Extension and Activity Insight with University of Maryland and Utah State University

One of the great things about Activity Insight is that universities can use the system to fulfill a wide range of data tracking and reporting needs. For universities that have extension programs, Activity Insight has proven to be an excellent resource.

Our recent User Group session covered this topic, led by Teresa McCoy, Assistant Director of Evaluation and Assessment at the University of Maryland, and Peter Crosby, Data Analyst at Utah State University. This blog will examine each university’s journey with Activity Insight and how it benefitted their extension program needs.

Utah State University Background

Utah State University (USU) is comprised of over 25 regional campuses, as well as extension offices in 28 of the 29 Utah counties. Beyond Utah, university faculty and staff serve in over 3,000 counties located across the country. Over 100 years old, USU Extension focuses on disseminating unbiased, research-based information on topics that include agriculture, gardening, food & nutrition, youth & development, business, natural resources, home & family and finances. The Extension program includes over 60 faculty working in county offices as well as over 70 campus faculty members.

USU Federal Reporting

In his user group presentation, Peter shared that his team’s primary concern was streamlining the federal reporting process for their extension program. As anyone who has worked in an extension program knows, federal reporting of the program’s initiatives is critical, as it determines future funding. The reporting agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), doesn’t have standard reporting requirements, as all universities handle extension differently—so USU needed to create custom reports that reflected the achievements of their program.

Peter and his team worked with their Digital Measures Solution Specialist to build custom reports that presented data on how they were using government funding within each extension initiative. USU already used Activity Insight throughout its campus, so there was already valuable data in the system that Peter and his team added to through custom screens and faculty-driven data entry. Peter shared a few examples of the custom outputs they created:

  • A detailed report on all faculty activities which fall under the scope of Extension and Agriculture Experiment Station
  • A summary report showing how many individuals were contacted, by program, adult/youth, race/ethnic category
  • A detailed report matching the Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) website reporting inputs for all AES projects

Peter and his team found Activity Insight very capable of providing all the custom data entry screens and reporting requirements to comply with their extension reporting needs. The ability to customize Activity Insight based on unique program initiatives, along with the system’s flexibility, makes extension reporting as painless as possible.

Like USU, the University of Maryland was interested in a solution to streamline federal extension reporting—but also hoped to centralize their extension program planning and management within the same tool. We’ll look at their experience, as shared by Teresa, next.

University of Maryland Background

University of Maryland Extension (UME) operates within the University of Maryland College of Agricultural and Natural Resources and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. UME employs approximately 200 faculty and 200 support staff, located within various campuses, research centers and offices throughout the state. UME’s four program areas are 4-H Youth Development, Agriculture & Food Systems, Environment & Natural Resources and Family & Consumer Sciences.

Teresa shared that several years ago, her department had been in search of a solution to manage extension program planning, centralize program data and streamline necessary reporting. She and her team chose Activity Insight because it offered an off-the-shelf solution that was also highly customizable, as well as being user-friendly and affordable.

UME Federal Reporting

As with USU, federal extension reporting for UME is essential, as it determines future funding of the program. Thus, after UME implemented Activity Insight, their first focus was customized reporting.

Because there was no standard reporting structure set by NIFA, UME had to determine what types of reports were needed, and what data should be included. Teresa and her team worked closely with their Digital Measures Solution Specialist to create custom screens to capture the necessary data, and then custom reports to provide to NIFA.

UME Program Planning and Management

After reporting was up and running, UME wanted to expand its use of Activity Insight to include more comprehensive extension program planning, including individual faculty contributions. They needed to capture a lot of data, including three-year planned statements of work for each faculty member, program outputs and outcomes, metrics for each individual initiative, and more. Some of this was already accounted for due to their work building out reporting, but some new screens needed to be created, as did various reports to fit their needs.

Once this data was captured in Activity Insight, UME was able to not only consolidate program planning and results for aggregate reporting, but also individual faculty reporting. This led to the next step in UME’s Activity Insight journey, which was creating annual faculty reviews and faculty CVs using the data centralized in the system.

Teresa and her team are thrilled with the flexibility and robustness of Activity Insight, which allowed them to accomplish their extension program goals. UME and USU had different needs and goals for their extension reporting and management, but both found a highly flexible, easy-to-use system in Activity Insight.

If you’re interested in exploring Activity Insight capabilities for your extension program or would like to share your story about how you are capturing and reporting program information, contact us or leave a comment below.

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