You are a student at Virginia Tech and have been chosen for a web analysis project. The Division of Student Affairs (DSA) has decided to conduct a large-scale reevaluation of its web presence (http://www.dsa.vt.edu/). Your group has been directed to select a website for a department from the DSA, determine how effective it is, and then make specific recommendations to the project manager, Holli Drewry, the Assistant Director of Communications and Innovative Technologies, for improving the site.
Drewry oversees the Division’s web presence, and she is far too busy to sit in on your team meetings. When you asked her for guidance at the beginning of the project, she responded, “I don’t care how you do it; just make sure you can backup your recommendations with evidence. We need some concrete ideas for improving the site by the end of the term.” By the last week of classes, your team will deliver a written recommendation report to Drewry and give an oral presentation to the class highlighting your findings and recommendations.
This activity is a service-learning project. Drewry is a real person, and your written report will be delivered to her and will likely affect the next revision of the website you analyze. As you are working on your analysis and recommendations, always keep in mind that you are writing for a real audience and purpose.
|To analyze the website||Designing for the Web: A Tutorial
“Designing Web Sites,” pp. 169-174 of Markel
Chapters 4 & 8 of Markel
VT Branding Guidelines
VT Web guidelines & procedures
|To write your group recommendation report||Chapter 13 of Markel|
|To present your recommendations||Chapter 15 of Markel|
Step 1. Familiarize yourself with the website analysis resources
As users of numerous websites, we constantly make split-second judgments about whether or not sites are “usable.” In other words, we quickly decide whether a site helps or hinders our ability to complete a specific task. We tend to return often to sites that are easy to navigate, while we stop visiting sites that are overly confusing or unhelpful. As a team, study the materials in Designing for the Web: A Tutorial and “Designing Web Sites” (pp. 169-174 of Markel) until you have a strong grasp on the key terms, concepts, and practices.
Step 2. Select a department
Your group will choose one of the following departments for this project. You can find the links under the “Department Listing” tab on the left side of the DSA homepage. Only one group can sign up for each department.
- Campus Alcohol Abuse Prevention Center
- Career Services
- Cook Counseling Center
- Corps of Cadets
- Cranwell International Center
- Dean of Students Office
- Dining Services
- Fraternity and Sorority Life
- Housing and Residence Life
- Multicultural Programs and Services
- New Students and Family Programs
- Recreational Sports
- Schiffert Health Center
- Services for Students with Disabilities
- Student Centers and Activities
- Student Conduct
To sign-up, go to the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) Project Forum, find the department you want, and Start a New Conversation that tells me which class you are in, the name of your group, and the members of your group. After a department has been claimed, no one else may choose it. Claim your department by 11:59 PM on November 12.
Step 3. Compose group work statement
As a group, compose a memo to Traci that outlines the policies and details that will guide your group as you work on the project. The memo will serve as your group’s agreement on how you will work on this project. The memo should include the following information:
- List of group members and the contact information that group members can use to contact one another.
- Group responsibilities (division of labor) for the project. For instance, who will serve as the chair? Who is responsible for making sure work is posted? Responsibilities may evolve as the group works, but you should at least choose a chair who will keep the group on track.
- Communication policies that account for how the group will deal with deadlines, questions, and absences.
- Location for working drafts, notes, and other group work. I recommend you set up a shared folder on Google Docs. Please share your work space with me.
- Tentative timeline for the work on the project. You’ll need to choose a date for the rough draft of your written report, a date for a draft of your presentation materials, and so forth.
Post your group work statement by 11:59 PM on November 15.
Step 4. Analyze the site audience
Use Chapter 4 of Markel and the information in “SECTION 1A: Analyze Your Audience and Purpose” of Designing for the Web: A Tutorial identify the different audiences who will come to the website and determine their purpose, attitude, and expectations for the site. You can use the questions in the Writer’s Checklist on page 76 of Markel to guide your analysis. Write a short character sketch for each audience you identify and post your audience analysis by 11:59 PM on November 15.
Step 5. Develop an analysis checklist
Customize the checklist for “Designing Web Sites and Pages,” on page 175 of Markel for the site you are analyzing. The checklist in the book is for someone who is creating a website. You are analyzing a site, so the questions need to change to reflect your purpose. Add at least five questions that are specific to the site you are reviewing. Post your checklist in the Forums by 11:59 PM on November 15.
Step 6. Write a progress report
Write a progress report (1 to 2 single-spaced pages) that outlines what your group has completed, what work you still have to do, and how you plan to complete the remaining work for the project. Outline any questions or concerns you have that may affect your group’s progress. See pp. 302–304 in Markel for resources on writing your report. Post your progress report in the Forums by noon (12 PM) on November 22.
Step 7. Write the recommendation report
Finally, you will write a recommendation report (7–10 single-spaced pages, including all pages) detailing your group’s analysis and making recommendations for improvement. Your report will be addressed directly to Holli Drewry. (I will pass the document along to Drewry.) The report should describe the process you used to analyze, present your findings, and make specific recommendations for improving the site. The most successful reports will include several annotated images, either from the original site or from mockups that you have created to demonstrate your proposed changes. This assignment does not require you to know or learn HTML, so you may choose to create mockups in Photoshop or another image editing program. For details on the information typically included in a recommendation report, see Table 13.1: Elements of a Typical Report, on page 320 of Markel. Post a PDF of your report, including all documents, in the Forums by 11:59 PM on the day of your group’s presentation.
Step 8. Prepare and deliver an oral presentation
During one of the last three class sessions of the term, your group will deliver an oral presentation accompanied by electronic slides (e.g., Google Presentation); Traci will play the role of the project manager during these presentations, and your classmates will pretend to be members of DSA web team. Your presentation should be roughly 7–10 minutes in length, followed by 5 minutes of Q&A. Your presentation should involve all members of your group as equally as possible. Post a PPTX copy of your presentation in the Forums by 11:59 PM on the day of your group’s presentation. Sign-up for group presentations will take place in class on November 18.
Evaluation and Class Attendance
The group presentation project is worth 20% of your course grade. This grade will be based on your group’s written recommendation report, your oral presentation, your individual participation, and your group assessment. The overall grade for the group project will be an individual grade. In other words, group members will be assessed individually. The members of the group probably will not all earn the same grade.
In-class writing from this point on in the class will typically be group work that you post in the Forums (e.g., your group work statement, your audience analysis). Work done in class during these final weeks cannot be made up. If your work is not posted on time, all group members will receive a zero. If you are not in class on the day work is due, you will receive a zero while group members who are present will receive the points they earn.
Attendance from this point on in the course is crucial. You will have time during class the rest of the term to work on this project. I expect you to attend every class session, to be on time, and to work the entire class period. Attendance and working diligently while in the classroom will figure into the individual participation portion of the group presentation grade.
Credit: This assignment was adapted from Quinn Warnick’s archived site, with his kind permission.