During fall 2006, students in a computer information systems course conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of a State of Michigan initiative to involve university students to bring local governments on-line via Web sites. In the three month study of the Web sites of 13 representative Michigan townships, students obtained information from township clerks, tabulated and evaluated Web site features, checked for compliance with state guidelines and reviewed existing reporting, documentation and research on the subject. This study was conducted as a service learning component of a course supervised by Professor Sandra Poindexter in the College of Business. The 13 townships studied are Dafter, Greenwood, Howard, James, Jerome, Marathon, Ogemaw, Pennfield, Schoolcraft, Thornapple, Valley, Watertown Charter and Windsor Charter. The study was prepared for the State of Michigan's Department of Information Technology and the Michigan Townships Association.
The study found that, overall, the Web sites were well developed, generally compliant with State guidelines, appreciated by users and contained current information. The study suggested reconsideration of content guidelines, cautions on excessive download time and the need for greater awareness of the Web sites.
The Michigan Local Units of Government Web Site Initiative to put more local governments on-line is a collaborative effort of the Office of Technology Partnerships in the Michigan Department of Information Technology, the Michigan Townships Association and many Michigan-based universities, including Northern Michigan University. Through this Initiative, students develop Web sites for interested townships or cities as service learning under the supervision of faculty. Since 2004, under this Initiative, university students have created the Web sites for 37 Michigan townships.