implementation lessons learned texas state

From Zero to Hero: Implementation Lessons Learned With Texas State

Our recent 2016 User Group brought together the expertise and insight of hundreds of clients from universities around the world who shared valuable lessons from their successful  use of Activity Insight.

Here, we’ll recap “From Zero to Hero: Implementation Lessons Learned,” presented by Whitten Smart, supervisor of the Educational Technology Center at Texas State University, about what his team discovered  during their five-month implementation process.


Texas State University opened its doors in 1903 as the Southwest Texas State Normal School, with 303 students and a mission to prepare Texas public school teachers. The school’s name has changed multiple times in response to its expanding scope, with its current name reflecting its status as a major, multipurpose university.

With more than 200 degree programs at all levels and a full-time faculty of more than 1,300, Texas State University serves 39,000 students across two campuses.

Zero to Hero

Texas State began with an ambitious task: migrate data to Activity Insight from an old system used by 65 percent of faculty, 50 percent of whom had their full CV in that system, as well as adding the data for all faculty not yet using the old system. They also needed to incorporate data from their internal Banner and SAP systems.

And they had an ambitious timeline: a five-month implementation window, beginning with preliminary meetings with Digital Measures in late March 2016, with an unmovable go live date of September 1.

How They Did It

To ensure project success, Whitten and his team engaged with Megan Sullivan, Client Onboarding Team Lead and their Onboarding Consultant, early on to identify essential milestones to keep the project on schedule. To establish an accurate implementation timeline, Megan helped Whitten’s team estimate time needed for:

  • importing data via Web Services
  • setting up advanced user authentication
  • revising data collection screens
  • building reports
  • testing the system
  • rolling out Activity Insight to faculty

Having an idea of how much time to budget for each of these tasks, as well as building in  a buffer for changes, kept the Texas State project on track. Activity Insight rolled out on September 1 as planned.

Keys to Success

  • Start Web Services early: Your technical team will need to identify what data exists in source systems like Banner, secure access to that data and create the mapping to Activity Insight. Starting early gives you time to sort out issues regarding permissions and roles in those systems and leaves time for testing and implementing screen revisions identified in the process.
  • Use spreadsheets to map existing data fields: Whitten’s team established a spreadsheet in which all previous system elements were outlined for each screen. This ensured that all fields of data were accounted for in the new system.
  • Get the data as clean as possible: Spend time cleaning up data from legacy systems to ensure what you bring into Activity Insight is useful. For this task, Whitten’s team found that Excel truncated some data and had difficulty with special characters including diacritical marks used in other languages. He recommends using an alternative, such as LibreOffice.
  • Give fine arts colleges extra time: It’s much harder to document and cite exhibits, shows, individual works of art, performances and other accomplishments than it is to cite publications and research.
  • Communicate early and often: Whitten’s team used shared documents to keep everyone on the same page—literally. One spreadsheet had a column dedicated to questions from the team, which IT could research and answer. They tracked each faculty member’s college, department, number of pages of CV they sent in, and were able to track and report progress because they had the data available.
  • Build buy-in: Involve as many people as possible throughout the implementation process, from Provost and Dean’s offices through college and department committees and faculty senate. Involving stakeholders promotes better results, including buy-in when it’s time to go live.

Be Prepared for Changes

The most important lesson learned during their Activity Insight implementation? “Things change,” Whitten said, “You need to build in that area for buffer,” because it’s impossible to anticipate all needs up front. He also noted that you’ll make many more screen changes than you think you will, so building time for those modifications into the schedule is vital. Whitten recommends an additional month or two, if possible.

Future Steps

Activity Insight is live and running well at Texas State, but work continues, Whitten said. He expects data entry revisions to be completed in December, at which point the data becomes the responsibility of the user. Since this information is required for annual review and accreditation, users have incentive to maintain their data. Faculty reviews begin in January, so user training, underway since September, ramps up to weekly sessions during December and January.

Is your university planning an Activity Insight implementation? Talk with your Solution Specialist soon—a solid plan can ease the process for all stakeholders.


Utilizing Additional Features in Activity Insight to Gain Faculty Buy-In with University of South Dakota

As we mentioned in our last blog, we’re spending some time highlighting a few of the sessions from our recent User Group—an event where hundreds of Activity Insight users descended on Milwaukee to share insights and learn strategies to take back to their institutions.

In this blog we’re highlighting a session presented by Lindsay Hayes of University of South Dakota: Utilizing Additional Features in Activity Insight to Gain Faculty Buy-In. So if you weren’t able to make this year’s User Group, or you just missed this particular session, read on for a summary of the excellent information Lindsay shared.


