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CIS class lends design skills to nonprofits

Elon University students in a spring semester computer information systems class are learning more about the Alamance County community as they work together to design websites for local agencies that help the mentally and developmentally disabled.

Margaret Livengood (left), executive director of The Arc of Alamance County, offers feedback in early March to students working on one of six website designs for her agency. Those students (clockwise around the table): Morgan Estes, Alexa Behar, Jeremy Peterson and Jesse Baum.

Assistant professor Duke Hutchings grouped his “Intermediate Design for Web & Multimedia” class into six teams of four students each. Teams worked in February and early March on a website design for The Arc of Alamance County, and similar efforts are now underway for Special Olympics Alamance County.

With The Arc, teams sought feedback on their projects prior to a final presentation to agency’s executive director, after which she selected a site with a design and functionality that best fit her needs and the needs of the clients she assists.

That new site will be launched later this spring once the winning team of Daniel Enders, Gregory Gentile, Megan McGowan and Lauren Sharp complete small revisions to the design and migrate it to The Arc's server.

“I’m very impressed with all these students,” said executive director Margaret Livengood. “They listened very well to what I was asking them to do, and they brought in skills I didn’t even think about. All these sites were fresh and very contemporary. They really seemed to understand what The Arc is, too. Before this is over, I hope they fall in love with our folks.”

Though this spring marks the first time Hutchings has taught the course, it has traditionally been listed as a service-learning offering for students. Senior lecturer Michelle Kleckner taught the same subject material in previous semesters, and Hutchings said he took his lead from Kleckner.

“I hope they learn the advantages and disadvantages of using an open source system to create an interactive and dynamic website,” Hutchings said. “There are certainly some upsides and downside relative to creating everything from scratch. I also hope students learn from each other the skills they bring from their individual disciplines.”

Students said the course has been beneficial for not only learning about website design and functionality, but for also working in teams. Plus, it’s allowed them to interact with community agencies that help others in the Alamance County community.

“It seemed like an interesting course since I could give back a little bit. Working with The Arc has been a great experience,” said Morgan Estes, a junior computing sciences major from Hendersonville, N.C. “And it’s a great exercise learning to work with people. That’s how it is in the workforce, working in teams to get projects done.”

Eric Townsend,
4/4/2011 10:59 AM