Students awarded prize for community work

Issue date: 25 November 2005


Students awarded prize for community work

A community benefit prize will be presented to Information Systems students from the University of the West of England for IT work carried out for the Dove Street Action Group (DSAG) in Bristol. The award will be presented by Business West at the Graduation Ceremony for UWE’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics at Bristol Cathedral on 29 November 2005.

The students worked with DSAG as part of UWE’s student consultancy scheme run in partnership with local community and voluntary sector organisations.

Gemma Bond, Daniel Clifton, Charles Nicholle and Andrew Notley created database software to manage DSAG membership. They also worked alongside their client’s financial management expertise to provide a financial management package and moved DSAG away from a dependency on Microsoft to use “open source” software instead. This reduced costs and increased flexibility considerably.

Selina Postgate explained on behalf of Dove Street Action Group, “We are a group of local residents who have been working since 1998 to improve the quality of life on the Dove Street estate, in the Kingsdown area of Bristol. We are all volunteers, and many of us do not have computers at home.

“We are so glad that the students built Linux software for us as this means we will be able to keep improving and upgrading our shared computers without incurring further costs. Eventually we intend to make Linux-based computing facilities and training available to everyone on the Dove Street estate. The new software also makes our IT system compatible with Bristol City Council’s open source system, which is great because we work closely with several Council departments.”

Pauline Pollard, the student teams’ supervisor in UWE’s School of Information Systems, said “Though familiar with Microsoft packages, the students overcame their fears, learnt how to use Linux as an alternative, and converted the Group’s computers to the new, free, software. The students adjusted well to the culture of the organisation and helped their client to move the organisation’s IT towards the goals it had identified.”

Commenting on the scheme beforehand, Alex Ewing of Business West said, “The Business West organisation links our four regional Chambers of Commerce with the Bristol Initiative. We heartily acknowledge and welcome students innovative community schemes by awarding a prize to each member of the student team judged to have produced the greatest benefit to the local community, and whilst the students are involved in on-the-job learning.”

Nick Plant, UWE academic who coordinates the scheme on behalf of the Community Information Systems Centre, said, “This practical work complements text book theory with real-life problem solving to align IT with organisational purpose. This team’s excellent grasp of new technologies, organisational culture and innovative team working sums up exactly what we are trying to teach our students.”

Ends

Editors notes:
Final year students taking the "Information Systems Practice 3" module in CEMS at UWE work in teams each year on live consultancy projects in local organisations, mostly in the community and voluntary sector.
Client organisations benefit from free consultancy on systems analysis or ICT-related matters, in exchange for hosting the projects.
Projects are very varied. In the past, clients have benefited from having a feasibility study carried out on the use of ICT. Others have involved the design and development of specialist software applications. Some look more broadly at enhancing organisational effectiveness through improving non-computerised organisational systems. The Internet inevitably features prominently too.
This scheme is conceived as a three-way working partnership benefiting the community, our students and the University. The “student consultancy” Web site at http://cisc.uwe.ac.uk/stucons provides more details, including further examples (mostly aimed at prospective client organisations)

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