Founded in 1862, the University of South Dakota (USD) consists of seven schools and colleges, offering 206 undergraduate and 71 graduate programs. The university currently has 7,435 undergraduate and 2,536 graduate students, as well as 62,000 alumni.

USD owns a number of honors, including being named one of America’s “Best National Universities” by U.S. News & World Report for 26 straight years. In addition, with its 453 faculty, the university boasts a student to faculty ratio of 17:1.

Gaining faculty buy-in

As an Activity Insight user since 2011, Lindsay Hayes had a lot to share about gaining faculty buy-in through her role as Coordinator of Student and Institutional Assessment at USD.

One of the biggest points of faculty feedback after USD implemented Activity Insight was that faculty had too little control of the content that automatically posts to the website profiles. Faculty were only entering items in the system they wanted to show up on the public university website, or inputting data for annual reviews then quickly deleting the data after. Of course, neither of these scenarios is an optimal usage of the system, from either a faculty or administrator point of view.

A related faculty concern was that Activity Insight was just another of many systems to upkeep and that there was too much information to input.

Armed with this feedback, Lindsay and her team began creating solutions using additional features within Activity Insight to address these concerns and show the value of the system to   drive faculty buy-in.

Giving faculty options

The team started by focusing on  web services. Their first objective was to determine exactly what information was pulling into the public website, and where it was being populated. Lindsay and her team worked with her university’s IT team as well as the Digital Measures team, to understand the data flow and create a standard faculty web profile.

While working on this project, USD’s Digital Measures Solution Specialist suggested a feature Lindsay wasn’t aware of: an include/exclude option. Adding the include/exclude option to faculty information fields gave each faculty member control over what was shown in their public web profile, while allowing them to populate Activity Insight with all of their data. Faculty loved this option, and it solved the biggest problem with faculty buy-in and adoption that Lindsay and her team faced.

Lindsay said, “You don’t know what Activity Insight can do unless you ask—or until you hear someone else’s success story!” She was thrilled with this solution and happy to share with session attendees.

Making it easier for faculty

After Lindsay’s team implemented the include/exclude option to give faculty more control, their next task was addressing the other chief concern: that it was too much information for faculty to input into the system.

Lindsay turned to data uploading and reporting capabilities to tackle this challenge. By exploring Activity Insight’s various data uploading capabilities,the  team found multiple ways to streamline data import and take work off of faculty’s plate. They implemented processes to import faculty course evaluations and course loads, as well as a mass import to add new users to the system.

Lindsay’s team increased efficiency further by building custom reports for use cases like accreditation and faculty evaluations. The ability to create custom reports for almost any scenario added immense value for faculty, staff and administration.

Lindsay’s overall message at the session was that everyone, including faculty, are cautious when it comes to change. However, with all the custom capabilities within Activity Insight, any implementation team can create systems and processes that effectively drive faculty buy-in.


Life After Implementation with American Public University System

We recently wrapped up our 2016 User Group. Hundreds of our clients from universities around the world joined us in Milwaukee to share best practices about our flagship product, Activity Insight, learn from each other and get actionable advice they could take back to their campus.

In case you weren’t able to make it this year (or if you were in a different session at the time!), we’ll be writing about these presentations in the coming weeks. In this blog, we’re discussing “Life After Implementation,” presented by Mauricia Blackwell, senior manager of faculty data research at American Public University System.


American Public University System (APUS)  is a for-profit institution that consists of American Public University and American Military University. APUS provides online education to working adult students, offering over 200 academic programs and all degree levels. APUS is HLC-accredited and recognized nationally as one of the top online education programs.

The institution was founded in 1991 as American Military University, with a goal of providing quality education to military servicemembers and veterans. Over the years, it expanded to serve public service and corporate professionals through American Public University, and APUS was created as the broader system which houses both colleges.

The APUS community boasts over 96,000 students currently, 88% of whom are working adults, with an average age of 33. The institution also features over 2,000 faculty members from around the world, many of whom are also active professionals in their field, and teach remotely.

Life After Activity Insight Implementation

For Mauricia, it was important that her faculty’s use of Activity Insight post-implementation would benefit, not overwhelm them. She stressed  that implementation was just the beginning of recognizing the potential of Activity Insight, and post-launch was the real time to evolve the tool according to her university’s needs.

