How the University of Washington Information School Uses Web Profiles

When universities first implement a faculty activity reporting solution, it’s common that they start with a project that involves heavy data entry—think, building annual reports or professional accreditation reports. Once all of your faculty data is collected and verified, it is important to find additional ways to get value from that wealth of information. One of those logical next steps is to build out faculty web profiles. That’s what the University of Washington’s (UW) Information School (iSchool) did. 

Background

With roots extending back 100 years to the Department of Library Economy within the College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Washington Information School became an independent school on the Seattle campus of UW in 2001. The iSchool offers an undergraduate degree, two Master’s degrees and a PhD in Information Science.  

Challenges

In 2010, a program evaluation initiative from UW administration was the impetus for the Information School to launch Activity Insight. Jan Boyd, Faculty Data Service Specialist and Activity Insight Administrator at the UW Information School shared background about the initiative, “We had to aggregate 5 years of faculty service, research and teaching information. There was a big push for collecting data. We decided that [Activity Insight] would be a good tool for this.”

Getting Started

The first step was inputting all faculty and staff accomplishments into Activity Insight. The Information School at UW took an interesting approach and used a group of 10 graduate assistants Boyd supervised to collect and aggregate all of these activities into spreadsheets to upload into the system. Boyd said, “Our graduate assistants in the Information School are very savvy when it comes to the citation process, where to find information and taking everything from CVs.”

Enter Once, Use Multiple Ways

From its inception, the iSchool had used database-driven faculty web profiles. Once five  years of information was live in Activity Insight, it didn’t make sense to maintain a separate database of largely duplicate data in their home-grown system that was populating web profiles. By May 2012, they had faculty and staff web profiles up and running for the whole Information School pulling from Activity Insight via web services.

Keeping Things Updated

For the UW’s Information School, Boyd has found that a mix of tactics work for keeping faculty activities up-to-date. She has assigned a graduate assistant to glean publications, presentations and media references from the weekly email update the iSchool’s research development manager sends to faculty. The graduate assistant then updates faculty records in Activity Insight that refreshes faculty web profiles simultaneously. But graduate assistants don’t do it all as some faculty members prefer to enter their own information. And PhD students are responsible for their own records. It’s safe to say Boyd has found the right balance that works for her faculty and staff.

Boyd shared that it’s important to find your faculty’s motivating factors. For faculty at the Information School, she said, “[Faculty] might not care if the directory is up-to-date, but they do care about their individual research group sites. That’s how they promote their research. And we built these research sites so that information can be pulled directly from Activity Insight.”

By having Activity Insight work this way, it’s a win-win for Boyd and the Information School as a whole: everything is up-to-date because activities are stored in one location and faculty have a “one stop shop” for getting the information that matters to them to the places they need it to be.

Determine What Makes Sense for Your Faculty

For Boyd, having a system that is faculty-centered and collects all the information that makes sense for them to track is important. “My goal is to have [Activity Insight] be useful for all—deans, faculty, staff. If it helps them do their job more easily, it will not fall by the wayside because people will actually be using it,” she shared. Joseph Tennis, Associate Professor and Director of Faculty Affairs, added, “Managing multiple sites with Activity Insight is easy. Once the different sites are set up, we simply do data entry once, and push it out to the difference sites.”

Want to learn more about why you should use data from your faculty activity reporting solution to build out web profiles? Here’s  four reasons.

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