Friday, 14 January 2022

Systematising simple requests

When we are managing regular, similar requests, having systems in place - like an HR Kiosk, if you will - enables us to shift the simple, repetitive work off our desks and free up time for the more important, complex tasks. Systematising or automating jobs reduces our overall workload.

Most of the textbooks I use are unfortunately not electronic yet, though I am hopeful of a shift to ebooks soon. But students too need to catch up with going digital: it took me a decade to fully make the transition, so I can understand their desire for a hardcopy book to be in their hands. However, living in New Zealand under times of Covid-19, textbooks are taking a long time to arrive, even when ordered early. As a result, I have students who may need to borrow a book chapter or two from me while they are waiting for their already purchased book to reach them.

While my institution can have one chapter scanned on my course legally within copyright legislation, it is not possible to have more. I don't want to put my institution's reputation at risk. What I used to do was to ask students whose books have not arrived to email me, and I would email them a link to borrow the next chapter from me, personally (and ask them to get rid of the scan once their book arrived).

But this semester, I have 50 students. I tried saying, email me on Monday morning, and I will send you all a link. However, they are keen - isn't that wonderful?! - so email me early. Once the emails started arriving five days early, I realised that I would need a simple system, pronto! It was obviously going to be difficult keeping students requests visible: 25 plus student emails sent at any point in the week would be messy. Further, I didn't really want that request information in my institution's systems.

After some thought, I created a simple one question SurveyMonkey survey. I created a new collector for each week, customising the "Survey end page" to include the URL for each download link. I copied the settings of the previous collector link for each new week's link, just changing the destination download URL. The students, once they log their email and click "Done", now get taken automatically to the storage location. The whole process has been systematised, and automated. I should not need to worry about this in future. I have created an effective and efficient response. Further, I can see who has requested the chapter. I can also see when particular students stop asking, so can get an idea of how long their text took to ship.

This also represents reclaiming more than an hour a week of my time. I wish I had thought of it before.

And now I am wondering what else I can do with this new toy...


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