University College is the online and adult division of Azusa Pacific University (APU), based in Southern California. University College carries out APU's long-standing commitment to meeting students' ever-changing needs. They offer affordable and flexible avenues for non-traditional students to earn their degrees, and currently serve a student body of 1,500. The Department of Learning Design and Engagement works to provide online course construction and technical assistance to support faculty in delivering cutting edge education to their students.
In 2011, Azusa Pacific created a new online education division, Azusa Pacific Online University. Mike Wilday, Managing Lead Technologist in the Learning Design and Engagement Department, joined the team shortly after the school was created. Wilday recalled that his department started with three employees who were responsible for several large projects, such as designing online courses, developing instructional media and collaborating with subject matter experts. The team quickly realized the need for a task management system that would organize their assignments and support efficient collaboration.
According to Wilday, they tried several programs, but none of them had the potential for collaboration or integration with Google Apps, which they were already relying on heavily to do their work. Wilday had been introduced to GQueues in a previous job and continued to use it on a personal basis. He explained that "it did an amazing job for me and helped keep everything in my life organized," so he presented GQueues to his team and it stuck. "GQueues integrated so smoothly with Google Apps; choosing it as our task manager made a lot of sense for us as a team," explained Wilday.
Over the last five years, Wilday has witnessed tremendous growth at APU and within his department. In 2014, Azusa Pacific Online University merged with APU's School of Adult and Professional Studies to form University College. In response, the Learning Design and Engagement department expanded to a team of 10. Today, those staff are spread across the West Coast, and they provide on-going support for over 100 faculty members located throughout the United States and abroad.
Wilday shared that he largely chose GQueues for its collaborative features that allow staff to work together in real time, no matter where they are located geographically. According to Wilday, features such as notes, shared queues and Google Drive integration, "offer the ability to collaborate and excel in our work together. It's important to be able to collaborate and see what anyone's working on at any given time. It's an essential tool for managing our projects." The team particularly likes being able to communicate directly from a task and have everything in one place. "The comments feature is phenomenal for helping our team stay on track and keep projects and tasks moving forward," noted Wilday.
Wilday recalled that it was easy for his department to integrate GQueues into their daily work because of its seamless integration with Google Apps for Education. The simple and intuitive nature of GQueues paired with the integration with Google Apps allowed staff to catch on quickly, get organized and stay on track, according to Wilday. The team quickly realized the advantages of adding tasks from Gmail. It helped them decrease the chances that service tickets or project requests would get lost. "The ability to create tasks straight from inside Gmail has been fabulous," according to Wilday.
Wilday shared that GQueues has helped the Learning Design and Engagement department stay organized, especially with the unique way their accounts are set up. Wilday explained that, like most GQueues users, department employees have their own individual GQueues accounts to break down larger projects and keep track of their own routine tasks. However, they also have a separate team account where they create all shared queues for projects. The shared team queues are not owned by any one individual, and the team tasks appear on a separate GQueues calendar. Employees collaborate through the shared queues for larger projects related to course development, trainings and technical support tickets. This system allows the team to "see what's on the forefront and what's a high priority," noted Wilday.
When asked what benefits GQueues brings to his department, Wilday explained that the shared queues are incredibly valuable for co-managing his team. "At any moment we can look up and see what everyone is working on right now," he noted. This allows Wilday and other department supervisors to decide how to best distribute the workload amongst their staff. If somebody has too much on their plate, they know right away whether to alleviate something from their list or adjust a deadline. "GQueues has been really successful for us as a team, especially for those in supervisory roles," he remarked. In addition to his own workload, Wilday is juggling nine people's projects at any given time, so he likes having everything in one place. Wilday explained, "I put everything in GQueues, which helps me stay on top of things and make sure nothing is missed."
One of the most important aspects, Wilday shared, is that "GQueues helps people focus on the things that matter." University College is dedicated to meeting students' learning needs, which requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work from the Learning Design and Engagement Department. The better organized they are, the more they can focus on providing students and faculty with an infrastructure for success, and GQueues helps them do that. "It's a powerful task management tool and especially if you're a Google Apps for Education user, the integration makes task management that much easier," according to Wilday.
Being a long-time user of GQueues, Wilday has seen many features evolve over the years. He noted that he's appreciated how much the company listens to users' suggestions and feedback. "You can tell the GQueues team is invested in continual improvements," explained Wilday, "and that means a lot to organizations like us who are investing their resources and time using the product." Overall, he finds GQueues incredibly valuable for his team. "For the cost and for what you get out of the product, it's extremely affordable, and extremely powerful, and it just continues to get better."
For more information about Azusa Pacific's University College, visit www.apu.edu/uc