University of Texas at El Paso Gains
The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) provides quality research and instruction to nearly 23,000 students enrolled in a broad array of degree programs — 70 bachelor's, 75 master's and 19 doctoral degrees. Owing to its southwest Texas location, UTEP plays a critical role in one of the largest bi-national communities in the world. As UTEP closes in on its centennial celebration, the institution is reaching national acclaim. Most recently, it was named the 12th best university nationwide by Washington Monthly magazine and ranked #1 among all U.S. universities in the Social Mobility category for helping its students achieve their dreams and professional aspirations.
Key Impacts of Activity Insight
- Standardized faculty performance evaluations across the college of Liberal Arts & Sciences
- Saved thousands of hours per year on data collection and reporting
- Customized faculty activity reporting for seven colleges, demonstrating research and publishing prowess
- Transformed faculty credentialing into an automated, paperless, and auditable process
- Automated faculty reporting via public website to comply with new Texas state legislation
UTEP has established a path toward becoming a national research university, and with nearly $80 million in annual research expenditures, the strategy is proving successful. The process of recruiting and retaining nationally recognized faculty has been facilitated by UTEP's recent and signiﬁcant capital investments in research equipment, and facilities. As a result, teaching and research are performed by a team of 1,000-plus faculty members in 7 colleges and 1 nursing school, each with graduate, undergraduate, doctoral, and professional programs.
In line with boosting its research capabilities, UTEP consistently thrives to attract the best and most promising new students. The university makes this task easier by providing high-quality core curricula enhanced by applied findings from a wealth of innovative research initiatives.
Reporting faculty activity data once to satisfy multiple uses and constituencies
With more than 60 areas of study, UTEP's College of Liberal Arts covers a wide range of subjects taught by numerous faculty members with varying levels of expertise. This made it difficult for the college's administrators to track all the activities, biographical information, and credentials for each faculty member. Yet this information was needed to present course data to students, perform annual faculty evaluations, and provide faculty honors, awards, and research summaries to the university Provost. At the same time, the college had been coming under increasing pressure in recent years to respond to a wide range of reporting requirements from both within the campus and from outside bodies. "In the state of Texas today there are so many reporting requirements," says Craig E. Westman, Ph.D, Associate Vice President of Student Solutions and Outcome Integration in UTEP's College of Liberal Arts. "But it's not just state requirements, there are also reporting requirements from the federal government, the University of Texas System, and our institution itself."
Following are the different constituencies requiring reports from UTEP's College of Liberal Arts on a regular basis:
- Federal Government:
- National Institutes of Health (NIH)
- National Science Foundation (NSF)
- Texas State Legislature
- Texas State Coordinating Board (responsible for implementing legislation)
- The University of Texas System (15-institution body)
- UTEP Provost office
- UTEP office of Institutional Research (IR)
- Media (reporters, newspapers, television networks)
With such a high volume of reporting requests coming into the College of Liberal Arts as well as the other colleges at UTEP, the university's provost decided in 2007 to ﬁnd a single solution to satisfy all the reporting needs across the university. "The provost's actions were timely," says Dr. Westman. "Newly passed Texas House Bill 2504 was heaping an additional load of Internet-based reporting requirements on all Texas universities. We needed a way to report all kinds of faculty data fast, accurately, and in an automated manner."
Texas House Bill 2504 requires UTEP 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, UTEP must show instructor profile information and the syllabus associated with each class. This data must be accessible to website users in just two clicks from the UTEP homepage. To comply, UTEP needed to establish a web-linked, searchable database and related system that could organize and report data as requested by website users. According to Dr. Westman, "2504 sealed the deal for the provost. We already needed tracking and reporting for faculty profiles, awards and honors, published research, student evaluation data, and faculty credentialing. This just compelled everyone to start moving forward to get it done."
A Complete Data Management and Reporting Platform
Dr. Westman and the UTEP provost sought a software-based solution that could track all faculty activities and provide customizable reports quickly and easily. The right solution would have several important characteristics. First, the solution would need to easily integrate with UTEP's Banner system. In particular, faculty profile data stored in the new system would need to allow Banner's search engine to provide Web-based course information in compliance with House Bill 2504. Second, with UTEP providing unique research to the State of Texas surrounding the issues of US-Mexico border issues, the system needed the ability to provide custom outputs per requests from the State Coordinating Board. Third, the system had to enable easy data management for faculty awards and honors. This would enable the provost's office to stay up-to-date and quickly present a wide range of information outside the university as needed.
