarSuccess: The Provost’s Office is collaborating with University Communications, New Student Programs, Health and Wellness and other units to create CougarSuccess, a one-stop portal for students to access academic, logistical and wellness resources and support. The CougarSuccess website is online ( and a new, redesigned version is scheduled for launch in June. The website is gaining traction: two separate social media posts during the spring semester garnered 692 and 516 posts, respectively.



Student Success Collaborative: The Student Success Collaborative uses predictive analytics based on 10 years of student enrollment data to provide academic advisors with a powerful, easy-to-use tool that shows them where a student stands academically and how to keep the student on track toward graduation. Many WSU academic advisors have been trained in the Student Success Collaborative and many are finding the tool helpful as they meet with students this spring. By next fall, we intend to have all of our advisors trained and using the system. A Student Success Collaborative website is being developed and will provide information and resources for advisors using the system. The program’s success will be assessed by tracking student retention rates and their efficient progress toward degrees.

eXplorance Blue: The eXplorance Blue online teaching evaluation tool was launched to replace the Skylight system and approximately 50 percent of WSU’s courses have successfully transitioned to the eXplorance Blue. The remainder will be moving to the new system over the next three to four semesters.

Transfer Clearinghouse: The Transfer Clearinghouse will be established May 1 and will update and amplify transfer tables and associated websites dealing with transfer credit.

Online advising notes: Version 2.0 will be rolled out shortly, and version 1.0 is getting much use by advisors. This feature provides advisors with an online mechanism to document interactions with students. Documenting advising interactions in the student information system will increase communication among departments and staff, and assist with problem-solving and change-of-major coordination.

MyPlanner: The system is updated with course offering schedules and four-year degree plans in the catalog. The Registrar’s Office helped programs update and calibrate their listings of “typically offered courses” schedule and four-year degree plans to help students plan for future semesters. This effort is part of a long-term project that will enable students to develop multi-year academic plans from which they can select courses and register efficiently.

Validation of advisement reports using these updates is in progress.

iThenticate: The iThenticate originality checking software for researchers is online and 414 WSU faculty members, researchers and graduate students have activated accounts.

Turnitin: A new version of Turnitin (originality checking software for courses) was integrated into the new Blackboard Learn system in spring, 2015 to make the tool seamlessly available in the course space. A pilot period has provided an opportunity to refine the software, and major rollout will take place in fall, 2015.

Upgrades to wireless technology: A set of 19 General University Classrooms has been upgraded to facilitate the use of Learning Catalytics technology for interactive instruction. In addition, video capture and other recording options are available for use, to provide students opportunities for asynchronous access to course lectures. Instructors have provided mostly positive feedback about the lecture capture system, and many also are enhancing engagement through other means. Lectures captured and accessed via the LMS give instructors control to customize and refine the recordings.

Another great development for faculty was the addition of student photos in zzusis class rosters. Instructors are now able to put faces with names more quickly, which can increase engagement and, ultimately, student success.

Improved enrollment management forecasting and advising support tools: Institutional Research, working with other units such as the Registrar’s Office and Admissions, has developed a number of new forecasting and tracking tools that have helped academic programs, colleges and advisors manage registration to ensure that all incoming students can register for 15 credits relevant to their academic plans while enabling units to deploy their resources efficiently. An advising dashboard helps identify students who need to certify their status for completing UCORE requirements, and seniors needing English 402.

For additional information about the PAWS initiative, click here.

Washington State University