For the past two-plus years, our Information Technology & Innovation (IT&I) Web Services team, aided by our student developers have been working diligently on the re-design and upgrade of our university website. This includes the use of WordPress as the university Web Content Management System (WCMS), which allows our 140 content managers the ability to perform content updates without assistance from IT&I. The first migration was completed June of 2016 with the goal of having all sites migrated by December 2018.
The university’s web presence has grown substantially over the last five years resulting in an increased number of web pages and assets, presenting a challenge for the department: How would we be able to provide quality service in this area of growth with a fixed or reduced budget? The answer was to leverage our uniqueness and our strength, our students.
WCSU has traditionally had a large presence of student workers and deployed them mainly to help run the computer labs. About three years ago, IT&I initiated its Student Developer program, recruiting some students majoring in computer science and management information systems to help deliver and complete ‘real IT projects’ needed by our university. Renan Max Hamoy, our university Digital Coordinator and Digital Strategist, saw the opportunity to help mitigate our migration challenge. He started recruiting, mentoring and supervising new student developers to help assist in the Content Management System implementation. The result has been a significant increase in the pace of the website migration while helping us meet our budgetary challenges by avoiding an expensive consulting engagement with a third-party vendor.
The student developers have been a great addition to the IT&I staff. In addition to assisting with the migration, they provide software development and maintenance support. The team uses the Agile development methodology, an iterative approach that guides the team to focus on delivering value while maintaining a continuous feedback loop with stakeholders. Coupled with this is the Kanban methodology, a pull system in which there is a predefined set of work items that the next available team member can pick to begin a new project. This allows for the continuous delivery of enhancements, features, and fixes for our WordPress theme.
Mr. Hamoy developed guidelines for the group that helped the students quickly learn the ‘ins and outs’ of the migration process including which initial steps to take. The students then improved the guidelines and it became a living document. Each departing student documents their completed work, supporting continuous improvement of the migration process. This effectively became the recipe for the website migration project helping new developers get acquainted with the technical landscape and turning them quickly into highly effective team members. To date, we have migrated 182 websites and trained many of the 140 content editors and managers. The Student Developer Program was a key ingredient in achieving these goals and included the following students:
Angelo Cefaloni (University Assistant, former student developer)
Bryan Sebastian Orellana Cajamarca (University Assistant, former student developer)
In addition, under the direction of IT&I programmer Richard Corzo, student developer Michael da Costa developed an application called ‘Campus Shift Punch’ – which keeps track of student’s time spent working in Media Services, as student government representatives, and for the Program Activities Council (PAC) – to name a few.
While our University realizes many benefits, our students are gaining experience on developing software and what it’s like to be part of a team of developers, helping prepare our students to graduate with real-world experience making them ready to begin their careers.