Student Resources for the London Project Center

Sponsor: London Project Center


Sponsor Liaison: Dominic Golding
Student Team: Chyla Alonte, Katherine Deyette, Elijah Levi, Joseph Swetz
Abstract: Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) must complete an Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP), usually during their junior year. However, students often have trouble researching project centers and preparing for their trip due to a lack of easily accessible information about the various centers. Prospective sponsors also may not have access to the information they want when considering involvement in a project. By conducting surveys and interviews with past students and project sponsors of the London Project Center (LPC), we determined the types of online resources that would be useful for both parties. We created a website that presents information on the IQP application process, transportation and tourism for students, and an overview of the program itself for sponsors.
Link: Final Report

Executive Summary

WPI students have the chance to participate in off-campus Interactive Qualifying Projects
(IQP) at one of over 50 project centers around the world (“Global Projects Program”, n.d.). This
is a unique experience, but applying during the beginning of their second year may leave
students confused and unable to find the necessary information to construct a good application
and understand what living and working at the various project centers is like. Similarly, it can be
difficult for organizations interested in working with the LPC to learn about the IQP and network
with WPI staff. By creating a new website, we addressed these concerns and provided intuitive,
interactive resources for use by students and sponsors looking to learn more about the project
center and the IQP program as a whole.

The main objective of our project was to develop new materials to improve the current
London Project Center (LPC) website. By providing more detailed yet engaging information, we
hope that the new website will help bring more sponsors and students to the center in
forthcoming years. The project was completed through four subsidiary objectives:

  1. Review and assess the current IQP application process, including current resources
    available on the LPC website.
  2. Determine student and sponsor opinions about current resources.
  3. Generate storyboards to outline the resources we are going to create.
  4. Create these online resources and incorporate them in an engaging fashion for interested
    students and potential sponsors.

We reviewed the materials that the GPP and the LPC provide potential students to clarify
our understanding of the IQP application and placement processes and identify any confusing
areas for applicants. We used this baseline assessment of existing resources to inform the
development of new resources that help students navigate the application process. Then, we
conducted online interviews with the Interdisciplinary & Global Studies Division (IGSD) staff to
further understand the application process and their perspectives on the available e-resources.
We focused on understanding applicant qualifications, difficulties that students face while
applying, and the availability of online information provided by the GPP.

We supplemented our baseline assessment from our first objective by sending surveys to
past and current students of the LPC, and conducted interviews with current and prior project
students and sponsors. Based on gathered information from the interviews, we created
storyboards via Lucidcharts to iterate upon ideas of materials for the website. This allowed for
visual representation and easy editing to outline the content for the new website.

Based on finalized content from the storyboards, we used WordPress for web
development. The website design included many functionality features to maximize usability.
This was supplemented by adding functional visual components to improve website accessibility.
We integrated multiple “sensory options” when developing the website, in order to give users the
ability to access the information at their own pace. Our findings led us to pivot our website
design away from video content and towards concise text-based media with interactive elements.

Based on information gathered from interviews with five IGSD staff members, we
created an interactive timeline to display the IQP application, helping students visualize the
process (Figure ES1). For the most recent and accurate information, the timeline contains links to
the relevant IGSD webpages to ensure that the information on the timeline does not expire. It
also includes general, chronological steps of applying for an off-campus IQP to give students a
visual idea of how to engage with the application process.

Figure ES1. Screenshot of part of the interactive timeline.

The student surveys indicated that while some topics were covered by the pre-departure
materials they had been given, there were many others with either mixed results or completely
lacking clarification. Based on these results, we included sections on our website to address
matters such as phones and public transportation. To highlight activities past students enjoyed in
the city, we created a Google map pinpointing various tourist locations in London that were
mentioned in our survey and interviews. A related page detailing local cuisine was also created
to give students a better picture of everyday life in the city.

We found that the sponsors had generally good experiences working with the LPC, often
holding WPI students above other student programs they worked with in the past. Our
interviewees, however, had some suggestions as to how the LPC’s online resources could better
engage prospective sponsors. Quick, concise, and easily digestible information is preferred,
rather than extreme amounts of detail. Short written segments with pictures could be provided,
with downloadable PDFs containing more extensive information for the sponsor’s future reading
and reference. As a result, we modified our sponsor content to fit onto a single page on the
website. We created five separate topics that sponsors can click on, each yielding only a small
amount of information. If they are interested in hosting a project, they can contact the center
director with the information provided on the “Contact Us” tab. One sponsor expressed that there
was not a sufficient way for prospective sponsors to view previous projects, despite every past
LPC project being available to view on the website. Due to the nature in which project
information is stored in the LPC website, we were unable to prioritize creating an efficient
method for displaying information on past projects.

Students undergoing the finding, researching, and application for an off-campus IQP can
encounter stress, which is further magnified if the information is not easily located. Similarly,
finding out exactly what IQP is can prove difficult for an organization without pre-existing
connections. To address these two problems, we wrote and conducted surveys and interviews to
evaluate the needs of both undergraduate students and sponsors. We found that:

  • Short text-based segments are preferable to longer-form media.
  • Students are most interested in more information about travel, logistics, and finances.
  • Sponsors want a short executive summary-style description of WPI and the IQP.
  • Most sponsors learn about the program through word-of-mouth and connections.

We contacted the IGSD staff for their knowledge on the IQP application process and guidance
on what information to and to not include. With the information we gathered, we established a
Wordpress website to be used in conjunction with the current LPC website. With this online
implementation, we hope to garner greater engagement from both students and sponsors.

Other recommendations include networking features on the main LPC website for
interested organizations to contact past sponsors, in-person events for sponsors to connect with
students, reorganizing how past projects are displayed on the main LPC website and further
localizing information on the IQP application process into a single source. While some of the
data we gathered was not useful for designing web resources, it may be used by the IGSD or
future IQP teams to supplement their own research when creating or modifying media related to
the GPP.