The data needed to support strategic initiatives and measure a university’s institutional effectiveness come from many places, including faculty. So when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) set its Top Tier initiative in place, it turned to Digital Measures Activity Insight software for the faculty activity data needed to support its long-term goals, including boosting its Carnegie classification in research from R2 to R1 and achieving the Carnegie Engagement classification. Tondra De, Assistant Director of Faculty Affairs at UNLV, and David Sarnowski, Digital Measures Engagement Consultant, discussed how faculty activity data supports strategic initiatives at UNLV during the recent AIR Forum in Washington, D.C.
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at UNLV’s history of faculty activity reporting, Top Tier initiative and partnership with Digital Measures. Here, the conversation continues, exploring the value of faculty activity data, gaining faculty buy-in and how UNLV’s faculty data support the university’s strategic decisions.
The Value of Faculty Activity Data
Faculty activity data is a critical component of a larger picture of institutional effectiveness, Sarnowski noted. “Think of all the areas faculty are involved in and the information you need. Initially, your interaction with a faculty activity database may be very transactional. But we want to get beyond that,” he said. “We want to drive additional value out of the system with the data your faculty provide.”
Reporting that’s strategically relevant to your university relies on data that matters to that answer you’re looking for. “Entering data, then asking what data can tell you is backward,” Sarnowski explained. “Ask, ‘What is it I need to know?’ and start there, not at the data level. Back away and think about the big picture.” Once you have focused, big-picture questions, you can look back and determine if you have the data needed to build that response. If not, you can analyze the data points that are missing.
And you may find that you have irrelevant data, meaning data entry with no benefit to faculty or the university. Clarifying the decisions you need to make and the questions you’ll answer with faculty activity data ensures you aren’t wasting data collection efforts. “Since you’re asking faculty to give time to this, you must draw a clean line back to what you’ll use the information for,” Sarnowski said.
Gaining Faculty Buy-in
“A large database presents challenges. There’s a lot of information that needed to go in,” De noted. “Thankfully, Activity Insight has APIs in place so a lot of things can be automated and pull information in from other systems across campus.”
These factors were important considerations as the campus rolled out Activity Insight. “Not everyone is savvy in terms of using these tools, and some can be really complicated, but Activity Insight is user friendly,” De shared. “We used incentives to get as many faculty on Activity Insight as possible. As with any major software system, it’s a continuing journey for us to try to get 100 percent adoption.”
Big Picture, Big Future
UNLV is now connecting faculty activity data to its enterprise data warehouse so it can get as complete a picture as possible of faculty and how they engage with the rest of the university. “The faculty data mart is really critical, and we need to connect individual faculty with the other units they engage with. So getting all the HR information, all of the information from the office of sponsored programs, academic space management, all those different units, helps build a broad picture of institutional effectiveness,” De said. “All of that is becoming a lot clearer as we traverse this Top Tier path. And once we have a better sense of exactly where we want to go and how we need to make incremental changes, one year down the road, two years, five years, that informs the larger strategic plan. This information is critical to helping that progress in the future.”
Sarnowski noted that Digital Measures ultimate goal is growing partnerships with institutions like UNLV. “As questions become clearer, that allows us to continually evolve the data set, so the information we ask faculty to provide helps the university share its story,” Sarnowski said.