In the past, says HCC instructor Dave Longey, students in his Intro to Web Design course rarely left the classroom. Students were almost always huddled in front of computers, learning web design programs.
"There was no external connection," he said.
That changed last spring after Longey's class hooked up with two nonprofit community groups who needed help redesigning their web sites - the South Hadley Food Pantry and the Community Education Project. The introductions were made by Lisa Mahon, HCC's coordinator of Service Learning programs.
Part of the course involved field trips to the food pantry in South Hadley and to the CEP office in Holyoke, to learn about the organizations and their missions.
"We got to talk to them about what their needs were and their expectations for the web site," said student Lynn Savage, 52, of Easthampton. "I got the impression that they had web sites because they thought it was necessary, but they didn't really know what they wanted to get out of it. They told us what they wanted and what they could let go of and what we could do to help."
Savage worked on the project with two other students, Emily Merrill, 21, of Warren, and Francis Ramos, 22, of Holyoke.
The students had to revamp about 12 pages on each site and create a Spanish language version for the Community Education Project site.
Over the course of the semester, Longey estimates the three students involved put about 24 hours into the project of redesigning the two web sites: www.shfoodpantry.org and www.cepholyoke.org
As a final semester project the students also had to design their own web sites. Ramos created an online store for his clothing line, PRYR. Merrill created a web site about off-roading, one of her hobbies. Savage created a site for his work as a freelance journalist.
Longey also created a web site documenting the class's Service Learning project: home.comcast.net/~davelongey/
All in all, Longey said the Service Learning project was one he would gladly repeat.
"I think it was valuable," he said. "It opened students up to things that they wouldn't normally be exposed to in this course. They need to learn to relate to clients and translate that into something usable."
Photos: (Left) HCC instructor Dave Longey (center, standing) with students Lynn Savage (seated), Emily Merrill (standing left) and Francis Ramos. (Right) Longey looks over a web design.