Creating E-Resources for the London Project Center

Sponsor: London Project Center LPC_team (2)
Sponsor Liaison: Dominic Golding, Center Director
Student Team: Demi Karavoussianis
Matt LeMay
Marc Reardon
Rachel Smallcomb

Information provided by WPI regarding the London Project Center can be spread out and confusing for students, creating a feeling of information overload during ID 2050 and while on IQP. By analyzing the current information dissemination methods and the opinions surrounding them, we determined what information students felt was previously lacking. By doing so, we created a suite of content and tools, presented in a website format, for the London Project Center director, to benefit future generations of London Project Center students. In addition, we provided a series of recommendations to the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division, ID2050 instructors, and to the London Project Center on improving the way they inform students before, during, and after an off-campus project.

Link: Final report:  Creating E-Resources for the London Project Center

Executive Summary

More than 70% of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) undergraduate students will participate in an off-campus project (WPI, 2018a). WPI provides a variety of information before, during, and after the off-campus experience, and because students are responsible for keeping track of this information, it is easy for these students to feel overwhelmed.
This provokes the questions: what do students need to know, and what is the best format to provide answers to their questions? The goal of this project was to determine how the Global Projects Program (GPP), and specifically, the London Project Center (LPC), can more effectively engage students and meet their informational needs throughout the entire IQP experience.

Literature Review

Founded in 1824, WPI began its legacy with the goal of harmonizing theory and practice. Theschool’s founders, John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn, believed the traditional theoreticalapproach to education combined with hands-on lab work would create an innovative place of technical study. WPI staff designed the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) to give students a project that replicates engineers work after graduation. While early IQPs were conducted on campus, the faculty soon realized the experience would be much richer if programs involved sponsoring organizations and off-campus settings. The program has now grown to more than 40 project centers on six continents. An elaborate support structure has also developed over the years, including the IGSD office, specialized classes (ID2050) to prepare students, faculty, and host organizations.

To prepare students for their term abroad, WPI requires students to take a class to introduce them to the country where they are working. The instructor sets guidelines for the students’ work, butbecause the IQP is an open-ended project in general, the students would still have the freedom to explore many possible approaches. A full timeline of the IQP process from the beginning of astudent’s first year to re-entry after an off-campus project can be found in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1: Timeline of the IQP Process

During this process, information is given to students from all different sources, at different times, and in different formats. This can get especially confusing when information overlaps, contradicts, or contains gaps between different mediums.

The purpose of this project is to improve communication with students and other stakeholders to improve the academic and cultural experiences. This requires an understanding of what information students need and want to figure out the most effective delivery mechanisms. Providing more content in appropriate formats will make students more productive, have a better learning experience, and become better ambassadors for the GPP.


The goal of this project is to determine how the GPP, specifically the LPC, can more effectively engage students and meet their informational needs throughout the entire IQP experience. To achieve this, we pursued the following objectives:
1. Identifying what information the GPP and LPC provide to students to prepare for their off- campus experience.

2. Determining student, sponsor, staff and faculty opinions about current resources.

3. Reviewing the best practices for disseminating information about study abroad programs.

4. Designing and developing innovative tools that attempt to address the needs of all WPI stakeholders.

Out team assessed IGSD and LPC materials and supplemented our initial findings with student surveys, student interviews, and faculty interviews. Each stage of the pre-IQP and IQP process is outlined in the timeline in the Background. We have identified what and how materials are given out at each stage, as well as which departments are responsible for which information.

We evaluated student, sponsor, staff, and faculty opinions on WPI’s current practices forproviding informational resources and tools in order to understand which are currently in use, how effective they are, how effective they are perceived to be, and what the WPI community thinks about them. Our team focused on understanding the limitations of the current methods, such as online videos, blogs, site sessions, and FAQs. Throughout this process, we examined how student views of the program have evolved from the time they chose a program to their recommendations after completing their IQP.

