Firstly, apologies for the cringy title…I’ve been on an ’80s pop binge for the past week. It’s not completely random though, because this post is actually all about automation!
Now on this blog I talk a lot about lecturing but not that much about the other part of my job. This is primarily because the moment you mention to someone that you have a management position, in their eyes you suddenly grow horns and a tail and develop an evil cackle…
So to spare myself and everyone else, I keep it quiet. However, since of late I’ve been trying to incorporate ideas from the lecturing side of things into my management role, and vice versa. And one of the tools I’ve been looking into is Microsoft Power Automate.
The main idea behind Power Automate is that you can set up workflows to complete the mundane tasks of your job, leaving you more time to focus on the tasks that require intellectual engagement. It’s designed to be accessible to those without programming skills (like me, unless you count my pathetic attempts at C++ during the first year of my undergrad), and links to a variety of platforms, both internal to Microsoft and external.
As I reported on twitter a week or so ago, a colleague and I will be presenting some of the student-focused flows we’ve set up at the upcoming Teesside University Learning & Teaching Enhancement Conference:
Really pleased that the abstract @AndrewBingham17 and I submitted for this year's @TeesUniLTE Conference has been accepted! Looking forward to showing off all the fancy stuff we've been doing with @MSPowerAutomate 🤩 pic.twitter.com/baQU905Vcs
— Samantha Gooneratne (@dr_samg) February 12, 2021
But I was thinking…what about the stuff I’m doing that doesn’t relate to students (not directly, at least)? Surely there’s value in sharing that as well? So I thought I’d do that here.
A bit of background…
In my management role, I’m responsible for arranging staffing for our marketing and recruitment activities. We have a number of events (Open Days, Schools Engagement etc.) across the year and it can be difficult to keep track. For each event, I have to identify the staff, contact them and check that they’re available, keep a central record of who’s doing what and report the names to the relevant organisers. This results in a dozen or so emails for each event, and a lot of time spent on paperwork…not my favourite way to use my time!
I found that the Shifts app in Teams was a neat way to record who’s doing what. However, it doesn’t really link up with anything else (yet) and therefore is of limited use on its own.
My solution is to use Power Automate to take the details of any Shift I create, and use it to send an email to relevant people via Outlook, collect their responses and record them on a Microsoft List. I still start with the same action (setting up the Shifts in the app) but the ‘following up with staff’ bit is done automatically, saving me a lot of hassle!
I always share my tools and tips on my Tech Tips OneNote Notebook but that’s only accessible to those with a Teesside University account, and I wanted to share this more widely…so I decided to set up a Sway. I’d previously only used Sway for my MIE Expert applications but it seems to work pretty well as a step-by-step guide too. I was hoping to embed it here but WordPress doesn’t seem to support Sway embeds 😒, so please click through to see my Sway on the Automation of Notification and Recording of Shifts using Power Automate.
So that’s it! Power Automate has a pretty steep learning curve, depending on what you want to do…but nothing that a bit of googling can’t fix! I’m really enjoying learning how to get the platform to do what I want. You’ll have to sign up for the LTE Conference to see what I’ve done on the student-focused side but I’ll continue to present any management-focused flows here. Until then, back to my ’80s pop binge!