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Friday, June 22, 2018

WCC Students Conduct Real-World Research

This week WCC rolls out new pages on its award-winning website that highlight three non-traditional ways to take classes: online, in a blended format that combines online and classroom learning, and on weekends.

The pages are noteworthy because real-world research by WCC students contributed to changing them.

This unique opportunity was an assignment that instructor Cheryl Byrne gave to her Business Communications class during the Winter 2009 Semester. The project was designed to provide a job-related experience that had relevancy in a professional setting, Byrne said. It also gave students the opportunity to make recommendations that would be considered for implementation by the College.

The student project primarily focused on blended classes, which few students were choosing. It required the students to talk with other students about blended classes, assess similar programs at other colleges, evaluate the messages used to promote this type of class, and present their findings to a panel of business professionals.

“This project was really exciting for us, and I think it demonstrated the best spirit of the educational process in many ways,” said Jim Egan, dean of distance learning and one of over half a dozen professionals who sat in on the student presentations. “It addressed a real issue facing us at WCC, but one that is also of great interest to students.

“It required the class to research the issue, summarize their findings, and then present them to a wider audience. What could be better for business communications students? They furthered their educations and gained practical experience while working to solve a problem they care about.”

“The students made it clear that we had to demystify the terms we were using, such as College on Demand, COD, and FlexEd, and we had to do a better job of explaining how online and blended classes worked,” said Christopher Billick, director of Web Services. “Web Services also interviewed distance learning staff and utilized our own expertise to re-craft how this information was presented on the website. The new pages group information together logically, allowing us to cross-promote other appropriate services such as online advising, the bookstore, and Blackboard help. We’ve also used clear, descriptive language that not only increases clarity, but has a side benefit of increasing the searchability of the new pages.”

The result is a series of new webpages that clearly explain blended, online, and weekend classes. They discuss how the classes work, registration procedures, technical requirements, and training and support that are available. They also provide links to pages about helpful subjects such as tuition rates and how to drop a class.

“If you want to know what is important to students, you have to ask them,” said Matthew Mancour, a business major who took part in the assignment. “It all comes down to branding and making the terms clear and recognizable. I feel honored that we had the opportunity to give back to the College and to do something useful for future students.”

WCC brands the three non-traditional ways to take classes as FlexEd, and uses the College on Demand brand for the online and blended classes.

"I was so pleased to hear that Distance Learning, Marketing, and Web Services listened to our presentations and are implementing some of the solutions our research revealed,” said student Judie Ryan. “Preparation and research for the presentation was time constraining, especially for me as I am an accountant and the presentation day was April 16.  The group’s attention and action made the time well spent."

Byrne has two new assignments for her Business Communications students this fall. One class will look at how students put their class schedules together—what they consider and what they need to make the process work. The other will research and evaluate WCC’s online application procedure.

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