The third objective was to review the best practices for disseminating information to students who plan to study abroad. We reviewed and analyzed the materials from organizations, such as the Forum on Education Abroad and the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), that promote best practices for staff and faculty of universities and third-party providers to follow.

Our fourth objective was to design innovative tools that attempt to address the need of WPI stakeholders. By evaluating the current dissemination methods, ascertaining the opinions of these different groups, and researching the best practices in study abroad, we determined the creation of a comprehensive website would be the best tactic to complete this objective.

Analysis and Findings

Through surveys, interviews, and focus groups, we asked previous and current LPC students about the quantity, usefulness, and efficiency of provided information resources regarding various topics. The results of our surveys are broken down into three key points: feedback on the amount of information provided, feedback on the quality of the information and suggestions for a new way to organize the information.

Based on the feedback provided during the focus group, students unanimously felt there was no such thing as providing ‘too much information’ about IQP. The major categories for what topics students wanted more information on are as follows: previous IQP descriptions, assignment information, visa requirements, and travel information. We provided articles specific to these topics on the website.

We asked students how easy they felt it was to find the specific information given WPI’s current resources. More than 25% of students had difficulty finding information on the following topics: logistical program details, types of projects offered, financial information, and housing information. We provided specific articles on the website for these topics. Students also felt information for IQP should be centralized on a website that was geared towards students rather than sponsors.

By a show of hands, both during a presentation and during the focus group, the current LPC students voted unanimously in favor of information displayed in a centralized location on both accounts. We decided to create a homepage that contains all possible queries while also remaining organized and simple for students coming from all stages of the IQP. The homepage contains 3 boxes at the bottom, as seen in Figure 2 below.


Figure 2: Organization of the website homepage

The user can see all the options of articles available under each category, suiting the popular student opinion that the information should all be presented on one page. For the stakeholders who preferred more structured content, we provided a “Roadmap to IQP” outlining each stage in an interactive format. The user can select the entire box displaying all the articles for that stage of IQP, or choose a specific article from the list provided.

Recommendations and Conclusions

Before starting our project, information distributed by WPI to students was scattered over a variety of multimedia sources. In some cases, information was not even accessible. By creating the website, we have created an organized, student-centered, and comprehensible resource. This new site has information presented in an intuitive manner. Further, we would like to offer recommendations to key stakeholders at WPI in regards to the information dissemination methods and content provided to students.

The data collected for this project revealed some overarching student preferences. In general, it was found that students prefer centralized sources of concise information geared directly towards students currently going through the IQP Process. After analyzing student feedback, there are several student suggestions which may be of use to IGSD. We recommend consolidating the several Canvas pages into a single Canvas page, as students like information in a single centralized location.

Students felt that the orientation covered information that was very site-specific. This information may be better incorporated into ID2050, to better make use of the orientation time. With that said, the length of orientation was a concern among students and faculty, as they expressed that over the course of orientation students lose interest and are not engaged. We recommend consolidating the information presented during the orientation into short and manageable pieces or split the orientation into several sessions, some of which may be best suited online.

Since the primary focus of this project was creating resources for the London Projects Center, it was important to measure the effectiveness of the current suite of materials. On the original LPC website, there is currently a list of previous IQP projects, sorted by year. Students in the focus group and survey expressed interest in knowing what types of projects were offered before applying, as it affected their ranking decisions. Therefore, adding an option to sort prior IQPs by different criteria could be useful to incoming students, such as by sponsor, theme, and year. This simple feature would allow students to determine the general theme of the project center more effectively.

ID2050 is meant to prepare students for the IQP; therefore, it is essential to streamline information to effectively prepare students. Given that ID2050 is generally taught by different instructors, the following recommendations are aimed at all instructors. From the data collected we have found that students prefer Canvas as a centralized source of information for many reasons,including but not limited to: simplicity of assignment submission, the “Team” function, thegradebook, and other forms of communication.