Before choosing a faculty activity reporting solution, you will spend some time evaluating the system to ensure that it meets all of your needs. The evaluation process should be thorough. Think beyond just your surface needs and get down to the details. Ask yourself: What are the needs of each academic unit? Which stakeholders are involved across campus (institutional research, provost’s office, IT, associate deans, department chairs, faculty and more)? Once you’ve thought about that, consider these eleven points.
1. Collecting the Data That is Important to You
The first and foremost requirement is to ensure that your faculty activity reporting solution is flexible and comprehensive in the data it captures. To ensure buy-in and use of the system across your many disciplines with varied needs, you must be able to customize the solution you choose. And there are endless opportunities for customizations. Think about: what data some colleges will need to collect but others won’t, how fields are added to the system, uploading supporting documents to activities, faculty name changes—to name a few. Be sure to ask any potential vendor pointed and detailed questions about the customizations that they offer. A good faculty activity reporting solution will acknowledge and support your unique data collection needs by offering advanced customization capabilities.
2. Ensuring Proper Reporting
Each university has unique reporting needs. From university-wide to accreditation requirements, your faculty activity reporting solution should be able to create detailed, comprehensive and pre-formatted reports for each of your specific needs. As a starting point, ask whether you can create multiple report templates for each college, if these reports are in accordance with specific citation standards and how you can develop custom reports on an as-needed basis. Also be sure to ask how to leverage those custom fields you will inevitably add in reports for display filtering, grouping, formulas, etc.
3. Getting the Support You Need
A dedicated and knowledgeable support team is valuable to your university on many levels. From implementation best practices, to guiding you through report setup for accreditation, to helping you envision how else you can leverage the system, a support person should be guiding you and available to answer questions as needed. A good faculty activity reporting solution should not only have a dedicated team with technical chops but also one with expertise in higher ed and faculty activity reporting—this is just as important as any other feature or benefit.
4. Make Sure To Protect Your Data
Your data is important, and it should be secure from any data breaches or losses. Don’t take this lightly. Be sure to properly vet any vendor and verify that they partner with a trusted business, run a standby center and conduct nightly off-site backups—consider involving an IT representative in this discussion to ensure all of your needs are met.
5. Integrating with Other Systems on Campus
Universities are swimming in data. And it’s likely this data is stored in many systems across campus, making integration between your software solutions key. Look for a solution that provides a suite of web service APIs, connects with your other systems, maintains data in real-time and allows you to connect faculty web profiles.
6. Verifying User Authentication
What’s a faculty activity reporting solution without your faculty being able to access the solution? To ensure use of your system, it’s important that faculty have a convenient and secure location to access the system. Ideally, this would be a campus portal or student information system. To make it even easier, make sure your vendor supports Shibboleth and LDAP authentication.
7. Ensuring Your Solution is Easy to Use
The more intuitive the system, the more likely your faculty will be to embrace it. Be sure that your faculty activity reporting solution has an intuitive user interface, the ability to customize fields and screens, easy management of long-term activities and is accessible by any device.
8. Abiding by Section 508
It’s important to be aware of all data accessibility requirements and ensure that the vendor of your faculty activity reporting solution is too. Before choosing a vendor to work with be sure that they are compliant with the latest Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act accessibility standards.
9. Understanding Stability and Vision
The faculty at your university is constantly innovating, and so should the vendor of your faculty activity reporting solution. You’re investing in a system that is used by hundreds of faculty at your university—and your vendor should also be investing in the features and expansion of this system.
10. Learning Best Practices from Your Peers
Your peers are one of your greatest assets—and a good vendor should share best practices from other universities who are utilizing their faculty activity reporting solution. Don’t miss out on the chance to connect with peers from other campuses via online communities, participate in user group meetings and network with others.
11. Finding Pricing That Makes Sense
As you move through the evaluation process, be sure you get a comprehensive sense of what you really will get for your money. Don’t fall victim to hidden costs, be sure to ask your vendor if: they charge for customizations, training, consultation and/or troubleshooting, are willing to lock in your price over multiple years and if the pricing structure will change as features are added to the system.
A faculty activity reporting solution is a big decision. Ensure you get everything you need with these eleven key points guiding you along the way. Want to learn more about what you should look for when evaluating a faculty activity reporting solution and specific questions to ask? See our full e-book: “11 Considerations When Choosing a Faculty Activity Reporting Solution.”