Startup Responds to Coronavirus With Free Online Tools for Educators

Jason Dewland and Yvonne Mery of the UA Libraries and Sidecar Learning.

Jason Dewland and Yvonne Mery of the UA Libraries and Sidecar Learning.

(Photo: Paul Tumarkin/Tech Launch Arizona)

As educational institutions begin to move courses online because of COVID-19 concerns, librarians and other educators are experiencing an immediate increased need for easy-to-use, engaging e-learning tools. In response, Sidecar Learning, a startup based on software developed at the University of Arizona Libraries, has announced it is offering free licenses to all U.S. higher education institutions until May 31.

"We worked hard to develop this platform, and with today's crisis, we now have the opportunity to use it to impact tens if not hundreds of thousands of students," said co-inventor Jason Dewland, an associate librarian at the University of Arizona. "We're happy to be able to make this contribution."

The Sidecar Learning e-learning tool teaches students how to research, navigate difficult websites and evaluate information using live web content. Created and funded at the University of Arizona, the platform was developed to provide scalable authenticated research instruction at the point and moment of need.

Co-inventor Yvonne Mery, also an associate librarian at the university, said that this is the best tool to teach students how to use a database since it uses a live environment in an asynchronous manner.

Dewland and Mery developed the concept for the Sidecar Learning product during the course of their work at the University of Arizona Libraries. With the help and services of Tech Launch Arizona, the office that commercializes inventions stemming from university innovation, they launched Sidecar in 2019.

"The Sidecar team took advantage of many of the resources TLA offers to its startups, such as the I-Corps program to asset development funding," said Doug Hockstad, assistant vice president of TLA. "They always exhibited a real desire to have an impact on education, and I think this is further evidence of that desire."

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