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Sep 16 / Geoffrey Nathan

The Ashley-Madison Breach is a shot across the bows

Bruce Schneier, one of my heroes (he invented the term ‘security theater’ to describe the TSA) has a sobering article in the current Atlantic. Even if your email wasn’t in Ashley Madison’s database, you’ve got lots to worry about. Food for thought…

Sep 9 / Geoffrey Nathan

Quick Guide to the New Email System, and Some Mysteries Solved

If you are completely bewildered by the new email system, there’s a quick start guide located here.

In the next few days I’ll be adding information on how to conduct searches within  your email and calendars, and about keyboard shortcuts for those who prefer them to mousing and clicking. Here’s a preview: while in an email message, typing ‘F’ (i.e. Shift+f) will open a Forwarding window, while ‘r’ will Reply. Shift-R will Reply to all.

I’ve received several questions about what appear to be missing email messages. There are two reasons why messages might not appear in your inbox:

You have ‘Conversations’ enabled. If that is the case, and there have been several messages in a Conversation, only the latest one may be visible. ‘Conversations’ are like threaded discussions on blogs or listservs. All email with the same subject line is grouped together, and as each one comes in, you see the latest one on top. Some folks like this, and others find it extremely annoying. You can turn it off by pulling down the Sort drop-down menu (discussed earlier), and scrolling to the bottom of the list, where you can select ‘Off’ for Conversations.

The other one is more mysterious. The latest Outlook (which is what Wayne Connect actually is) has an automatic sorting algorithm called ‘Clutter’. If you have it turned on, it will decide what of your email is routine, non-personal, as opposed to important messages you might really want to read. Again, some folks might find this helpful, while others might find it outrageous. For those who use Gmail it should be familiar–Gmail does a 3-way sort of a similar kind. In any case, it can be turned off. Choose Gear Icon > Options > Mail > Clutter and you can opt out. It is possible, incidentally, that this feature will be turned off centrally in the next couple of days, and you won’t need to worry about it.

Finally, a quirk about Word for those who use Track Changes to markup papers. If you attach a Word file in an email, you cannot see the markup (the ‘tracked changes’) if you use the online version of Word that appears within your email. You must download the Word file and open it with desktop Word in order to do cooperative editing.

There are still six upcoming training sessions for Academica and the new Wayne Connect – find out all the information here. Don’t forget that you can always call the C&IT Help Desk with any questions you might have. Keep an eye out on this blog for more tips and tricks in the coming days.

Sep 2 / Geoffrey Nathan

Has Academica left you apoplectic? Does Wayne Connect leave you feeling disconnected?

New systems come with new puzzles, and our two new connection apps certainly have had that effect. C&IT is offering free training/help over the next few days. All sessions will be held in the Purdy/Kresge Auditorium (use the entrance nearest the Student Center).

The sessions will cover topics from setting up your inbox and syncing Wayne Connect to your mobile device to using streams and getting the most out of our new portal.

Here are the available sessions:

Wednesday, 9/2: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.                             Thursday, 9/10: 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 9/2: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.                            Monday, 9/14: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Thursday, 9/3: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.                                   Monday, 9/14: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Friday, 9/4: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.                                     Friday, 9/18: 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Thursday, 9/10: 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.                                 Friday, 9/18: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

You can RSVP for these sessions by logging into Academica and clicking on this link:

Remember you can always call the Help Desk at (313) 577-HELP or emailing

Aug 25 / Geoffrey Nathan

Cool Tools for Blackboard

For faculty who use Blackboard there is a whole set of resources to help you make the most of this powerful teaching tool. The Faculty Resource Tab:

Blackboard Faculty Tab Location



Check out the Quick Start Guides on that page, which has one-page guides on the crucial stuff:

  • Work with Respondus Test Building software
  • Request a Combined Course
  • How to copy course materials from one course to another
  • Use Blackboard Collaborate
  • Request a Blackboard Organization
  • Request Echo Personal Capture
  • Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor
  • Where to go for help (who to contact)

On the Blackboard Videos tab there are tons of videos that will guide you through how to do things like:

  • How to View the Course Roster
  • How to Apply a Course Theme
  • How to Create the Course Tracking Reports
  • Create a Grade Center Column
  • Delete a Grade Center Column
  • Create Grade Center Color Codes
  • Create New Categories

Remember, if you ever need personal assistance, please contact the Blackboard Support team at

Aug 20 / Geoffrey Nathan

Some additional notes about Outlook 365

By the time you read this, many of us will have been switched over to the new Microsoft-based email system. And, of course, with any new system, there are both things to learn, new features that are cool, old features whose absence is annoying, and the occasional bug. Here are a few things to be aware of.

