Engaging faculty with an activity database starts with great training. At our recent User Group, Tia Palsole, Project Coordinator at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), shared how the university’s highly rated program made faculty training convenient, accessible and useful, encouraging them to use the activity database to its full advantage.
Faculty Activity Reporting at UTSA
Founded in 1969, UTSA is now a Tier 1 research institution serving nearly 29,000 students at its three campuses. UTSA partnered with Digital Measures to replace an internal system, implementing Activity Insight in 2012 and rolling out university-wide that October for annual reviews. Goals for UTSA’s system included capturing quality faculty data and producing reliable reporting for assessment and accreditation.
To ensure data quality, UTSA migrated more than 200,000 records from its old system and integrated with other campus systems of record including Banner and PeopleSoft. They rely on faculty to enter their teaching, research and service.
Best Practices for Training Faculty
Initially, UTSA provided some basic faculty training at the main campus, encouraging faculty to learn and use the system for capturing their activities. But this early training didn’t make robust users. UTSA quickly realized that to meet its goals for the system, they needed to do more to train faculty. They identified areas for improving their materials and courses, and these successful practices emerged:
- Make training convenient to faculty. Palsole’s team began reaching out to departments and units to find out the days, times and locations most convenient to their faculty and scheduled training accordingly. They held classes at all campuses, choosing venues near amenities like a favorite coffee shop, and ensured that classrooms were comfortable and conducive to learning.
- Respect faculty’s time. Keep training sessions to 90 minutes or less, Palsole recommended. Faculty will have questions, so build time for that into the session. And consider training for specific purposes, such as training designed for a department or college.
- Show faculty how the system is useful to them. Share the message that data entered once can be used many times, which is a net time savings. In addition, entering activities ensures they’re considered for merit increases. Finally, share tips and shortcuts for using the best reports particular needs, such as NIH/NSF Biosketches.
- Provide and promote support materials. UTSA’s site for the system offers step-by-step user guides and manuals. “Never underestimate the value of simple language and a screen shot,” Palsole said. Her team uses email, the system website and social media to advertise upcoming faculty trainings.
- Be available when help is needed. Provide support via email and phone and build a robust reference web page for faculty using the system, Palsole recommended. Also, be prepared to increase your availability during the weeks leading up to annual reporting. “Be the rescue squad,” Palsole said.
Interested in improving training for faculty? Clients can see what others have already created by visiting the Digital Measures Resource Center. If you’re not already working with DM, contact us today to talk about successful implementation, including best practices for engaging faculty.