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Baker College Students Take on ‘Herculean’ Projects Proving They’ve Got the Right Stuff

November 21, 2013

'FLINT' canned-food structure
Baker-Museum_Reservation_Screen: An online reservation system, created by Baker College graduate students as their capstone project, guided Center for History patrons through the ticket purchase process. The 650 tickets available for the Center’s Mystery at the Mansion event quickly sold out.

Capstone projects benefit Indiana museum, others
FLINT, Mich. – A museum in Indiana has already saved countless staff hours of manually processing event ticket orders, thanks to a group of Baker College students. They created the museum’s newly launched online reservation system as their capstone project, one of the final steps to complete the online Master of Science in information systems (MSIS) at Baker College Center for Graduate Studies.

Travis Childs, webmaster for the Center for History, South Bend, Ind., credits the students for “pulling off a Herculean task” within the project’s 18-week time constraint. The system connects to the Center’s website and uses PayPal for online ticket payments. The students also delivered web-based user training and detailed documentation, including maintenance requirements, operational instructions, and instructions on updating the database when tickets are sold manually.

“Once people were aware of the online system and how easy it was to use, the 650 tickets for our Mystery at the Mansion tours in October sold out almost immediately,” Childs said. “It worked flawlessly and has made purchasing tickets more convenient for our patrons who can now buy them 24/7, not just when the museum is open.”

MSIS capstone projects for other organizations in Michigan and throughout the U.S. have included online solutions that provide:

  • real-time project status with reports to multiple parties,
  • real-time monitoring of wind turbine diagnostics,
  • Internet-based academia activities (exams and assignments),
  • tracking of confidential contract bids with report generation, and
  • database searches using multiple criteria, such as age, gender and experience.

Bettering their community
“The Center for History reservation system definitely met the requirements for a capstone project,” said Lina Li, Ph.D., dean of Baker’s MBA & MSIS programs. “It was an intensive, active-learning, real-world assignment that allowed students to utilize the knowledge and skills they acquired in classes.”

Li explains that the mission of the MSIS program is to create effective, technically competent and ethical IS leaders. “This includes having a deep appreciation for contributing to the betterment of their communities,” she said.

Because students of online programs are not tied geographically to a specific area, their “communities” can be anywhere in the world. Online programs also allow them to more easily continue to work full time while completing their degrees, as was the case for the seven Baker College students who worked on the museum project. They are:

  • Chase Busscher, Kentwood, Mich.
  • Jacqueline Donnelly, Overland Park, Kans.
  • Jeff Johnson, La Follette, Tenn.
  • Barb Johnstone, Chelsea, Mich.
  • Scott Nelson, South Bend, Ind.
  • Heather Manning, Rochester, Minn.
  • Todd Peltier, Livonia, Mich.

“Students’ jobs and diverse locations enhance collaboration by creating a nationwide clearinghouse on real-world topics led by outstanding educators,” Li said.

Student Scott Nelson identified the Center’s need for the online reservation system. He had been involved as an actor in the annual Mystery tours since they were launched in 2007.

Nelson adjusted his work schedule as senior business application specialist for CHE/Trinity Health to meet with the museum staff during business hours and brought in the other students via conference calls or WebEx.

“Because the project added value to a good cause, it was more than a grade for a required course,” Nelson recalled. “The whole team was excited about the project. It was a joy.”

The tours are only offered two nights in October. Patrons progressively learn clues about a notorious crime that took place in Michiana, a region in southwestern Michigan and northern Indiana. The 38-room, 12,000-square-foot mansion was built in the late 1800s by industrialist J.D. Oliver, who revolutionized the plow industry. It is owned by the Center for History, a not-for-profit historical society charged with teaching the heritage of the St. Joseph River Valley region.

Effective project management experience
A key takeaway for most of the Baker College MSIS students was a greater appreciation for project management, according to Jeff Johnson. “My formal education included a number of project management courses, but building this system helped me experience effective project management first hand,” he said. “I learned a lot from Scott (Nelson).”

Johnson maintained full-time employment with ADT throughout his degree program, working as business performance analyst until transitioning to application developer last December. He continues to work voluntarily on the reservation system “Version 2.” It will offer additional reporting capabilities and support plugins, allowing for alternative payment options, among other upgrades and general code cleanup and refactoring.

Johnson will provide the upgrade to the Center and release it as open-source software in hopes that “it will be useful to other organizations with similar needs,” he said.

For more information about the Baker College MSIS program, contact the admissions office at 800.469.3165 or visit www.baker.edu/bakeronline.

The Baker College System
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