It has been just over a year since the launch of the parkrun Virtual Volunteer app, which enables parkrun volunteers to both record times, and scan barcodes using a mobile device.
parkrun Global Operations Manager James Kemp explains the impact the app has had around the world so far, and the vital role it will play in our future growth.
Some time ago we noticed that there were a few homemade apps around that were being used at events for timing and scanning. We looked at a few and really liked an app made by a small company in Australia, for their local parkrun.
We decided that it would be great for us to have an official app that we could offer to all events, so we got in touch with them and the Virtual Volunteer was born.
It is important to us that the scanning and timing functions are as simple as possible, and easy to use, and we’re delighted with the response so far. Whilst parkrunners are still required to present a printed barcode or wristband, utilising this new technology increases the reliability of our results, and reduces the amount of equipment that needs to be stored, transported and maintained by event teams.
And critically, as we launch 400+ new events per year around the world, the Virtual Volunteer app massively reduces the financial and logistic costs of supporting our vision of keeping parkrun free, forever, for everyone.
In December 2017, parkrun launched in Germany – this was a landmark moment in parkrun history as it was the first time we had started a new country operating ‘app-only’, meaning that all events across the country operate without the traditional hardware of stopwatches, scanners and laptops.
You may have also seen that parkrun is launching in Japan this coming weekend and again, they will operate app-only.
But it’s not only our new territories that have embraced the app…
In Australia, all new events use solely the Virtual Volunteer app and many other territories around the parkrun world are looking to adopt this new technology. Some events in the UK are now using the app exclusively, whilst many more use it alongside the traditional scanners and stopwatches.
Varsity Lakes parkrun in Australia now use the app. Regular volunteer Michael Balch said: “I’m not tech minded so I was nervous when it first came out, but now I have full confidence in the app and the results are available quicker.
As timekeeper, I can see the results immediately in the file, and during the event it’s really useful to be able to see the previous six times I have recorded in case someone asks what their time was. Overall it is a big improvement.”
Meanwhile in the UK, Jen Fairwood is Co-Event Director at Clitheroe Castle junior parkrun: “We’ve been using the Virtual Volunteer app for some time now. For scanning it has the advantage of being able to see that scanning the position token and personal barcode has been successful.
The results processing is a little quicker with the app too as we do not have to connect up the various devices to our computer when we process the results.”
We have also experienced some positive unintended consequences of launching the Virtual Volunteer app. For example, people who are deaf or hard of hearing are able to receive visual feedback as to who has or hasn’t been scanned, helping to make volunteering at parkrun even more accessible.
We are continuing to improve and develop the Virtual Volunteer app to add further enhancements, with the most recent update adding seven new languages.
Why not download it yourself, if you haven’t already. You can have a play with it at home to get used to it, and then offer your services at your local event. We’re sure they’d be delighted to welcome you to the volunteer team!
Global Operations Manager
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