eLearning Technology Blog

To help first-gen students, increase access—and reduce acronyms

by Ruth Gregory 14. April 2015 15:33

By Richard H. Miller/WSU Global Campus

Four out of 10 undergraduates at WSU Pullman are first generation. How can faculty help them succeed?

The answer, said Professor Gregory Eiselein, founding director of Kansas State University’s first-year experience program, is more about access than identity.

“Things that work for most students work particularly well for first-generation students,” he said. “We just need to make sure they have access to those educational opportunities.”

So what works for most students? Get students involved in their own learning, Eiselsein told a crowd of about 60 WSU faculty, staff and administrators at April 8th’s “First-year, First-generation Pedagogies That Work” presentation in the CUB Junior Ballroom.

Combine challenge with support

Students do best when they are equally challenged and supported, and when they feel connected to a community, he said.  Examples are first-year experience programs, common learning experiences—such as WSU’s Common Reading program—affirmation from faculty, and service learning opportunities. The first-year seminar program at Kansas State, he said, increased first-year retention by 6 percent and the four-year graduation rate by 14 percent.

A few tips were quite specific. Avoid confusing acronyms. Be as obvious as possible—“teach them how to do what it is you want them to do”—and use such highly effective classroom techniques as group discussions and having students teach others, as opposed to lectures and reading, which, he said, have lower learning retention rates.

“We are the people’s university”

Eiselsein was introduced by Melynda Huskey, interim vice present of student affairs and dean of students. Her father was a first-generation student, she said, and her personal commitment to reaching new students matches the university’s commitment to its land-grant mission.

“We are the people’s university,” Huskey said. “We bring students who might not otherwise have access to a four-year education here, and we expose them to an incredible range of gifted faculty members.”

Eiselsein’s presentation shows how WSU can harness its research capabilities to its land-grant-mission, she said: “There’s a kind of dizzying quality to using top-notch research to extend access. It folds the two together in a beautiful origami way.”

April 8th’s presentation was hosted by the WSU Office for Access, Equity & Achievement, Critical Literacies Achievement and Success Program, Department of English, First Scholars Program, Office of the Provost, Suder Initiative for Faculty Professional Development, Student Affairs, Teaching Academy and WSU Global Campus. It was live-streamed by the Global Campus. The video is available on YouTube

Meet Nick Webster - Emerging Technology Specialist

by Ruth Gregory 25. March 2015 14:56

By: Nick Webster

In my new role at Washington State University as an Emerging Technology Specialist I will be helping faculty to incorporate technology into their teaching practice alongside Emerging Technology and Multimedia Specialist Ruth Gregory.  I'm excited to tackle asynchronous technologies after spending time working with instructors teaching in a face-to-face environment on the Pullman campus, and over Academic Media Services’ videoconferencing system throughout the state.  My current topics of interest include gamification in education, the facilitation of synchronous distance learning, as well as learning analytics and the ways they can propose interventions to keep students on track to success.

While I come from a background in Information Technology support, my focus has always been to help educators utilize technology to enhance their teaching.  I began my career at a Department of Defense institute in Honolulu in 2007, providing support to faculty and visiting international fellows.  While an undergraduate, I worked as a student technician for two different units: Instructional Technology Services at Leeward Community College in Pearl City, Hawaii, and Technology & Distance Programs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Education.  After receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Communication I came to Washington State University in 2013, working first for the Enrollment Information Technology group, later moving to Academic Media Services, and now to the Global Campus.  

When I'm not working with technology I enjoy playing golf, tennis, and basketball. I am originally from Colorado and, thus, I am a die-hard fan of the Denver Broncos and you'll likely see me walking around campus with my bright blue and orange coffee tumbler.


I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be able to support faculty here at WSU. If you would like to talk about any ideas or needs you have for your course, I can be reached at nicholas.a.webster@wsu.edu, (509) 335-9453, on Twitter @nickwebsterwsu, or in my office next to the Technology Test Kitchen in Holland 150. I hope to meet you all soon, and in the meantime… Goooooooooooooooooooooo Cougs!

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