Commitment to Faculty Data Supports Vitas, Strategic Decisions at Indiana State University

January 9, 2018 Kris Babe


With the support of the faculty senate and key administrators, Indiana State University has moved to a fully-scaled implementation of Activity Insight including all faculty and accreditation reporting, award applications and strategic plan reporting. Here, Christopher Olsen, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Susan Powers, Associate Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, share the process that allowed ISU to create reporting ranging from faculty vitas to informing strategic decisions with faculty data.

Faculty Activity Reporting at Indiana State

Founded in 1865, Indiana State is a doctoral-granting, moderate research institution with a Carnegie classification in community engagement. The university serves 11,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students with 367 tenure and tenure-track faculty and 544 adjunct faculty at its residential campus in west central Indiana.

Indiana State initially adopted Activity Insight in 2006, but didn’t successfully implement the system. “We failed. The company 100 percent did not fail,” Powers said. “It was all on us.” Powers identified several factors, including not selecting the right project team and designing system requirements to meet the needs of the most vocal rather than the majority as reasons the implementation wasn’t successful. After several years with no activity reporting solution, ISU tried two different solutions, which didn’t work for them.

Second Time’s the Charm

The university implemented Activity Insight again in 2012 with a different project team, a better method of implementation and specific goals for the system. “The university president decided that what is entered into Activity Insight is the official vita of the university,” Powers said. “So if he ever wants to know something about people, we’re going to pull it from there.”

They focused the new implementation on some very specific pain points with goals to:

Improve the post-tenure review process: The manual process required faculty to build a vita, save it as a PDF and email it into the university’s Qualtrics system. Powers then downloaded each file and forwarded them on. Because faculty built their own CVs for this, data and formatting weren’t consistent, which made evaluating faculty difficult. To improve post-tenure reviews, ISU:

  • Pre-loaded data from Banner and other campus systems of record
  • Provided a concise, consistent report so all CVs followed the same format
  • Eliminated the manual processes involved in sending and sorting CVs

House data that’s strategically important to the university but didn’t reside in any other system: Community engagement data is needed to evaluate Carnegie classification status, but it didn’t have a home in any other campus system. The system now asks if there’s a service learning component to:

  • Scheduled teaching
  • Awards and honors
  • Administrative assignments
  • Directed student learning
  • Non-credit instruction
  • Scholarship, research and creativity
  • Public and community service

In addition, the university’s board of trustees requires that each department and program have an advisory board. Information on advisory board members and actions is now kept in Activity Insight.

Rolling Out Campus-wide

Deans expressed interest in rolling the system out campus-wide to ease the annual review process. They were interested in:

  • Having access to data for other reporting needs
  • Reducing the complexity of reviews caused not having standardized reporting
  • Solving the concern that evaluations and decisions might be based on an appealing presentation of the portfolio rather than the work represented in the portfolio

In addition, the university recognized that paper portfolios were regularly altered after submission to the review process, Olsen noted. “We can’t do that. Everyone has to review the same portfolio,” he said. “So the electronic portfolio allows you to control that.”

Streamlining the review process has been highly successful. “I think there was this fear of being lost in the ether, where you would never find what you need,” Olsen said. “We came up with an annual review template based on our P&T document, which lays out a basic structure of how everyone is going to do this. We still have a lot of flexibility with, for example, citation styles, but at least we’ve got information in the same order, and it’s working beautifully.”

A crowning bonus: simultaneous reviewing. With paper portfolios, “it was a scheduling nightmare,” Olsen said, noting multiple reviewers at two stages of reviews, and more than 100 faculty reviews per year. “We were there on weekends, all night, arranging special access for the P&T committee members when offices were closed. Obviously, we don’t have any of those problems with the electronic portfolio, so it’s taken a lot of the pressure off of the P&T committee and dean’s office.”

Next Steps

In the past, nominated faculty sometimes declined to be considered for teaching awards, as it required submitting a portfolio. Beginning this year, when students nominate faculty for teaching awards, their CVs are automatically pulled from the system and placed in consideration, increasing the pool of faculty eligible for awards.

ISU continues to refine its reporting and data collection to ensure it can report on areas of strategic interest, such as increasing focus on community engagement and experiential learning. They also plan to expand use of the system for program review and additional strategic planning initiatives.

Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures) by Watermark utilizes the Amazon Web Services platform to deliver highly reliable and scalable Education Technology solutions. Our clients benefit not only from maximum performance and security but also accelerated product innovation as a result of access to Amazon’s resources and new technologies.

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