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5 Questions with Kevin Choy, outgoing BCcampus Communications Research Assistant

Kevin started working at BCcampus as a Communications Research Assistant in January 2013. As his eight-month co-op work term at BCcampus concluded, we asked him to evaluate his experiences at BCcampus.

1. What are you studying at Simon Fraser University? What made you want to work at BCcampus in particular?

I am working on a Bachelor of Science in the School of Interactive Arts & Technology (SIAT) at SFU. My academic concentration, Interactive Systems, focuses on the interaction between computer systems and their users. I am also working on a minor in Computing Science, and was previously working on a CS major before switching into SIAT.

I have a strong interest in using and developing technology to help users; due to this, I applied at BCcampus, as it seemed like the perfect place to work. I would be working with other staff towards improving the post-secondary education experience for their users: generally faculty, staff, and students. During my eight months at BCcampus, I got to witness first-hand how passionate and dedicated our staff worked towards promoting this goal.

2. How did your projects and tasks at BCcampus help you in your educational and career goals?

One of the things I loved about my position at BCcampus was that it had me trying out all sorts of different tasks and projects. I was given many opportunities to apply and improve a variety of my own technical skills, such as usability testing, web development, and graphic design. I had also learned – and, in some cases, mastered – all kinds of tools I was previously unfamiliar with, such as the Confluence corporate wiki software.

I also had the opportunity to greatly improve and practice my soft skills – my verbal communication and leadership skills, in particular. For our Confluence wiki reorganization project alone, I had done two rounds of one-on-one consultation and discussion sessions with around a dozen staff, coordinated a major two-hour “boot camp” training session for our client services staff, and various smaller training sessions. Being able to take initiative and make suitable decisions, even if there wasn’t always one that could satisfy everyone, was incredibly important.

3. What was your favourite project during your time here? Is there any task you’re glad to leave behind (be honest!)?

The project I’m the most proud of was the usability test for the BCcampus.ca corporate website. To gain knowledge about how usable our website was for our target users, Tori Klassen (my supervisor, who was the observer and note-taker) and myself (the lead facilitator) had each participant complete a series of tasks in their own office. I gained a lot of practical experience with usability testing, which is among my favourite academic interests. The challenge of working on my own to design the test, recruiting participants, and working out a schedule around our participants’ busy schedules – and successfully accomplishing all these – was also incredibly rewarding. In addition, it was a great experience working directly with post-secondary faculty, staff, and academic administrators. Finally, for BCcampus, my report of usability findings and recommendations from the test gave insight into the major usability issues with our corporate website; it heavily influenced our decision to do a major realignment of the website, and is guiding how the new WordPress-based site will be designed.

My least favourite tasks would probably be those that required a lot of repetitive work. The most recent example that comes to mind would be from the website realignment project. After an automatic export of the contents of the old site was done, I was tasked with manually cleaning up the new development site to make sure there weren’t any problems with formatting on the imported pages and posts, and any content missed during the import had to be recreated. It wasn’t exactly the most pleasant experience – it was a process that took up an entire week, since the old site had almost 400 pages! However, it was something that did have to be done, as it had to be completed before the web development phase could begin.

4. You’re a student working in a post-secondary organization – how do you see the services BCcampus provides benefitting students in B.C. colleges and Universities?

BCcampus’ services save a lot of time and confusion for current and prospective students. For example, with ApplyBC, it centralizes the post-secondary application process in one place, rather than having the student individually apply for every institution they are interested in individually – a tedious and sometimes confusing process. The shared services BCcampus provides, such as Moodle, may also benefit students by reducing overall costs (to allow the institution to spend the money towards other projects), allow instructors to develop innovative teaching methods, and improving the quality of distance education.

In my opinion, the most valuable BCcampus initiative is the Open Textbooks Project. Having already spent the equivalent of around $3,000 towards textbooks (and that’s only up till now!), I see the ability to download free online textbooks and the option to purchase low-cost printed copies as being particularly valuable. I’m also a supporter of the open source community, so I see the ability to share and distribute Creative Commons-licensed textbooks as the solution to make education more accessible and affordable to all students.

5. What’s next for Kevin Choy?

I’ll be heading back to SFU for the fall, where I’ll be taking some courses to get closer towards completing my degree. In addition, I still have a few more co-op work terms I want to complete. I’m still in the process of discovering my interests and skills, evaluate what I excel at and enjoy, and figure out what exactly I want to do after I graduate.

It has been a great pleasure working at BCcampus and with everyone at the organization. It was amazing being able to work on such a wide range of projects and tasks at BCcampus and gain a huge variety of experience and skills. I’d like to extend a special thanks to my Marketing & Communications team – Tori Klassen and Barb Murphy – for their help, support, and encouragement!