Students at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) have developed a site for fellow IT students around the country to help their peers prepare for graduation into the IT industry.
The site has been launched under the Australian Computer Society's domain (www.acs.org.au/student) after being developed by final year Computer Science students at UWS.
Richard Bridge, vice chairman of ACS' NSW branch, said the ACS wanted a site for students doing IT-related courses but, rather than controlling it, decided the look, feel and most of the content should be driven by students for students.
The ACS sought expressions of interest from a number of universities and found that UWS had rounded out concepts and interesting ideas for what the site could offer. The ACS then set the students a budget and time frame for developing the site in much the same fashion as a project team would be given in the workforce.
"We set out some general requirements and asked for regular project reports, as well as an outline of what was needed and the necessary cost limitations," said Bridge. "We also had marketing students from the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney, to add a new viewpoint on the work being done."
Bridge said the site was developed using a mix of Java, HTML and Visual Basic, and was backed into an SQL server.
One of the students involved, Michael Reisenstein, said the group's first priority was to ensure the site loaded quickly and was easy to navigate.
"We looked at some resource sites and found that it's recommended you don't exceed 47KB on any one page, because if it takes you over 30 seconds to load, people are just going to go elsewhere," he said. "Some people seem to think everyone's got a cable modem and make the site just about unusable for your standard connection."
Some of the features of the site include the ability for a student to upload a project, such as some source code they are developing, for peers to evaluate and use. There is also a mentor FAQ page where students can direct questions to mentors at the ACS, and the answers to frequently asked questions are displayed. The site also contains links for IT headhunters looking for graduate employees. During the pilot stage of the project, one of the students sent out around 20 resumes and received back 12 expressions of interest, and two attractive job offers, and has now taken one of these positions.
The site also allows for comments about new ideas and problems. While the ACS will maintain the site, Reisenstein assumes it will contact university students again if it ever needs a major upgrade.
"Web design is an ongoing process," he said. "It's never really finished."
Bridge said the next step is to take the Web site to all universities and TAFEs across Australia, with the ACS considering the implementation of an e-mail list server for students to subscribe and get involved in the discussions. Overall, he is very impressed with the site's development.
"They thought about visual presentation, and have balanced functionality and appeal," he said. "It is efficient in the way it runs and is clear to navigate. I'm very impressed and I've complimented the team on doing a great job. I've seen much worse in the commercial environment."