A story about community, ideas and what’s in the back of your pantry

never underestimate the opportunities present from small beginnings; the ideas, the knowledge and support you can find in your immediate team, and the enthusiasm and interest from further abroad

By Gregori Meakin – College of Arts & Humanities Desk

Many of us in early lockdown may have found use for things from the backs of kitchen cupboards, forgotten cans of caviar, exotic fruits in tins and jars. So too with our work practices, once confronted with our abnormally new normal, the novel virus has forced us to seek novel solutions. In some cases what we find will often surprise. Speaking of surprises, as I type from my “home office”, Storm Ellen has taken out my electricity, but I persevere.

COVID-19 quickly showed up those tasks that we could do remotely with some ease, and those that we could no longer do. With the move to remote working there remained a selection of paper forms: conflict overrides, late submission of work, etc. Our manual registration form in Arts & Humanities was one of those workhorses of our support functions. It is a simple form but on busy days would accumulate until the afternoon when we had time to action the requests and file them. It had served us well, but now needed a new normal fit for our future functions in a digital world.

With the introduction of the Unified Support Model came new ideas and enthusiasm for the applications of Wufoo (an online form builder). We were already using Wufoo to manage our student queries through our Arts & Humanities Connector. With some reluctance and trepidation, I was delighted to find Wufoo not as difficult as I had anticipated (really!)

What is most interesting about developing ideas is that one begets another; one cannot always anticipate the direction of travel that our steps take! This is in the most part because of the companions I encountered on the journey. Directly advising and informing along the way were Jb Kenny, from Science, with innovations, and application of them for her local College solutions, and Paula McGarry from Engineering, who arrived with a whole other level of knowledge of Excel (and like me, she is also a self-styled amateur of Excel). In the new arrangement of the data, little gems of assistance have been added, hyperlinks to UniShare records, or the Module Timetable Search, as well as pulling in the email address of the Module Coordinator – other possibilities spring to mind – this journey is not yet complete!

Then there is the wider UCD community that I engaged with – my own team, the Remote Working Group. (I had previously shared with them my “UView Buddy”, that gives insight into a student’s data in UView, which had been well received and gave me further encouragement for other projects) In addition, there were range of members of an Innovation Team that meets occasionally to look at ideas.

The Manual Registration form that has emerged has travelled far, arriving at a sophisticated, reactive and informative tool for students to submit their requests and for staff to manage them through Excel. And then, (the goose discovered in the back of the pantry, laying the most golden of eggs) is the streamlined processing and data, so far away from bundles of pages inserted alphabetically in Lever-Arch files.

So, never underestimate the opportunities present from small beginnings; the ideas, the knowledge and support you can find in your immediate team, and the enthusiasm and interest from further abroad. The community of administrators/colleagues with varying ideas and expertise acting as the first line of innovation and development. And if you find you don’t quite have the skills, then have a go, Google an answer, ask a colleague, get some training, join a team – just get your idea out there. Who knows what lies in the back of your pantry!

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