Faculty’s accomplishments tell the success stories of your university’s mission and impact on students and the community. They also represent a life’s work, so showcasing them on your university’s website offers faculty the widest possible audience to reach potential students and collaborators as well as donors. With some coordination with your university website’s technical team, web profiles can be as up to date as faculty’s data in Activity Insight. In our last post, we discussed the value of web profiles for Wake Forest University’s School of Business and School of Law. Here, we’ll take a look the key considerations for implementing faculty web profiles as experienced at Wake Forest.
1. The API
An application program interface (API) allows Activity Insight to update web profiles on a university website. An API consists of code that allows two software programs to communicate with each other. It also defines the correct ways for a developer to write a program that requests services from a program like Activity Insight.
What this means on a practical level is that your IT team will need to be involved to connect Activity Insight data to your website. Not every campus has abundant IT resources, so your project sponsor should ensure that you have the technical resources needed when you begin.
2. The Faculty Activity Data You Need
The law school faced an additional challenge, as it had recently implemented Activity Insight. “We undertook an ambitious project to enter all of the historic faculty data needed to support web profiles. We hired a temporary employee and used reference librarians to populate historical data and trained faculty and support staff such as administrative assistants to input new data,” said Matt Nelkin, Assistant Director of Information Technology for the School of Law. “Law faculty can have dozens of pages of citations on their CVs, so it was a big lift, but it’s critical to have that data to populate complete web profiles.”
3. Design Considerations
“There are a lot of upfront design decisions involved in populating web profiles,” said Karen Frekko, Senior Associate Director of Information Technology for the School of Business at Wake Forest, who oversaw the original project establishing web profiles for the business school. “You have to decide on questions like how you’ll format the data, whether you’ll cache the data locally or have your profile site connect directly to the Digital Measures server to pull data dynamically.”
“It’s important to map all the various data elements and input fields you’ll use to output what you need for the site,” said Matt Nelkin, Assistant Director of Information Technology for the School of Law.
4. Citation Styles
Most of the conversations around web profiles concern how data is treated. “You should have conversations with faculty and administrators about what kind of display parameters, formatting and publication types will be included in web profiles,” Frekko said. “Are you going to display books? Journal entries? Chapters of books? Agree on a format for how they should be cited.”
That might mean settling on a format that combines the best of all of the standard citation styles so it displays well on a web profile. “You have to be ready for variations: page numbers or not, volume numbers and other data entry inconsistencies,” Frekko added. “The better you understand the publications and data, the better you can manage the profiles.”
“There are a lot of different types of law citations in The Bluebook,” the 511-page guide to legal citations, Nelkin said. “We worked with the law librarians to understand the different types of legal citations needed for our web profiles.”
5. Faculty Requirements
Having faculty on the steering committee is especially important for answering their questions and addressing concerns. “There are screens in Activity Insight where faculty store data about merit reviews, career development plans and other confidential data. Faculty were initially concerned about security of data,” Frekko said. “I was able to assure them that the web service account only has access to specific data and that confidential data would never be exposed to the web.”
“Faculty can be pretty particular about web profiles—what shows and what doesn’t in their profiles. You can give faculty a check box to not show something on a web profile but still have it count for annual reviews or appear in a full CV. Nelkin said. “Getting faculty on the steering committee is a good idea—you’ll get buy-in from the right people.”
6. Hidden Benefit
The benefits of sharing faculty accomplishments with a wider world are clear, but implementing faculty web profiles had another important benefit as well. Prior to implementing them, the law school kept faculty’s data in both a database and in manually updated profiles. “Trying to maintain this data in multiple places didn’t make much sense. There’s time involved in setting things up, but it’s hugely beneficial to us to be able to manage all of the data in once place,” Nelkin said. “If you’re already using Activity Insight and don’t use it for web profiles, you’re creating a lot of extra work.”
Not every university has the IT resources needed to develop web pages for faculty profiles. Contact us today to learn how you can leverage code created by our client Augusta University to get your web profiles up and running with minimal coding required.