Students blossom whilst helping community groups with IT solutions

Issue date: 30 May 2014

Budding computer experts from UWE have helped 15 local community, voluntary and social enterprise organisations with websites or IT issues as part of their final year studies.

UWE Bristol's student consultancy scheme has been working in partnership with a wide range of community or voluntary groups, social enterprises and others in the Bristol area for the last 29 years.

The projects are run by final year student teams on UWE's BSc programmes in Web Design, IT Management for Business and Computing. The projects are diverse, ranging from developing websites, to designing social media strategies, to enhancing databases and developing IT strategies.

Dr Nick Plant, who co-ordinates the scheme within UWE's Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies, said, “Final year students work in teams on live consultancy projects for local organisations. Clients benefit from free consultancy on systems analysis or ICT-related matters, whilst providing powerful practice-oriented learning opportunities that epitomise UWE's commitment to partnership working.”

'The A team', a group of five students, worked with Thornbury in Bloom to help this organisation reach out to the younger community in the town. Guy Rawlinson, Chairman of the Thornbury in Bloom group and Mayor of Thornbury said he found out about the student consultancy projects following a social media course run by the Thornbury Volunteer Centre in the town.

“We really wanted to engage a wider section of our community and to get young people involved in civic pride and making the town look beautiful which is at the heart of the 'In Bloom' national competition. We were very lucky to win a bid for the consultancy run by UWE Bristol as the scheme is well known now and has a reputation for delivering excellent work. The student team were fantastically professional in their approach and have helped us to develop a new website that is easy for us to use. The team also extended our social media presence growing our twitter following from a handful of followers to over 1,500. We are delighted with the work they have done for us.”

Christina Appleton, who is in her final year studying Web Design and was part of 'The A Team', said, “Thornbury in Bloom set us a challenge to revamp their web site and grow their Facebook and Twitter following in a way that would appeal to younger people. We set up a WordPress site and redesigned the appearance to make more of their content. The A team also developed a map showing the route of the Thornbury in Bloom planting to help the judges find their way around.

“We were quite flattered when they included a page relating to the project with our team and it was good to see how quickly the volunteers took to uploading text and images after a few tips from us. We also learned all about creating a web site using a WordPress template which was ideal for the client, as when we are no longer there to offer support the group will not need to understand complex coding.

“The placement was a fantastic opportunity for us to work to a brief for a real client. We all now have something tangible to show that will help us to demonstrate our abilities to potential employers.”

Paul Hulbert, Senior Lecturer on the consultancy project module and 'A Team' supervisor, said, “The student teams do real projects for real organisations so they get a real flavour of working for a client. Clients discuss what they want and this may well end up being very different from what they need, so the students have to unpick the best way of doing things creatively and collaboratively. We have a big network of contacts because this module has been running for a number of years, and in fact most years we have more clients than student teams so the clients actually have to bid for the consultancy rather than the other way around.”

The Thornbury in Bloom project can be viewed here.

The A team comprised Rebecca Jenkins, John Fajardo, Mohammed Rahman, Stuart Downie and Christina Appleton.

Other project team successes this year included 'Fortis Consulting', a team of students who worked with Ambition Lawrence Weston to improve the online presence of this North Bristol regeneration group, and 'Team Omega', a five-student consultancy who designed a multi-channel social media marketing strategy for St Werburghs Community Centre.

For further information about Student Consultancy at UWE visit the Community Action and Knowledge Exchange. The project will be looking for more clients in good time for the 2014/15 academic year.

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