Every faculty activity reporting solution needs data. And every university has lots of it. Deciding what data to input and how to do it requires planning. Here are five data collection principles to think about when tracking faculty activities.
1) Plan your data outputs. Whether you need to run annual reports, generate faculty web profiles or you’re working on accreditation, how you plan to output the data is critical in determining what data to collect. Staying focused on your goals can help determine whether or not you should collect certain pieces of data. Consider asking yourself, “How is this data going to be used?” If you don’t have a good answer to this question, it probably isn’t worth collecting.
2) Be mindful of those entering data. Whether you have a team of data entry workers or require faculty to enter their own data, someone has to be sure the information gets into the system. When faced with many screens and even more fields on those screens, this can seem like an overwhelming task. Many faculty activity reporting solutions try to make data entry as easy as possible by allowing users to import data, but sometimes there is information that has to be entered manually. This is why it’s essential to ensure that each piece of data entered is purposeful.
3) Use good database design. Good database design provides a framework that ensures the information entered is accurate, comprehensive and appropriately flexible. Such design involves simple and intuitive screens and fields with logical divisions between pieces of data. “Location” is a good example—when storing a location, it is best to store “City,” “State” and “Country” in three separate fields so that reports can make use of them as discrete fields, and in targeted ways. For example, you might want to group by “Country” and then sort by “State” and then “City.” Three separate fields make this possible without requiring complicated parsing code. A faculty activity reporting solution will likely have an existing model for good database design, but if you need help as you customize, there should be a team behind-the-scenes to guide you through the process. (Our designers at Digital Measures are more than willing to guide you through the design process and make recommendations as needed.)
4) Integrate where possible. Most of a faculty member’s activity information will live in their personal CVs, but some important components also often live in existing campus systems. The most common of these are human resource, grant and course management systems. Before you begin entering data, consider how you might integrate data from these other systems into your faculty activity reporting solution. Not only can you substantially reduce the data entry burden, integration with other authoritative campus systems ensures that the corresponding data in your faculty activity reporting solution is up-to-date, accurate and complete.
5) Start small. Universities can do many things with a faculty activity reporting solution. But, you can’t achieve everything all at once. Focusing on one or two strategic goals initially allows you to grow the data set over time, keeping the data entry focused and resource investment reasonable. Once those initial goals are successful, then you can expand the ways you’re leveraging the solution to extract additional value.
Are you implementing a faculty activity reporting solution? How are you deciding what data to input into the system, who should input data and how? Let us know in the comments below!