Standardizing Annual Reporting with Ithaca College

Standardizing Annual Reporting with Ithaca College

When implementing faculty activity reporting, “it’s important to develop a system that works for everybody,” said Danette Ifert Johnson, vice provost for academic programs at Ithaca College. Though the College didn’t set out to standardize its annual reviews, careful listening and collaboration across departments and schools ensured that its new campus-wide annual report meets the needs of all disciplines while also minimizing complexity. Here, Ifert Johnson shares the process Ithaca College used to reach consensus and streamline annual reporting.

Ithaca College and Digital Measures

In 1892, Ithaca Conservatory of Music opened its doors. The school rapidly broadened its course offerings and became Ithaca College in 1931. Now, Ithaca College is committed to becoming the standard of excellence for student-centered comprehensive colleges, fostering intellect, creativity and character for its 7,000 students. Ithaca College partnered with Digital Measures beginning in 2011 with its School of Business.

Starting on Common Ground

“At Ithaca, each school does their own thing—it’s just how we do things here,” Ifert Johnson shared. Fortunately, the College had rolled out other campuswide systems. “It was helpful that we’d already had this kind of conversation before. We knew to ask, ‘where are the places we have commonality here?’”

She collected the existing annual review forms each school used for annual reporting, then assembled her project team. “We brought together a group with experience in a range of areas, including clinical work, performance work and traditional scholarship. We had an initial conversation about what was needed and the kinds of things that are helpful to have when documenting their disciplines,” Ifert Johnson said. “But we began our discussion by finding our common ground. What is in everybody’s report?”

Then she held smaller group meetings with faculty from disciplines such as the music school and clinical educators, as well as associate deans from other schools before creating the first draft of Ithaca’s annual report.

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Accommodating Differences

“It helped a lot to start from a point of commonality,” Ifert Johnson said. “In many cases, we could accommodate differences just by adding another choice in a dropdown menu, rather than adding a new section or screen.”

Some of the more complex differences required creative thinking—and the Digital Measures user community.

“As we worked with different disciplines, we encountered more specialized requirements, such as capturing clinical supervision, and having a way to talk about performances. And we needed a way to share significant student accomplishments, such as winning an important music competition,” Ifert Johnson said.

Tapping into the expertise of other Digital Measures clients helped Ithaca along the way. “We developed a section for creative scholarship based on a report built for the University of Iowa,” Ifert Johnson shared. “We were able to modify it for our music performance and theater faculty as well.”

Ithaca looked for ways to make a unified annual report work without being cumbersome for everybody. “We focused on staying open ended, rather than specialized to a department,” Ifert Johnson said. “For example, we created the goal-setting section so faculty can define and discuss each goal in detail, or be more general in the self-evaluation. We built in that flexibility.”

Iterating to Success

After gathering input from all disciplines, Ifert Johnson worked with Digital Measures to draft the report. In August 2017, faculty tested it and provided feedback and change requests. “We had things come up such as needing to add another option to a drop-down menu, or getting things entered into an ‘other’ field to show on the report,” Ifert Johnson said.

They made those revisions and launched the new annual report, which all Ithaca faculty used this year. “We continued to iterate after the report rolled out to faculty,” Ifert Johnson shared. “We continued to get feedback on how they wanted data to look in the report, and we’ve worked to make those changes.”

As they refine the annual report, “we worked to build solutions that could be useful to multiple departments, such as being able to attach a file to a certain screen or page,” she said.

Best Practices for Streamlining Annual Reporting

Ifert Johnson shared some best practices for other institutions planning to implement annual reporting campus wide:

  • Think as broadly as possible from the start. Don’t just focus on traditional publishing of journal articles and books. Consider the wider range of activity you want to capture and reach out to those with specialized reporting needs such as performance disciplines, clinical practices and those in the natural sciences.
  • Strategize solutions together. Talk through possibilities of how to capture the information you need, and find the right way to do it. An attachment to a page might be useful to multiple disciplines. Add categories, or change what reports look like, to get results that satisfy everyone involved.
  • Give yourself enough time. An unexpected delay on Ithaca’s campus meant that Ifert Johnson had more time than originally planned to implement annual reporting. “We didn’t have to rush, which gave us more opportunities for input and in the end made it a smoother process,” she said.
  • Be responsive to change requests. “Be open and flexible to changes even after testing multiple versions and rolling out,” Ifert Johnson said. “It made people feel better about the process when I came back to them a day or two later with a new version that addressed their needs.”

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