Dr. Westman's team evaluated several software solutions and by the spring of 2008 began to implement the chosen solution - Activity Insight from Digital Measures. "Digital Measures made two impressive demonstrations of the software's capabilities and speed," says Dr. Westman. "It was also an easy choice to make, because one of our deans had benefited from Activity Insight at his previous university." What Dr. Westman's team liked most about Activity Insight was the system's single data repository that allows for easy customizations. "Reporting requirements are constantly evolving," says Dr. Westman. "We knew that having the ability to customize the interface and reports would enable us to do many things without always having to buy new software each time."
Input Data Once for Multiple Uses
The commonality of Activity Insight for data collection and management has enabled the College of Liberal Arts (and the 7 other schools at UTEP) to perform far more campus reporting than originally anticipated. Five years after implementing Activity Insight, the college leverages the system to manage and/or support the following:
- Searchable faculty profiles on the public website
- Linkage of a searchable database for Web-based course searching
- Collection, aggregation, and reporting of faculty activities
- Management and reporting of faculty evaluations
- Integration to Digital Commons, the library knowledge base of publications
- Input and management of peer reviews
- Management of published and "in progress" faculty research data (integrated to Expertise)
- Faculty profile pages (varied from Expertise)
- Details and summaries of faculty awards and honors received
- Maintenance of faculty rosters
- Credentialing, with auditing and sign-off
"Activity Insight has enabled us to manage and report information in more ways than we ever imagined," says Dr. Westman. "The flexibility of the tool lets us integrate other third party systems into Activity Insight, creating a 1-stop solution for faculty." Prior to Activity Insight, faculty at the college had to maintain three separate data systems. Today, they use only Activity Insight. And with the system's integration to the campus login technology, faculty can access the system remotely and input data when it is convenient for them. "Faculty are really on board with Activity Insight. It makes their lives so much easier," adds Dr. Westman.
Focal Points for Substantial Return on Investment
UTEP spent a considerable amount of time to input faculty activity data into Activity Insight during the early implementation stage and the first year of system usage. That investment of time by a few key people and graduate assistants has paid enormous dividends. "The backend savings are enormous for things like reporting data and credentialing," says Dr. Westman. "We literally save thousands of man-hours per year by eliminating paper-based processes and always having the right data at our fingertips."
ROI on Credentialing
Beyond labor savings, UTEP benefits from streamlining processes that once took a week or a month down to just minutes. One example is the university's credentialing process. Prior to implementing Activity Insight, the process was entirely paper based. Dr. Westman describes the painful process this way:
"A department had to get transcripts from faculty and ﬁll out paper forms. If a faculty member lacked a Ph.D in the discipline we needed her to teach, things had to go through a process to justify that the person's experiences and expertise. Then we'd make paper copies of our evidence, send them to the provost for sign-off, and all that paperwork would go to HR to be stored for auditing purposes. This is because the University of Texas system wants to make sure that everyone is credentialed properly to teach at UTEP."
How does UTEP manage credentialing with Activity Insight? Today they have simply automated the entire credentialing process. Faculty go into an 'Education' screen within Activity Insight and click through a simple credentialing process. It even includes signoffs at the end for the department chair, Dean, and Provost. Files, transcripts, licensures, peer statements, and ad hoc information are imaged and uploaded along with the list of courses that each individual faculty member is eligible to teach. Dr. Westman particularly likes that the process is completely track-able and auditable by the provost. "It prevents people from duping the system," says Dr. Westman.
ROI on Research Funding
As competition for research funding grows, colleges and universities ﬁnd themselves under increasing pressure to make the best case possible to obtain funding for new research initiatives. For UTEP's college of Liberal Arts, making the case for funding can be incredibly complex, as research initiatives are often multi-disciplinary and involve faculty from across departments and schools. Having Activity Insight manage and report data in a way that everyone can see enables UTEP to connect disparate faculty and functions with one another to develop the most compelling research grant applications possible.
In early 2013, a group of UTEP professors gathered for the first-ever orientation presented for Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Enhancement Program grant recipients. As part of UTEP's Office of Research and Sponsored Projects (ORSP), the IDR Program has now provided three opportunities for faculty and staff to propose new projects that harness expertise from a range of disciplines, thus fostering greater collaboration across departments and colleges. This type of effort is contributing to UTEP's fast growth in research funding.
Complying with Texas House Bill 2504
Of course, UTEP has leveraged Activity Insight to succeed in its original goal of achieving compliance with Texas House Bill 2504. Figure 1 below shows the searchable faculty profile page from UTEP's public website. The page is just one "click" off the UTEP homepage. Figure 2 shows an individual profile populated with data from Activity Insight.