E-resources for the London Project Center

Sponsor: London Project Center of Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Sponsor Liaison: Dominic Golding
Student Team: Reagan Kayhart, Zachary Rioux, Akshay Shinde, Ben Tyler
Abstract: Students attending the London Project Center (LPC) struggle to prepare for their IQP trip due to a lack of easily accessible information. We surveyed students and interviewed center directors, Global Experience Office staff, and representatives of the Association of International Educators and Forum on Education Abroad, to identify what information students need and how best to provide it. We created a website to more effectively address these informational needs before and during the IQP experience. Additionally, we made a promotional video for the LPC to use in cultivating project hosts. We recommend how the LPC director and GEO staff can improve the existing sources of information and methods of dissemination, and how to maintain and update the SharePoint website. 



Executive Summary

WPI offers students a unique experience with the Interactive Qualifying Project (IQP) by combining study abroad with their project-based learning approach. While students can choose from over 50 project centers around the world, the London Project Center (LPC), the first international project center, remains a popular destination. While students attending the LPC are provided with multiple resources, students still struggle to find information on life abroad including accommodations, food options, day-to-day life, and transportation. 

Preparing for the IQP at the London Project Center can be an overwhelming experience for students. Students must complete a variety of tasks, that include learning about a new culture, conducting research, meeting with advisors and local project hosts, and planning cultural activities and trips. Many resources such as the LPC website, ID2050, and WPI’s Global Experience Office (GEO) provide London students with the information to make the most of their experiences safely on-site. However, the information presented can be overwhelming, not available in a form that is appealing to most students, and incomplete. 

To address these challenges, the goal of our project was to develop a suite of online multimedia tools and resources for students embarking on an IQP at the London Project Center. To achieve this goal, we identified four main objectives: 

  1. Identify the latest and most effective approaches in providing information to students participating in education abroad programs. 
  1. Assess current, past, and future Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) student preferences regarding content and delivery of material about the London Project Center experience. 
  1. Construct and test preliminary tools and resources for students embarking on an IQP at the London Project Center. 
  1. Create a promotional video for the London Project Center project hosts. 

To meet each objective, we interviewed WPI Global Experience Office (GEO) staff members, project center directors and advisors, and representatives from the Forum on Educations Abroad and the Association of International Educators (NAFSA) to identify the current and best practices in delivering information to students participating in education abroad. In addition, we surveyed past and future London IQP students to gauge their experience through the IQP process and determine their preferences for the types of information presented and delivery mode. We also conducted interviews with past students willing to participate and randomly selected six current students to attend a focus group. Based on the information collected, we created and tested preliminary tools and resources on a website for students traveling to their London IQP. Lastly, we interviewed LPC project hosts to identify who they and their organization were and their personal experiences with IQP. Given this information, we created a promotional video that best fits recruiting new project hosts for the LPC. 

The existing LPC website is designed as a repository for past project reports and is aimed primarily at current and potential project hosts, but not students. Students have reported that the information presented by GEO and in ID2050 by advisors is often overwhelming and difficult to access. Also, students have found there is a lack of information on the topics of local cuisine, attractions, and travel options. These are especially helpful coming from previous London IQP students. 

Contrary to expectations, we found that students prefer text-based forms of communication, such as factsheets and handbooks, rather than videos or presentations. Students say finding desired information from text entries is easier and quicker than scrolling through video clips. 

We have created a website (see Figure ES1) based on the multitude of interviews with sponsors, students, WPI GEO staff, and project directors. The idea, stemming from the data collected, was a single space where students can find all the necessary information being provided to them by GEO, ID2050, advisors, and past students to help enhance their experience. Information often gets lost in the many mediums the different groups provide, and students cannot find the resources given when they are needed. Included is a section where past students can recommend attractions, restaurants, and travel destinations. The pages and information provided were designed based on what the students felt was missing, what directors and GEO felt was the most important, and recommendations from previous students. 

The current London Project Center website lacks resources for students but is a great tool for project hosts. It is mostly used as an archive for past student projects. In recent years, students have struggled to find resources in one convenient location and access them with ease. Our goal was to take advice from past and future students, project directors, and GEO staff to create a website focusing on the most important topics. We have updated the “For Students” tab on the LPC website with links to a SharePoint site. This site is blocked by the WPI firewall and will only be accessible to students who have been accepted to the London IQP for C, D, or E term. The site is navigable within, but this is a quick way for students to go to a specific page. 


Figure ES1: Home page of the SharePoint website. 


First, we recommend the London Project Center Handbook for C, D, and E term is posted to the new SharePoint website prior to ID2050 and preferably as early as possible. Past students and directors have said that they find accessing the handbook to be difficult through Canvas pages. This will also help students to buy tickets early and save money on travel. 

 Second, we also recommend a group meeting before ID2050 to allow students to contact one another. ID2050 can be an intimidating class as you plan to travel with 23 other students you have never met. Seven weeks may be enough time to get comfortable with the idea of traveling with them, but planning weekend trips will be difficult. This could also be accomplished with an activity or two during ID2050 that mix up the project groups.  

Third, if possible, holidays should be avoided for the long weekend. This will allow students the time to travel and prices will not be higher than normal. 

Fourth, students recommended that GEO makes the Canvas site more accessible for the handbook. There is a lot of information provided on the site, but much of it gets lost. Students and center directors suggested a quick link to the handbooks, since so many students found it difficult to find.  

Lastly, the SharePoint website will need yearly upkeep. We have provided a document that details the necessary steps for this maintenance. Included is how to add/remove student access to the site, how to change access settings, how to update the handbook links, and how to view analysis reports for a given page.