Before choosing a faculty activity reporting solution, you’ll likely spend a substantial amount of time evaluating the system to ensure that it meets your university’s needs. This is the ideal time to think beyond obvious requirements such as annual reporting. Ask yourself: What campus-wide information do we need from the system? 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)? Then consider these eleven points:
1. Collect the Data That is Important to You
The mission-critical requirement is ensuring that your faculty activity reporting solution collects the data you need to inform decisions and meet reporting requirements. To ensure buy-in and use of the system across many disciplines with varied needs, you must be able to customize the solution you choose. Opportunities to customize abound. 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. Ask potential vendors pointed and detailed questions about the customizations they offer. A good faculty activity reporting solution will acknowledge and support your unique data collection needs by offering advanced customization capabilities.
2. Ensure Proper Reporting
Your faculty activity reporting solution should be able to create detailed, comprehensive and pre-formatted reports for each of your specific needs, from annual reporting to regional and professional accreditation requirements to measuring faculty influence on strategic initiatives.
Each university has unique reporting 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. Get 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. Protect Your Data
Your data is important, and it should be secure from data breaches or losses. Don’t take this lightly. Verify that a potential vendor partners with a trusted data center, 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. Integrate 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, facilitates reporting leveraging data from multiple campus systems and can automatically update faculty web profiles.
6. Verify 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 it. 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. Ensure 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 so they make sense to faculty, easy management of long-term activities and is accessible by any device.
8. Abide 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. Be sure potential vendors are compliant with the latest Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act accessibility standards. For software as a solution (SaaS), that means meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
9. Understanding Stability and Vision
The faculty at your university are constantly innovating, and so should the vendor of your faculty activity reporting solution. Be sure your vendor is committed to updating pre-made reports, such as those for accreditation, as well as innovating to ensure you can get the most out of your data.
10. Learn 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. Be sure potential vendors cultivate opportunities for you to connect with peers from other campuses via online communities, group meetings and direct introductions from the vendor’s customer service team.
11. Find 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. 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.”