With the apt momentum of a freight train, what began as a hypothetical exercise in web redesign recently grew into a mutually beneficial give-and-take for a group of Penn College students and their "client." John J. Messer's Web Project Management class was broken into four-member teams and assigned to redesign the website for the Tioga Central Railroad
, which operates excursion and charter passenger service along a 34-mile line between Wellsboro and the Southern Tier of New York state. Messer, an assistant professor of web and interactive media, originally chose the site strictly as an example - with no intended TCRR involvement whatsoever. "I then decided it would be a good idea for the class to ride the train, so I organized a field trip to do so," he said. Approached about a student discount, Michael Keefe, the railroad's sales and marketing manager, readily halved the ticket price to $10 ... and asked for details. "He liked the idea of changing the design of the current site to make it responsive and to bring it up-to-date," the faculty member said. "He was anxious to see what the students would come up with, so I invited him to come to their final presentations." Those Dec. 13 presentations were, indeed, attended by Keefe, who was impressed both by the students and by the practicality of using a real website as a springboard for the discussions. "I felt that it was important to visit during the presentations since everyone had put in so much effort around the website," he said. "A ride for the students and an afternoon of my time was well worth the information that I received. I figured I would learn a few 'buzz words' and maybe see what was new in web design while observing, but I had no idea that I would gain something from each and every presentation." Keefe hopes to work with some of the students this winter to incorporate their ideas into the TCRR site, with other future cooperative projects also a possibility. Messer said the experience has been equally well-received by the four teams of students, who had the subsidiary benefit of learning during their collaboration how to effectively run a meeting.
Photos by Craig R. Urey, student photographer