Local Charities Benefit from IT in the Community
Directed by: Pat Byrne
For one semester during the 2nd year of their masterís course, students do a project within their service learning module as a consultant in the IT industry.
"Itís something that all the studentís need, a link module that will put the practical into effect," Pat Byrne Director of the Masterís degree in Information Technology said. "They need some way of putting their theory into practice, so we designed it in that way."
Previously the project module had been a theoretical, made up scenario or case study, but Byrne felt that students were missing an important link in their education. Based on material they learned in their course already, students were introduced to ĎIT Project.í
"We wanted to design a bridging element that would give students some experience of the kind of things they would engage in industry. So we designed this and called it ĎIT projectí and it was really a project where you took your IT skills and put them into play," Byrne said.
With a small, close-knit group of 12, students are able to focus on being consultants to a charity in the local community. Backgrounds in IT, Business, and Human Interaction/Behaviour help their projects be a productive, beneficial experience.
"I just felt it was maybe more meaningful for the students to do their projects with a real work case," Byrne said. "I also felt that they have skills that could benefit someone out there. I didnít want it necessarily to be a commercial concern because weíre not in the business of selling the skills of the students, but I felt that they had skills that could certainly benefit a charity that might be interested. Students are a resource that the charity can draw on."
Because of the strong IT structure that larger charities or organisations would have, students act as consultants to smaller charities. During their service learning modules, students initially go and talk to the charity about how theyíre currently using IT and some of the things they would want to do in the future using IT.
Students would then be required to assess some of the work that had been done in the charity and would make suggestions as to how they might be applied to further their aims. It is then that the students would act as a consultant, putting their skills from the classroom into actual practice.
"The students will come away, think about these needs, formulate some plans, and put those suggestions to the company in question and perhaps give them a variety of choices as to where they want to go or how the students can help them."
In a world where competition in the workplace is often fierce, this project helps enable students to be prepared for the work that they will do in their community. Students not only learn the strength and presentation of implementing a strategy plan, while developing and adhering to a project plan, they are implemented into the community that they will work in.