Students Develop Municipal Web Sites

NMU is one of four state universities participating in an effort to create new Web sites for Michigan cities and townships that lack the resources to develop their own.

Sandra Poindexter (Business) assimilated the project into the computer information systems (CIS) senior course work. This is the second year NMU students have worked on the collaborative effort.

"Service learning gives students an opportunity to apply their academic course work to real-world situations," she said. "They're more motivated to learn when they have a defined project and can see the outcome of their efforts. And the townships benefit from having students assist with developing high-quality sites and training employees to maintain the sites. The students really rose to the challenge."

Students are divided into groups and have an entire semester to develop a Web site for each of their respective townships, usually from scratch. The project entails collecting information, maintaining contact with the township clerk and gathering information from the state’s checklist, which includes pictures, forms and contact information. Students must maintain contact via phone and e-mail because the distance is too great to enable personal visits.

The townships are located all over the state. Michael Thompson, a senior majoring in business CIS, was a team leader for constructing two Web sites: Milford and South Branch townships.

The first step of the project, Thompson said, was to find out what kind of community he was dealing with and what was important to that community. Next, all of the information had to be compiled and organized. Thompson and his team created multiple models, which they presented to the townships.

“It’s not terribly complex if you can communicate with townships and know what they want. Once they see something, they get extra involved and have more ideas,” Thompson said.

As the semester was ending, the team was still refining the Web sites, which have been up and running for about a month. The final stage of the project is to find a way to train the townships how to maintain their Web sites, edit content or add new pages. Thompson's team is making a video, complete with voiceovers, as an instructional tool.

“They were our bosses for this project and we did everything we could to keep them happy.  It wasn’t our Web site, it was theirs, and we did what they wanted. Mission accomplished,” Thompson said.


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Updated: December 15, 2006

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