The project

Three Business Studies students designed a mobile app for local heritage attraction . The work, part of their final-year project, involved carrying out primary research on how other historical sites use mobile apps, as well as fully exploring the app development process and the options available.

The students also created a working prototype of the app, which they used to demonstrate their vision of how the technology could be used at Highcliffe Castle in a presentation to staff at the attraction as well as their academics.

BU lecturer and project management specialist Dr Karen Thompson explained that the process of working with a real client to solve a real business problem is invaluable to students’ education, as it develops their professional competencies, such as communication skills, that enhance what is learnt in the classroom. Furthermore, the knowledge gained in their lectures is cemented, and they have an opportunity to explore areas of interest beyond the scope of the curriculum.

Working closely with local organisations and communities is one of the cornerstones of our fusion strategy, which is why the Highcliffe Castle project is such a fantastic example of fusion. Ƶ’s collaboration with the castle goes back to 2011 and has primarily provided an opportunity for students on our Business Studies courses to conduct their final-year projects.

Among the other projects our students have been involved with at Highcliffe Castle are investigating the feasibility and business case for a stained glass workshop, analysis of the financial aspects of the historic site, and improving signage between the carpark and the castle. 

These projects are comparable to a dissertation, so the students are expected to conduct primary research for their project, as well as to come up with an innovative solution that meets one of the castle’s needs as a visitor attraction.

While these projects have all been valuable on a personal level for our students, collectively they have been equally valuable to Highcliffe Castle.

Highcliffe Castle received £2.85 million in Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) in April 2016 to continue developing the site. In putting together the bid, the team at the castle drew on much of the research that BU’s students have carried out over the years to support their application for funding.

Through the relationship with Highcliffe Castle, Ƶ is helping this historic cultural attraction to grow sustainably and responsibly. 

The academic

Dr Karen Thompson, Head of Education & Professional Practice in the Department of Leadership, Strategy and Organisation

“The level of engagement we get from students through this kind of project is fantastic for their learning experience. They go into subjects in great depth and learn to apply their knowledge to a real situation. As well as using knowledge developed on their Business Studies course, these projects often involve exploring new areas.

“In the case of our students who worked on the mobile app design, they really had to drill down into a technical subject that isn’t their area of expertise,” Karen explains.

“At the end of their project, they were able to explain - very confidently and competently - about the different kinds of mobile app available, how the app design process works and what specifications a developer would require. Their research underpinned the whole project, which culminated in them demonstrating the use of a prototype mobile app, something that was incredibly engaging for the client.”

She adds: “One of the most satisfying things was speaking to the client after the presentation, as they commented that our students had given them a valuable insight into the app development process, the different apps available and the technology involved, so much so that they would be comfortable to start a dialogue with a developer themselves without any fear of having the wool pulled over their eyes.

So, not only did our students upskill themselves, but they were also able to pass that onto the client and organisation.”

“We’re hopeful that this is the latest in a line of successful projects between Ƶ students and Highcliffe Castle, and that the collaboration between the two organisations will continue in the future. There are discussions about exploring augmented and virtual reality experiences at the castle, which could see students from other faculties and courses getting involved in the exciting work we do.”

The student

Stephanie Gale, BA (Hons) Business Studies student

“For my final-year project, I undertook a project alongside two other individuals working with Highcliffe Castle, which involved creating a mobile application prototype for the castle,” Stephanie says.

“Undertaking this project has helped me to improve my project management skills. This includes communication and time management. By having a client, I had to ensure that the standard of work we produced was in keeping with any external deadlines, as well as internal ones, which was a great opportunity to understand how this kind of project is run in the real world.”

She explains that the research element of the project was key to its success: “We conducted a structured interview which consisted of around ten questions with multiple choice answers. By interviewing 100 visitors to the castle, we were able to better understand what they wanted to see from a mobile application. This helped us design our prototype mobile application.”

In terms of her future, Stephanie reveals that being involved with the work at Highcliffe Castle has reaffirmed her career choices. 

Project management has been a key interest of mine since I started university and this project alongside Highcliffe Castle has further enabled me to see that this will be my chosen career path."

“I will be starting an operations and project management graduate scheme at an investment bank in September and the skills I learnt from this project will definitely be transferrable and very useful. Overall, it’s been an enjoyable experience and one that I’d recommend to other business studies students.”

The impact

David Hopkins, Highcliffe Castle Manager

“All the projects that BU’s students have worked on contributed to the success of the HLF bid, and the organisation looked very favourably on the fact that the university partners with the Highcliffe Castle and that its students are given the opportunity to be involved in a live project.

“The research the students carried out was very valuable, as it would have been difficult for the castle, which is heavily reliant on volunteers, to resource it ourselves. We also found that having students involved in primary research with visitors and the local community allowed us to engage with a wider range of people, and brought a new perspective on the castle as a visitor attraction for a younger age group,” David reveals.

“The students who worked on the mobile app proposal have given Highcliffe Castle excellent data and contacts to develop this technology in future. It’s particularly important at the moment, as making the attraction accessible is key to the delivery of the lottery project.

“Due to the success we’ve had working with Ƶ students from the Ƶ Business School to date, we’re keen to look into expanding our partnership with the university to explore more ambitious projects, such as the use of augmented and virtual reality.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for the university as well as the castle, with the exchange of knowledge and resources benefitting students by giving them interesting and different projects to engage with, and benefitting Highcliffe Castle as an attraction by helping it continue to grow, develop and engage an ever wider audience with this slice of Dorset’s heritage.”