When researcher Jen Jackson pondered how she could help teaching colleagues who faced urgent workloads amid the COVID-19 crisis, she thought of the gig platform Air Tasker that she’d recently used to find a fence painter.
Little did she realise that her idea to use a similar concept of matching supply and demand would be so quickly and widely embraced across the University.
After mentioning her idea to the right people, VU Tasker was quickly launched, connecting research and professional staff who had extra capacity with teaching staff who had unforeseen challenges of preparing classes for digitally-supported remote learning and teaching.
“It is a unique idea for a unique situation whose time has come,” she said.
Within 24 hours, the platform was widely welcomed, with nearly 150 participants now part of VU’s newest Yammer group, including 50 who put up their hands to assist in a range of areas such as supporting remote-delivery classes, drafting non-academic content, locating resources, or uploading material.
They included senior leaders Vice-Chancellor Peter Dawkins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Marcia Devlin, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Corinne Reid who have each offered their services as digital teaching assistants.
Professor Devlin said it was “uplifting, although really not surprising, to see the way colleagues from across VU have come together to support each other and our students at a time of uncertainty.”
The platform has proved most popular with VU’s Connected Learning team as it designs, uploads, and trains staff in technology-enhanced learning and teaching.
Project manager Sonja Kiernan considers herself ‘a bit of a matchmaker’ connecting staff with suitable backgrounds with teachers-in-need, and organising Zoom training sessions for staff navigating new virtual classrooms.
“We all want the best outcome for our students. Everyone who works here is passionate about that, but now it’s all-hands-on-deck,” she said.
“It’s at times like this that people’s ability to be adaptable and agile defines our institution’s dedication to providing high quality education to our students.”
Professor Devlin said the initiative fits perfectly with the university’s ‘Making VU a Great Place to Work’ strategy by connecting staff from across many areas and disciplines, while encouraging them to try activities outside their comfort zones.