Blog: Tips & Tricks

Web Profiles in Just Hours With Montana State University and North Carolina State University

Kris Babe April 12, 2019

Faculty web profiles publicly showcase your faculty’s accomplishments, engagement, and societal impact, telling a great story about your institution’s real world importance and influence. They can help you attract prospective students and faculty, win the support of parents, promote collaboration, impress donors, and inform legislators, accreditors, and the community at large. Unfortunately, faculty web profiles are years out of date at many institutions.

We recently spoke with Brett Weisz, Associate Chief Information Officer at Montana State University Billings, and Grae Desmond, Web Development & Operations Lead in the Office of Institutional Research & Planning at North Carolina State University, about the challenges of maintaining up-to-date faculty web profiles, and how they solved that challenge with the Digital Measures by Watermark Web Profiles module, a solution that enables administrators to publish data from their faculty information system to institutional websites with no coding, reducing the time required to launch and maintain up-to-date web profiles from weeks to hours.

Why do you consider it important for your university to use the data in Digital Measures to power web profiles?

Desmond: We don’t have a mandate from the university to require faculty to use Digital Measures. We’re taking an organic approach, so we’re using web profiles as a gateway to get more faculty engaged with the system. For the faculty who are entering their data and keeping it up to date, we wanted to make use of that, instead of various IT departments having to reach back and forth, by email or phone calls, saying, hey, we need to update your profile.

Weisz: The whole reason we went to Digital Measures is that when it came to faculty activity reporting, it was common that we’d start with Institutional Research, then move to the provost’s office, then talk to the department chairs, then the deans, until you finally got all the data that you needed for a particular report. So it was a natural choice to make Digital Measures the authoritative source for our faculty data.

We are really hoping that this becomes a carrot for faculty that they get excited about putting their data in, because it’ll really reflect well for them on their web profile.

Digital Measures also offers an API that many clients used prior to the release of the Web Profiles module to connect their data to faculty web profiles. What made the Web Profiles module a better option for your campus than the API?

Weisz: Before this, we didn’t have a formal process on how a faculty member would build a web profile, so they were all doing their own thing, building their own websites. Some are three years old, some five, some were even ten years old, and they sure reflected that age as well when you viewed those pages.

To change that, we would have had to invest significant development time. A developer would have had to learn the API, would have had to test it, and train and experiment, while neglecting a lot of the other tasks that they have to do on a daily basis. We first looked at using the API, but we just didn’t have the people hours to do that.

The Web Profiles module really is easy. You build a CV report in Digital Measures that contains the data you want in the web profile. You click a button to generate the code. And you simply copy and paste that into the CMS system.

So I played both roles—as the Digital Measures administrator, but with access to our content management system (CMS). It was very easy for me: I went in and created our template in the report builder. I clicked a few buttons, copied and pasted the code it generated into the CMS, and within minutes, I had a live demo of our web profiles up and running.

Desmond: When you need somebody who has API experience, that’s one of those things that you have to train people for. Some areas of the institution don’t have the kind of staff to do that. And when you get somebody who’s getting better and better at APIs, they’re moving up the food chain, so it’s harder and harder to keep them around—they move on to bigger and better things, and you have to train somebody new to do it.

Also, you have the opportunity cost. If you’re spending all this time doing an API versus using this tool and turning it out in a few minutes, you lose out on all those things you could have worked on instead.

We have IT departments at varying skill levels all across campus. In one department, it may be a part-time person. In another college, we may have a full staff of 10 people. The fact that anybody with any skill level can use the Web Profile module is really helpful. They can just go in there and drag and drop. And when they decide to change something, they don’t have to go into the code. They can spend time focusing on the report that outlines the data included in the web profiles rather than what they’re going to look like on Safari, or Edge, or Chrome. Having it this way is much better than having to go in and hack through the code to put it together.

strong>Weisz: When you think about faculty web profiles, our IT department, programmers and IR department are already under a very, very heavy load. The Web Profiles module was really a no-brainer. Within 10 or 15 minutes I had a pretty good looking template that we used to demo web profiles to some of our administration.

Interested in seeing the no-coding approach to faculty web profiles that leverages the data you capture in Digital Measures? We’re happy to schedule a demo.

Author
Kris Babe
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