Listening to Faculty & Staff

An essential strategy for Mauricia and APUS was listening and understanding the needs of faculty and staff, and then implementing solutions to meet those needs. For example, faculty receive professional development through the Center for Teaching and Learning department at APUS, and it was important that completion data for these development opportunities was added to faculty profiles. Mauricia’s team developed an efficient process to have the completion data sent to her team, so they could import it into Activity Insight—and then email faculty to let them know when the professional development had been added to their profile. Faculty appreciated that their professional development was showcased on their public website profile, without having to input any data themselves.

Driving Time Savings and Efficiency

A big focus for Mauricia was eliminating manual work wherever she could throughout the university. At the onset of using Activity Insight, she would frequently come across a team or individual managing a process manually or tracking information on a spreadsheet; her goal was to get all of that information  into Activity Insight and eliminate ineffective ways of collecting and managing data. Her team found opportunities throughout the institution to streamline processes and reduce manual work:

  • The School of Business accreditation took countless hours to manually collect and aggregate the necessary data for AACSB reporting. They created custom reports, and added fields where necessary, to exactly match AACSB specifications, eliminating that manual work.
  • APUS has a very competitive rank advancement promotion process, but it was quite disorganized in the past, with faculty supplying data in various formats with differing levels of detail. With Activity Insight, the committee can now pull a custom report to see exactly what they want for each candidate, standardizing and simplifying the process.
  • A small team within the university tracks Prior Learning Assessment data, but was having significant data tracking problems, relying on seven different spreadsheets to manage all the information. Mauricia’s team was able to create one screen in Activity Insight and one custom report, to replace all the spreadsheets and greatly streamline the process.

Enter Data Once, Use It Many Times

Mauricia shared that she was determined to use Activity Insight, and the data within it, to fully realize the potential of the system. A few examples of additional ways APUS is using the system include faculty web profiles and using web services to integrate Activity Insight with their HR and performance management systems. Her goal is simple but powerful: show staff and faculty the many utilities and benefits of Activity Insight, to encourage buy-in and adoption.


The Ins and Outs of Penn State’s Oversight Committee

There is no one way to implement a faculty activity reporting solution on campus. But some universities have found a methodology that works for them. In the case of Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), having an Oversight Committee involved in anything and everything to do with faculty activity reporting has proven to be beneficial. For Penn State, the Oversight Committee has become a collective way to address any issues as well as discuss specific challenges and successes. During a recent conversation, Penn State shared how an Oversight Committee has played an integral part in the successful adoption of Activity Insight at their university. Continue reading “The Ins and Outs of Penn State’s Oversight Committee”


Meet Team DM: Our Annual Family Event

“We all work together like a big family.” Our DMers work hard and take pride in being a part of Digital Measures. As we continue to grow, we value being able to become friends and a work family. Every quarter, all DMers are invited to a gathering to do just that—this time around it was our annual Family Event to cap off the summer. Continue reading “Meet Team DM: Our Annual Family Event”


How Western Washington University is Preparing for AACSB Accreditation

A faculty activity reporting solution can not only transform the way you leverage your faculty’s activities and accomplishments; it can also play a pivotal role in the accreditation process. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation is instrumental for business schools to attract the best students and faculty—but the process can be long, complicated and demanding of faculty and staff. Continue reading “How Western Washington University is Preparing for AACSB Accreditation”


Congratulations to Our Clients Who Were Recognized as AACSB Influential Leaders

Last week, we attended the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Annual Accreditation Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Part of the agenda at the conference was the “Influential Leaders Recognition” in which AACSB shared some of the success stories of business school faculty and graduates from around the world. Continue reading “Congratulations to Our Clients Who Were Recognized as AACSB Influential Leaders”


DMers Around the World

One of our core values at Digital Measures is to ensure that our DMers have the opportunity to evolve continuously. In an effort to enable DMers to immerse themselves in new and different opportunities, we encourage DMers to travel. We believe that travel makes you richer in cultural understanding, is valuable to personal growth and lends itself to creativity in the workplace. Here are a few travel stories from our DMers and how their experiences around the world changed them personally. Continue reading “DMers Around the World”


Our Evening Events Line-Up at User Group 2016

Students are back on campus and the new academic year is underway. As your teaching, research and service activities ramp back up, we are getting ready to welcome you to Milwaukee to share the latest and greatest in faculty activity reporting. Every October, we host our annual conference: User Group. With engaging content and unique evening events, you’re sure to get an equal dose of learning and fun. Continue reading “Our Evening Events Line-Up at User Group 2016”