Students in the management information systems analysis and design class in Tech’s College of Business partnered with The Exceptional Bean for real-world learning

Cookeville – A new classroom model has reaped extreme benefits for both a Cookeville business and students at Tennessee Tech University in the fall 2022 semester. This past semester, students in the management information systems analysis and design class in Tech’s College of Business partnered with The Exceptional Bean to both learn about the technology it takes to set up a business and to offer assistance to the new coffee shop whose mission is to provide employment for people with disabilities.

“After seeing The Exceptional Bean’s mission on social media and in the paper, I reached out to owners Michael and Cigi England,” said Seth Williams, lecturer in decision sciences and management, who oversaw the class. “I met with them and explained how we as an information technology (IT) group wanted to help improve their business by utilizing technology.”

Typically, Williams has broken up his class into teams of three or four, who each work on individual projects for the semester. However, this year, he and Doc Wells, professor of decision sciences and management, who teaches the second half of the course, decided to put all 15 students on the same assignment: improving technology at the Cookeville coffee shop.

Using funding they raised through donations from local businesses and individuals, the students tackled a variety of technological improvements in The Exceptional Bean. They installed TVs to display the menu, which replaced the hand-written version the business was using.

Exceptional – Students work on improving screen quality throughout the Exceptional Bean Coffee Shop.

This also involved trouble-shooting the problem of burn-in, where if an image remains on a screen for too long, the image could become permanently burned into the screen. This would become a problem when the coffee shop wanted to change something on their menu. The students had to research possible solutions and set up the technology to implement what they had learned.

They also set up security cameras, worked on the internet configuration to improve safety and speed, updated the website and added the ability to take online orders, as well as installing a computer program to not only simplify the process of order-taking for the employees but also to display to customers when their order is ready.

“The Tech team has been great,” said Michael England, general manager of The Exceptional Bean. “Seth of course is amazing. Bailey Hooper, who is the team leader, is next level. They’ve not only added some really cool tech stuff to our shop but they’ve been quick to troubleshoot any problems that have come up as well.” 

The students from this semester will be heading into next semester with Wells, who will instruct them on continuing their work with the business while also refining their skills in areas such as problem-solving and research. The course has provided the students a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience in troubleshooting real issues that business owners face.

“Personally, as project manager, I believe my communication skills have benefited the most,” Hooper said. “By working with each of our teams and being the primary point of contact for the Bean Team, I gained the knowledge of how to communicate effectively with all types of personalities. Overall, I have loved this experience and look forward to finishing next semester!” 

“The students have been exemplary in their work, attitude and efforts,” Williams added. “They have put a tremendous amount of effort into this project to ensure that it is successful. I am very proud of them and I look forward to the work they are going to do throughout the rest of the project. This experience is preparing them for a great career in the IT field.”

Photos courtesy of Tennessee Tech University.

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