The interface (how the program looks) is somewhat configurable. You can choose to have a reading pane on the right, below your list of messages, or not at all. You control this through the pull-down marked by a little gear symbol on the upper right.


If you click that you can choose ‘Display Settings’. You get two sets of options—where the reading pane appears, and whether the system opens the next message or the previous one if you delete a message.

You can also control a lot more things by choosing ‘Options’ under the same menu. There you can choose a number of items associated with Mail, including automatic replies, what happens when you mark something as ‘read’, and so on. Ignore the button marked ‘Retention policies’—it doesn’t do anything.


Under ‘Layout’ you can choose whether to see ‘Conversations’ (all messages with a common subject line together) or not (all messages solely in chronological order). You can also set up your email signature. If you don’t remember yours, just open an old ‘Sent’ message and copy it, then paste it into the relevant window in the ‘Layout’ area.

I’ll have a few more items in my next posting.

Aug 10 / Geoffrey Nathan

Thoughts and tips on using Academica

Academica has been the University’s official portal for a few days now, and the Feedback section has been filling up with likes, dislikes and assorted comments. I’ve combed through the comments so far and have a few thoughts I’d like to share.


First, there is the notion of a ‘portal’. In contemporary computing terms, a ‘portal’ is a webpage that leads you to facilities that permit you to do stuff. It’s different from an organization’s ‘website’, which is a webpage that allows you to find out stuff. So a portal should be interactive, while a website should be like a reference work (an almanac or a phone book, or even an encyclopedia).


So, most of the links that appear in Academica are either interactive (‘see my paystub’, ‘check my grades’, ‘search for a journal article in the Library’) or lead to interactive links (‘Benefits and Deductions’).

Of course, some lead to other portals, such as the link to the IRB in the Office of Research, and a few are there even though they are static, simply because of popular demand (‘Campus Map’, ‘Research Compliance’), but the principle distinction was between ‘doing things’ and ‘finding out stuff’.

Finding stuff

If you want to use Academica as your portal for everything, you can use the search box at the top and select (with the drop-down arrow) to search the WSU Website, where you can find anything that is searchable (parking structure maps, English major requirements, General Counsel’s office) on the domain.


A number of folks commented on the visual appearance (some in less than complementary terms), and seemed to think Pipeline was more visually appealing—an opinion I’d challenge, myself. However, the main reason Academica looks the way it does it that it was designed from the ground up to be easy to use on any device, and particularly to be easy to use with smaller devices, like phones and tablets. It actually detects the size of your display and customizes itself automatically. The reason for this is that increasing numbers of us use mobile devices as our primary means to access the electronic world. A recent study showed that ninety percent of Wayne State students bring smartphones to their classes, and now they can use their phones to check the status of their bursar’s account, or their final grades, and employees can check their paystubs (I just checked mine with my iPhone 5s in three ‘clicks’).

Why did we do this?

Pipeline is at the end of its development cycle–the company that made it is no longer supporting it. That makes it like a car whose spare parts are unavailable. It could keep running, but if it broke suddenly it can’t be repaired. C&IT decided it was better to replace it before that happened, and our local app-programming gurus built something for the twenty-first century. In addition to being usable on all devices it is very adaptable. It will not break a sweat if twenty thousand students check their grades all at once. Those who used Pipeline over the years know that it tended to roll over if demand got heavy. Academica is pretty resilient and should not do that.

Jul 8 / Geoffrey Nathan

Academica is here

As of July 31, Pipeline is being switched off, and will be replaced by Academica. Everything you used to use Pipeline for can be done through Academica, but faster (i.e. with fewer clicks). You can get to:

  • time sheets
  • registration
  • TravelWayne
  • pay stubs
  • class schedules
  • reporting
  • SET Scores

Academica learns your preferences. While the initial display is generic, after you have clicked on particular links a couple of times they will always appear on the ‘front page’. But if you don’t see something, you can always use the search box, a very powerful search engine that can find any link you might need (Search box is circled in red):

Academica search box

Academica also permits messaging within the Wayne State community. Like Twitter it permits #hashtags and @ mentions (ask someone younger than you if you don’t know what those are :-) ). Academica is also designed to work perfectly on mobile devices of any size screen.

