The following story appeared in the most recent issue of the UNO Magazine, which highlighted how professors are serious about play, studying how it aids learning and development, using it to teach math or to aid recovery from a stroke, or just to have fun. Read the magazine online as a Flipbook or download a PDF.
A local wildlife rescue organization turned to students from the College of Information Science & Technology at UNO to reign in an out-of-control reservation system.
For more than 30 years, Wildlife Encounters, a nonprofit based in Gretna, Nebraska, has rescued exotic animals such as Fennec foxes, bearded dragons, parrots, tarantulas, armadillos and boa constrictors.
The rescue takes some of these critters — “animal ambassadors” — on the road to teach students of all ages about the animal kingdom. Reservations can be made to bring rescued exotic animals to birthday parties, school presentations, corporate events, baseball games and other events.
And that’s where things had gotten a little … wild.
Bookings could be made by phone or email anywhere from a few days to a few months in advance. Kip Smith, director of education at Wildlife Encounters, worked with Magie Hall, assistant professor within UNO’s College of Information Science & Technology, and her class to streamline the booking process.
This experiential learning project essentially transformed Hall’s “Agile Development Methods” class into a consulting firm. She mentored a team comprised of two project managers, two developers, two user interface and experience designers, and two testers. Students collaborated with each other and the staff at Wildlife Encounters to implement a web-based event scheduler while learning and applying project management methods and concepts.
“Initially, it was a little daunting to change our entire process, but it’s become much more efficient,” Smith says. “They listened to every concern we had, adapted the setup to our needs and wants, and we had fun along the way.”
Thanks to this collaborative effort, making a reservation to bring fascinating creatures to parties and events is as simple as completing an online form. Users can choose a date from the calendar to see what time slots are available, request specific animals, and make payments through the web-based application.
Students also worked to seamlessly integrate the web application with staff email, calendars and financial software.
“The entire team was a joy to work with through the entire process,” Smith says. “It was great learning from them and letting them meet some of our animals.”
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Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.