Information as Transformation: Telling the Story of Educational Excellence

Information as Transformation: Telling the Story of Educational Excellence, Part 1

Information as transformation: it’s a powerful idea that Digital Measures CEO and founder Matt Bartel explored in conversation with James Anderson, Chancellor, Fayetteville State University (FSU), and Laurens Smith, Interim Provost, Utah State University (USU), at the recent American Council on Education (ACE) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. From educational excellence to institutional transformation, data and reporting are key. Here’s the first of a two-part a recap of the conversation.

Data-Driven Transformation

James Anderson joined FSU as chancellor with a commitment to implement evidence-based decision making and outcomes assessment. To accomplish this, Anderson worked in concert with faculty to develop metrics, as well as working with metrics required by the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. But once they had decided on the metrics, they needed to codify them so they could be used not only for faculty self-evaluation and faculty credentialing for Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation but also for evaluating department chairs and deans. That’s where Activity Insight came in, collecting the needed data and customizing the reporting required to measure FSU’s metrics.

At FSU, departments have a major incentive to improve their metrics—additional dollars. Anderson raises funds each year which are awarded to high-performing departments—and “high performing” isn’t subjective, or given to the most persuasive pitch by a department chair—funds are awarded based on the measurable metrics agreed on by the faculty senate. “The metrics bring fairness to the process,” Anderson said. The metrics also provide a framework for approaching a department chair. “Here’s where your faculty is scoring low in this area. Can you talk with us about how we can help you improve this area?”

The Hard Copy Era Is Over

Laurens Smith has been with USU for 11 years, serving in the provost’s office. The Jon M. Huntsman School of Business led USU’s efforts for better reporting in order to meet the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accreditation standards, and the university as a whole saw the value, Smith shared. “We felt the days of hard copy or paperwork when it came to faculty evaluation were behind us,” he said. Now, USU uses Activity Insight for annual reviews and accreditation reporting, and for reporting on its mission as a land-grant research university, especially the activities of its Extension and Agricultural Experiment Station.

In its first phase of faculty activity reporting, USU focused on making it easy to collect faculty productivity, teaching, research and service. Now in its second phase, USU drills into data, providing the granular snapshots that faculty, department chairs, deans and central administration can use to see what’s happening with faculty activity. It also uses Activity Insight data for visualizations created to provide insight to various USU stakeholders.

USU now does faculty annual reviews exclusively with Activity Insight. “Faculty know when it comes time for reviews, if it’s not in Activity Insight, you didn’t do it,” Smith said.

Next Time

The conversation continues in our next post, as the panelists share faculty’s take on data-driven decision making as well as the ways that using data has spurred new collaborations on campus.

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