The ‘stuff on the left’ is a series of threaded conversations, akin to comments on Facebook and similar social networking sites. If that kind of thing doesn’t appeal to you, you can ignore it, but it allows you to ‘converse’ with others in the groups to which you are automatically subscribed (such as one for each class you are registered in, if you are a student) or to create new ones on the fly to hold discussions either in private or publicly.

Finally, as always, ignore any email message that says you have to ‘do something’ to transition to Academica. And especially, don’t click on any links in such messages. When in doubt, type the name into your web browser yourself: or for short. That way, you always know where you are. And where you aren’t.

If you have questions, contact the C&IT Help Desk at (313) 577-HELP or

Jul 1 / Geoffrey Nathan

More on the New Email System

I’ve been asked how folks will know that they have been transferred to the new Wayne Connect. The answer is that there will be notification emails a week before the transition and one (business) day before. Then, once you have been transferred, the new mail page will look like this:

New Email header



Because the new Wayne Connect is part of a larger suite of applications (email, Word, Excel etc.) your login page may look like this:

New O365 Portal Page


So you’ll have plenty of warning and you’ll be able to tell immediately. Finally, you will receive an informative email message as soon as the transition has taken place.

Jun 29 / Geoffrey Nathan

Wayne Connect Powered by Microsoft is almost here

In late April I blogged about the new email/calendaring/collaboration system that was going to replace our current Wayne Connect email and calendar system based on Zimbra.

As of this week the new software is gradually being implemented across campus, so this is a good time to remind everyone about what to expect. The most important point is that you don’t need to do anything to implement this new email system–it will happen automatically. In fact, if you get a message telling you to ‘click here’ to upgrade your email, delete the message immediately, and, whatever you do, don’t clickit’s a scam (there have been several phishing messages with this theme over the past couple of weeks).

There are a few things you should do, but they are all essentially ‘back-up’ procedures. Although all your email, calendar entries and address book data will be transferred automatically, your signature won’t be, so you’ll need to recreate it. You can either make a copy of the wording (and images, if you use them) or just wait till after the transfer and look for some email you’ve sent (all the ‘Sent’ messages will be in the ‘Sent Items’ folder) and just you can just copy it from an earlier message to the Signature section of the ‘Options’ page. You can find the ‘Options’ button by looking for the little gear symbol in the upper right hand corner.

Although everyone uses Signatures, there are a few other things that won’t transfer but that only affect some people. If you use Filters in Wayne Connect, they will need to be recreated in the new system. They are easy to make–right click on a message you want to be the basis of a Rule (say, anything that comes from that email address) and choose ‘Inbox Rules’, then follow the instructions. If your old filters are complicated, you might want to note them down so that you can implement with the Microsoft system, where they are called ‘Rules’.  Also, Tags won’t transfer, so if you tag your mail, that will also need to be rewritten. Tags are called ‘Categories’ and are based on colors.

Remember that, if you have been using the Wayne Connect Notebook, the files in there will be transferred to your OneDrive area.

Jun 24 / Geoffrey Nathan

Log in more safely

Starting today you’ll see a new log-in screen when you go to the web-based version of Wayne Connect. This is part of a long-term project to unify the log-in screens of all of Wayne’s major services, Blackboard, Academica, and Wayne Connect. Although there are esthetic (and ‘branding’) advantages, the main reason is to help all WSU users make sure they are on the right page for logging in. This is crucial because of the innumerable phishing attempts we seem to be getting these days, all of which encourage us to log in to fake WSU pages.
You don’t actually need to do anything different. The log in process is identical—put in your AccessID and password as before. But if you’re worried, look to see that the address bar in your browser is green, it says https, and that there’s a padlock symbol visible. These are the signals that you are actually connecting to Wayne State, and not a sketchy phishing site in Lower Slobbovia.
Here’s what to look for:

Chrome Log-in


Another advantage to this system is that our security office will be able to recognize hacking attempts more easily and will be able to recognize when people have forgotten their passwords and therefore help them in a secure fashion.

The new log-in screen now shows up when you go to Academica and Wayne Connect, and will be phased in for Blackboard and other systems shortly.