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Virtual Advantage:

Developing websites for Alabama nonprofits


A program in which computer-science, business-marketing, and honors students gain real-world experience by helping non-profit organizations across Alabama develop websites. 

Through a partnership between The University of Alabama and the Alabama Association of Nonprofits, students in this service-learning independent study develop websites for nonprofit organizations by doing one of three things: designing the sites; writing content; or taking creative, high-quality photos.

Developing and maintaining a professional Internet presence is as vital for nonprofits as for the corporate sector. As society increasingly turns to the Web as an initial tool for learning about organizations and companies, Internet presence is becoming a crucial factor in determining an entity’s legitimacy. A thoughtfully crafted and well-designed website opens powerful channels of communication between nonprofits and potential donors, constituents, volunteers, partners, and the media. Yet the costly rates often charged for professional website-development services have long kept these benefits out of reach for many nonprofits. Virtual Advantage seeks to eliminate this barrier while providing practical, real-world experience for talented college students who are skilled in website design, communication, and photography.

Through interviews with the nonprofits’ staff, examination of existing documents and information and additional research, writers create professional Web content for nonprofits in need of such services. Website-design students are responsible for the final appearance and functionality of the sites. Photography students learn about the nonprofits’ activities and take photos to illustrate their programs and missions. All three groups – content writers, designers and photographers – work together to ensure websites meet the nonprofits’ expectations.

A brief professor recommendation is required for content writers and photographers and can be sent to cesr@ua.edu or Olivia Grider at 113 Temple Tutwiler Hall, Box 870168. Content writers should be marketing, journalism, business-communication or English majors and/or possess excellent writing skills. Content writers wishing to receive credit through the Culvershouse College of Commerce and Business Administration should contact Dr. Kim Campbell at kcampbel@cba.ua.edu or 348-8921. Photography students should have scored a B or higher in a UA photography class and/or have experience capturing and editing creative, high-quality photos. Website-design students will enroll in CS 491 and must have scored a B or higher in CS 202 or possess advanced knowledge of the technical and aesthetic aspects of website development. Contact Dr. Chris Horton at 348-1658 or chorton@cs.ua.edu before enrolling.