SOS: Not a call for help but a site to help

8:43:39 AM CDT - Thursday, February 12, 2004

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Shocker One Stop, WSU's secure Web site, is giving instructors who like to put a face to a student's name a helping hand.

The photo from a student's ID is now located next to a student's name when an instructor accesses a class roster from SOS.

It's apparently a welcomed feature. When University Computing and Telecommunications, or UCATS, officials recently gave a demonstration on the latest SOS features to the College of Education, faculty applauded when they were told about the photo feature, says Jim Rogers, UCATS associate director.

For the past few years, UCATS has been steadily adding more functions for faculty, staff and students to the SOS site.

Besides getting class lists, faculty can now even advise students online.

Faculty and staff who want to share files that exceed the university's mail server size can use the drop box function.

Students can enroll in a class, print their schedule and even connect to the University Bookstore's site to order books, all through SOS. If they pay their tuition and fees invoice by mail and choose to have their books delivered to their home by paying a $4 to $10 shipping fee, they don't have to set foot on campus until their first class of the semester meets.

As more functions are added, more users are logging on, too.

In the last three months, more than 22,000 current and former students have logged on, while 2,080 faculty and staff have signed on, according to Jennifer Fincham from UCATS. SOS is available to 93,000 potential users, because it is available to any student who has enrolled since 1994, she says.

A lot of that traffic has been from instructors downloading class lists. Ninety-four percent of the instructors have accessed and downloaded the class lists.

An automated process has been developed in SOS to help instructors using Blackboard, a Web-enhancement tool for teaching, to get class information into that program. An instructor simply clicks on a Blackboard-enhanced button in SOS when viewing the list of classes they teach.

The feature that allows instructors to enter grades online is catching on more slowly. While the feature has been available since spring 2001, only 58 percent entered grades through SOS at the end of last semester.

Many of the features, like class enrollments and paid enrollments, are real-time.

SOS also provides a secure way for advising and communicating with students through the Shocker Alert System, or SAS.

If instructors want to find out why a student has been missing class or to inform them they're failing, they can use SAS, which is encrypted. When a faculty member or adviser uses SAS, an e-mail is sent to the student, letting them know to log onto SAS and receive the encrypted message. The faculty member can log on and see when the message was sent and retrieved to ensure the communication went through.

A department's class schedule can be planned through SOS, too, allowing a department representative to select times, days and even media needs for a class. The user doesn't even have to start with a blank document. The SOS system can pull up the previous semester's schedule and then the user can make adjustments.

Students enjoy lots of features, too. The university did away with its telephone registration system in fall 2002, and now students enroll in classes online. For this semester, more than 10,000 students used SOS to enroll.

For some time, students have been able to access their final grades through SOS. Eighty percent did so at the end of the fall semester. Students also can vote in student government elections through SOS.

Former students are able to access an unofficial transcript of their entire academic record, as well.

UCATS staff is available to provide SOS demonstrations to departments or colleges. Contact Rogers at 978-3880 or jim.rogers@wichita.edu.

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