Texas Tech

Texas Tech University was created by legislative action in 1923 and has the distinction of being the largest comprehensive higher education institution in the western two-thirds of the state of Texas. The university is the major institution of higher education in a region larger than 46 of the nation's 50 states and is the only campus in Texas that is home to a major university, law school, and medical school.

Key Impacts of Activity Insight

  • Automated faculty reporting via public website to comply with new Texas state legislation
  • Vastly improved reporting and raised the University's standing
  • Customized faculty activity reporting for six colleges, demonstrating research and publishing prowess

Background

TTU prides itself on being a major comprehensive research university that retains the sense of a smaller liberal arts institution. Although enrollment is over 30,000, students boast of one-on-one interaction with top faculty and an environment that stresses student accomplishment above all else. TTU students come from every county in Texas, all 50 states, and more than 90 foreign countries.

The University offers 150 undergraduate degree programs through 11 academic colleges, a graduate school, and a school of law as well as more than 100 master's degree programs and over 50 doctoral degree programs. Texas Tech University (TTU) is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees and certificates.

Challenge

Complying with New State Regulations and Accreditation Requirements

In 2008, TTU leaders faced multiple new challenges to their existing method of managing faculty background data and faculty activity information. Of primary concern, reaffirmation of SACS accreditation depended in large part on the University's ability to demonstrate that it was complying with guidelines for faculty accreditation.

The SACS Fifth-Year Interim Report mandated that TTU show faculty rosters as well as curriculum vitae (CVs) for more than eighty degree program coordinators. CV data would need to justify coordinators' qualifications for heading degree programs. Collecting and reporting this data would not be a simple task for TTU leaders, as they had never organized CV data for faculty and relied on spreadsheets to manage faculty rosters.

In addition to SACS requirements, TTU leaders had to prepare for Texas House Bill 2504. The looming legislation would require TTU to make available on its public website a standard set of information related to each undergraduate course taught at the University (except for labs and discussion classes). Specifically, TTU would need to show instructor information and the syllabus tied to each class so website visitors could access all data in just a few clicks from the TTU homepage. To achieve compliance, TTU would need to establish a web-linked, searchable database and related system that could organize and report data as requested by website users.

The third major challenge to managing faculty data at TTU arose from the University's status as a national research university. Established as the fourth research university in Texas, TTU needed a way to consistently prove that the University's faculty members were publishing as required by research universities.

To ensure it developed the capabilities and processes to adhere to the new information management challenges, the University established a new office under the vice provost's direction: the Office of Planning and Assessment. Almost immediately, Vice Provost Dr. Valerie Osland Paton led a committee to find a single software-based solution capable of centralizing all faculty background and activity data to comply with SACS accreditation requirements.

Solution

A Complete Data Management and Reporting Platform

Dr. Paton and the committee of campus administrators sought a software-based platform that would enable the University to achieve six critical functions:

  • Maintaining updated faculty rosters
  • Appending background information for each individual faculty member
  • Collecting, aggregating, and reporting faculty activity data
  • Customizing data input and reports to correspond to the unique needs of different colleges
  • Linking a searchable database to TTU's public website
  • Integrating system usage into TTU's existing campus login technology

After evaluating different software solutions, the technology selection committee selected Activity Insight from Digital Measures. The decision was based on the success that many universities were already enjoying with Activity Insight as well as the system's technical design, which corresponded to the six critical areas of functionality

Shortly after implementing Activity Insight, TTU leveraged the system for faculty rosters. During that time, the Texas state legislature passed House Bill 2504. This prompted Dr. Paton to bring in Elaina Cantrell as the Senior Administrator for the Office of Planning and Assessment. Cantrell's role was very clear. As she puts it, "I was brought in to get campus-wide acceptance of Digital Measures [Activity Insight] and make sure we complied with Texas House Bill 2504."

