LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Jody Wells of the St. Vincent de Paul Society is always seeking workers for the charity’s second-hand store in downtown Uniontown, but for the past year she had another mission: finding somebody to redesign the organization’s “boring” website that drew few visitors and no new volunteers.
Wells’ prayers were answered one day when she came across an article about Don Wilson’s IST 250 classes at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus. Each semester for the past 15 years, his students have planned, designed, coded, tested, and managed website projects for local community organizations in order to receive real-world, professional learning experience. The only software they use is a simple text editor to build web pages and style sheets from the basic building blocks.
According to Wilson, four students, Danny Bolbecker, William Cramer, Rian Davis, and Geoffrey Salitrik, worked closely with Wells and her supervisor, Jim Schucolsky. Both representatives came to the Fayette campus twice during the semester, as well as during finals week; however, with the development site on a public-facing web server, it was easy for them to view the work day-by-day from anywhere.
Students worked through the entire website creation process from start to finish, developing and enhancing their HTML5, cascading style sheets, and visual design skills along the way. They learned how to create accessible websites, regardless of browser type, connection speed, or browsing device. Another important aspect of the class was practicing the principles of responsive design, a new method of designing websites that adapt to devices ranging from mobile phones to desktop monitors.
After more than 100 hours of planning, designing, coding and adding content, St. Vincent de Paul Society’s new website was ready by early December. Woods came to campus to view the final product and hear students talk about what they learned during the second half of the semester.
“Awesome” was how she described the new portal, adding that it was easy working with the IST 250 students, although the process was still a lot of work — but well worth it.
“You can see that it’s come together really nicely,” Woods said. “I am glad for this opportunity. The website would never have gotten done had it not been for Penn State Fayette because are a nonprofit and we don’t have the money to do that. So, it’s been great!”