The human resources office at Lorain County Community College had a dilemma: the benefits enrollment process was confusing and lengthy for employees and time consuming and frustrating for human resources staff. More than 400 college employees need to complete the paper-based process each year. The human resources office presented their problem to Professor Don Huffman, who teaches a capstone project course for students in Computer Information Systems (CISS) majors.
“Typically, the students take on smaller projects, but when I presented this option to students, they unanimously decided to tackle the benefits enrollment process,” Huffman explained.
The students are earning degrees in network technology, software development and web development.
Twenty students in CISS 247 Systems Development spent 10 weeks developing solutions for every aspect of the benefits enrollment process. The class gives students real-life experience in the systems development life cycle: how to get a system developed from a user’s conceptual idea to a fully functioning system that meets the user’s requirements, Huffman explained.
To properly address the project, the students in the class branded themselves as the 2-Forty-7 Consulting Group. Together, they developed a technology solution, which they named the Personalized Open Enrollment Management System, or POEMS for short. The system is designed to simplify the benefits enrollment process for LCCC employees applying for coverage. Not only that, once fully implemented, POEMS could save the human resources office an estimated 800 hours a year.
Students in the class have a wide variety of backgrounds, which helped bring unique insight to the project. Several students are earning credentials as they prepare for a second career. Other students are earning their first degree and have plans to enter the workforce after graduation on May 14. Many have completed internships with area companies.
David Whalen, 45 of Avon Lake, served as the project manager. Whalen has a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. He spent the first 14 years of his career in retail banking. For the past nine years, he’s operated a commercial print shop. While some people turn to traditionally artistic fields, such as painting or music, for a creative outlet, Whalen turns to information technology. His new degree in software development will help him as he continues to advance his skills in his career, and also he continues his creative development as a lifelong learner.
Whalen and his classmates took the project seriously from start to finish.
“The business problem is simple. The ‘client’ has a manual, paper-based process that requires compliance by some 400 individuals within a defined time frame. We didn’t just jump into fixing the problem. A significant aspect of what we were tasked was to understand the client, how the problem affect the business process, and identify the many moving parts,” Whalen explained.
Their final project was presented to LCCC’s administration at the end of the semester, to an astounding and grateful review.
“This is a quintessential work-based learning experience. The students have done a remarkable job addressing a real need,” said LCCC President Roy A. Church.
The POEMS system is expected to be fully operational by fall 2016.
R1: Veronica Ford, Ian Behas, Luvashen Kuni, Dominic Santiago, Kari Naylor, Hilary Crayton, Reshad Reed, Robert Renz
R2: Professor Don Huffman, Michael Jones, Nick Vance, Ryan Jessop, Corey Crawford, Matt Prugh, Peyton McDonald, Matt Becht and David Whalen.