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Website Once-Over demonstrates partnership between NIU and local nonprofits

March 22, 2021

Over the last year, COVID-19 has resulted in more and more people seeking information online. Yet, not all website are user-friendly or contain the most relevant information for visitors. A new collaboration between the DeKalb County Nonprofit Partnership (DCNP) and University Honors Program at Northern Illinois University allows nonprofit organizations to receive feedback about their website from Honors students free of charge.

“The NIU University Honors Program strives to broaden the contours of students’ college education,” said Andrea Radasanu, director of the University Honors Program. “This partnership with DCNP provided students with the opportunity to develop specific website assessment skills while assisting local nonprofit organizations. It is a great reflection of the core values of the Honors Program, and we are grateful for this wonderful partnership.”

The Website Once Over Opportunity (WOOO) included 16 local nonprofit organizations and 37 students in fall 2020. It was available to nonprofit members of DCNP and students seeking Honors Engaged credit. All students received training from NIU’s Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing, and Communications. After being assigned a nonprofit’s website, students provided structured feedback about accessibility, content, inclusive language, navigation and layout.

“This opportunity is a perfect example of connecting the community with resources available at NIU,” said Ben Bingle, DCNP director. “The University Honors Program had a need to provide students with remote volunteer service because of COVID-19. At the same time, many local nonprofits have not had the chance to focus on website improvement because they are stretched thin during the pandemic. The result was a mutually beneficial experience for those involved.”

Michelle Groeper, executive director of Tails Humane Society, agrees. “Tails has over 17,000 website visitors each month, so it’s really important for our website to be accurate, user-friendly, accessible and engaging,” said Groeper. “Through the Website Once Over, we got in-depth feedback from a student who had a completely fresh perspective. Given all of our other priorities at Tails, especially during COVID, I doubt we would have had a chance to review the website without this opportunity.”

Another group of organizations and students are currently participating in a spring 2021 session. Students will complete their reviews prior to April 19. The application is currently closed, but DCNP and the University Honors Program are exploring ideas to further connect Honors students and local organizations in the future.

Questions about DCNP membership can be directed to Ben Bingle, DCNP director, at [email protected] Inquiries about the University Honors Program can be directed to Andrea Radasanu, University Honors director, at [email protected]