WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 9, 2016) – Every year, a new group of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) students begins their capstone experience, a final requirement for all academic majors that integrates their knowledge and skills in a final project appropriate to their field of study.
In the Department of Computing and Information Studies, that experience is a service-based project management course. Students partner with local nonprofit organizations to assist them with their information technology needs. Projects range from demographic analyses of the organization’s client base to assistance developing networking systems and infrastructure, Web page development, graphic design, and computer skills training.
Students work in groups to research and analyze the information technology needs of the organization, develop and implement robust solutions that respond to current needs and anticipate future ones, and then present their projects at the end of the semester.
Initiated by Dr. Charles Hannon, professor of computing and information studies, the course serves as a model for civic engagement and service-learning in the computing sciences and allows students to apply what they learn in their studies to real world situations.
Since 2004, students have helped more than two dozen organizations. Most recently, students worked with the Literacy Council of Southwestern PA and the Highland Ridge Community Development Corporation (HRCDC) in Washington, Pa.
Jessica Luisi, office manager at the Literacy Council, notes that their needs were simple—they were looking for a better way to interact with and showcase their services to the community. This required redesigning their website so it was easy to use and could be updated internally. Each student tackled a different aspect of the job to design their website and assist with their social media presence.
“We really enjoyed this project and thought the students did an outstanding job. We would gladly work with the [class] or any other service-learning course in the future,” Jessica said.
HRCDC needed a more efficient way to communicate amongst its board of directors. W&J students evaluated online management software and presented the options at a board meeting. Second Lieutenant Garrett Pyle ’16, transportation officer with the U.S. Army, presented the web-based project management and collaboration tool Basecamp, which was ultimately selected by the directors as it allowed them to increase their communication efficiency and centrally host their resources.
Of the experience, Garret said it was one of the best courses he had at W&J as it allowed him to apply what he was learning to real-world applications and showed him how, in a team, different strengths come together to create positive change.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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