Complying with House Bill 2504

Cantrell faced three major tasks as she sought 2504 compliance

  • Input CV data for each and every TTU undergraduate instructor of record
  • Upload courses for all scheduled teaching
  • Integrate all data with the search function on TTU's public website

As she began her administrative role in January 2010, Cantrell found that only ten percent of instructors had a CV in the system. She encouraged each faculty member to input his/her core CV data and provided simple system training for those who requested it. Because of Activity Insight's intuitive, user-friendly design, many faculty members input their CV data without the need for training. By January 2011, all 1,750 undergraduate instructors across the university had input their core CV data into Activity Insight - including academic positions, education, and significant publications/creative works.

While faculty members entered their CV data, TTU's IT department developed a web services script that automatically uploaded course data from the University's Banner system. "The Banner integration really saves us lots of time," says Cantrell. "I can't imagine how many hours we would have wasted inputting Banner data manually, especially during the initial data input stage."

Cantrell found great value in gaining support from the university's IT team. She acted as the liaison between IT and management, and within weeks TTU had a searchable website that fully complied with Texas House Bill 2504. As Figure 1 demonstrates, users of TTU's public website can search course and teacher information via dropdown menu and/or input of course prefix, course number, or course title information.

Campus-Wide Acceptance Eases SACS Accreditation

Both Dr. Paton and Cantrell knew that the level of data input required for SACS reaffirmation far exceeded that required for House Bill 2504. TTU would need to input years of faculty activity information that did not yet exist in a university system. At the urging of Dr. Paton, the Provost office fully supported efforts by Cantrell to mandate faculty input of activity data to demonstrate SACS compliance.

To get faculty on board with inputting activity data on an ongoing basis, Cantrell's office runs periodic training sessions, complete with a training video, to show how simple inputting activity data is. Because Activity Insight has been customized for each department, training sessions take less than one hour to make faculty members proficient. Says Cantrell, "They appreciate knowing exactly what's asked of them." While faculty self-service is the rule, Cantrell leveraged part-time data input assistance from administrative assistants to guarantee the University would be ready for the SACS Fifth-Year Interim Report.

To ensure faculty members continue reporting activities on a regular basis, Cantrell runs reports from Activity Insight and notifies delinquent faculty members. Having support from the Provost's office helps immensely. "We 'nice' them into being compliant in the southern tradition," says Cantrell. "If someone falls far behind, the harshest warning we give is that he or she may end up on a list that goes to the Provost office."

TTU's SACS reporting results were quite impressive, and the University easily secured its reaffirmation of accreditation. "I ran all needed reports within days and they looked beautiful," says Cantrell. "Rosters run at the push of a button. I even was able to include narrations in the reports which explained why a degree from one area qualified for use in other areas."

Centralized Faculty Activity Reporting Befitting a Research University

TTU strives to demonstrate its research and publishing prowess as a national research university. As such, the Provost's office seeks to have all undergraduate- and graduate-level faculty members provide proof of publishing in alignment with national research university standards. Cantrell and Dr. Paton recognized early on that Activity Insight's centralized data collection and reporting capabilities would make it easy to prove the University's case. It helped that TTU had already gained momentum by having a critical mass of faculty data in the system.

Because 80-85 percent of TTU faculty members teach undergraduate courses, the CV data, Banner course information, and activity data for the majority of faculty already resided in Activity Insight. This simplified the process of SACS reporting and House Bill 2504 compliance. "It then becomes easier to on-board the remaining 15-20 percent of faculty into Activity Insight, since most graduate-level professors eventually teach an undergraduate course that mandates the entry of their CV data," says Cantrell. Moreover, each time a new faculty member complies with House Bill 2504, Cantrell's office makes sure they secure that member's SACS data.

With the majority of faculty activity data managed and readily reported by Activity Insight, administrators at TTU can now easily demonstrate why the school continues to deserve its status as a national research university. "We can report whatever we need to show with just a few mouse clicks," says Cantrell.