A group of Purdue University North Central students recently completed an assignment that took them out of the classroom and brought them face-to-face with a client who asked them to take on a project that would utilize their current knowledge while they developed skills and abilities they will use well beyond their graduation and in to the working world.
This opportunity was presented to students enrolled in the Systems Analysis and Design Methods class taught by Dr. Carin Chuang, PNC associate professor of Computer & Information Technology. Chuang asked her students to take on a service-learning project to develop a web site for the LaPorte County Circuit Court.
In past semesters Chuang’s classes created web sites for other LaPorte County courts. She finds this to be a tremendous learning experience for students as they hone their computer skills as well as their “soft” skills of team building, communication, working in groups and time management.
To start the project, the students, all Computer & Information Technology majors, met with their clients, Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos and Director of Juvenile Court Services Chip Cotman, a PNC alumnus. This meeting to discuss the scope of the project would be the same type of meeting the students will hold with clients in their professional careers.
During this conversation, the students learned that their clients wanted the web site to include court schedules, directories, contact information and to have an area where information can be uploaded for an annual symposium. The site needed to tie in to existing templates, be simple to update and easily navigated.
“This project helped me realize how client relationships work in the real world,” said student Brad Piper.
Once the students and clients agreed on a deadline date, the students put together a baseline project plan. They divided responsibilities and got to work.
These students are tech-savvy, but working with a group was a new experience for them.
“I cannot stress it enough, but the teamwork was something huge for me. This was the first time I worked in a group for a technical project,” said Sara Medich. “I learned how to work with three very different people with very different personalities. I learned that communication is never easy in a group.”
She found that she enjoyed interacting with her clients. “I learned how to work with a client, a skill that everyone should know. I even learned from watching Chip Cotman interact with Judge Alevizos. My soft skills were improved with this project.”
The students also learned how to adapt when things didn’t go quite as they planned.
“What I found most valuable was all of the setbacks we encountered,” admitted Piper. “Nothing works out perfectly in life. One has to roll with the punches to succeed. I think this project was more valuable to me not because it was perfect but because it was imperfect.”
In the end they saw how what they learned in their PNC classrooms is applied on the job.
“This project was a key to my understanding how a job will work after I graduate,” said Zach Siebert. “In a classroom, you learn all the practical knowledge that you can, but you do not have the experience of working with real clients. This project was invaluable in that regard. No other class gave me this type of experience.”
Tristan Bell explained that he was able to apply the skills and knowledge gained in this experience to every aspect of his life, “What I learned had an almost immediate real-world value. These projects and classes gave me an experience that can’t be taught from a textbook. This class, along with a previous service learning experience, gave me experience communicating with clients, working with teams and presenting projects in front of groups. This helped me retain more information because I can see exactly how it can be used.”
In the end, the students were pleased with their final product.
“This website is going to be used by many people. It is an impressive display of what each of us can do if given the opportunity,” said Siebert