Frequent Questions

GOOD QUESTIONS DESERVE GOOD ANSWERS

General Questions

There are seven simple steps to setting-up Activity Insight:

  1. Send a copy of any reports you would like to run on the teaching, research and service activities of your faculty and staff to Digital Measures.
  2. We use the reports you sent to add screens and fields to a base set of data that we know you will likely need to collect. Elements in the base ”set” of data include such items as, for presentations, the title of the presentation, where it was presented, who presented, and the date it was presented.
  3. You beta test Activity Insight with as many people as you like, entering data into the system and seeing how things come out on reports. Changes are made to the system and you can again test the system until you deem that it is ready to be used.
  4. Load data into Activity Insight from other databases, or connect Activity Insight to other databases in ”real-time”.
  5. If you would like to use it, put single sign-on in place to make it more convenient to access Activity Insight. This makes it so your faculty and staff no longer need a separate username and password to get into Activity Insight. Making it easy to get into Activity Insight will encourage more frequent use of the system.
  6. If you would like to have them do so, individuals can begin entering data on your faculty and staff's behalf.
  7. Your faculty and staff begin entering their data. An email can be sent by Activity Insight to let them know how to access the system.
For more information, see Implementation.

The short answer is that it depends on how many years of data you need on reports, and by when you need those reports. That said, to phase-in use of Activity Insight, in their first year of using Activity Insight, many of our clients ask their faculty to enter only information for the current year. In their second year, they may ask for information from the past three years. This means that after just a few years that you have a rich repository of faculty activity information.

There are several good reasons to use Activity Insight instead of building your own system. Three of them are:

  • Activity Insight is ready to use immediately and is rich with features. You benefit from Digital Measures' experience working with hundreds of other campuses. Instead of spending your resources building a system from scratch, you can use them to customize Activity Insight to be exactly as you want it. You are able to focus on the implementation, use, and extraction of data from Activity Insight rather than the construction of it.
  • Most campus IT organizations do not prefer to build software solutions in-house. Creating software solutions entails significant time, expense and resources dedicated to their design, construction and maintenance. It seems to be a far better use of resources to focus a campus' IT organization on supporting and extending functionality in solutions such as Activity Insight.
  • Activity Insight eliminates any downside of working with a vendor for this type of solution instead of building it in-house. The common "downsides" of working with a vendor for this type of solution are:
    • The data from the vendor's system is in a proprietary file format that can only be used with the vendor's software, locking you into use of the vendor's software
    • The data in the vendor's system cannot be used in real-time by other software that your campus uses, isolating your data and creating a "data island" where the data is locked away.
    • If the vendor stops providing the service, your data will be lost
    Activity Insight effectively combats these concerns. All of Digital Measures' clients can obtain full downloads of all their data in comma-delimited or XML files at all times, ensuring clients always have access to all data and that the data can be used in other systems. Further, your other software systems can "talk" with Activity Insight because of Digital Measures' use of web services.

We recommend that a campus administrator oversee the implementation of Activity Insight campus-wide. This will not need to be the person's sole responsibility, and the time commitment will drop significantly after implementation. Note that your campus administrator should have some technical background, as this is a software system.

We also recommend having each school or college appoint an administrator. This role is commonly filled by someone with knowledge of the reporting requirements of the school/college such as an associate/assistant dean. This is typically just one of the responsibilities of the person and is not a full or perhaps even part time role. If desired, your campus administrator can also fulfill this role for your school or college; this decision is up to you.

For more information, see Implementation.

Once your faculty and staff's activity information has been entered just once into Activity Insight, it never again needs to be re-entered. After the information is in the system, you can then use Activity Insight to generate reports for all of your stakeholders. Faculty and staff never again need to be asked on a one-off basis for this information for every individual report that you need to prepare, such as for accreditation, promotion, tenure, performance appraisals, and media surveys. Further, all academic units on your campus get the exact reports they need for their purposes because Activity Insight supports customizations on a unit-by-unit basis. Activity Insight lends itself well to the "decentralized" nature of most campuses.

There are several things you can do to increase user buy-in:

  • Load as much data as possible from other systems.
  • Make it just one click in a highly visible place to access Activity Insight. By making it simple for your faculty to access the system, there is greater likelihood that they will.
  • Do not make them enter their entire CV in first year. Instead, build the database over time. For example, in the first year ask them to enter the current year's information. In the second year, ask for the previous three years. In the third year, ask for the previous five years.
  • If you cannot wait to build the database over time, then hire data entry workers to do the work for your faculty. Granted, your faculty will still need to enter the information that these other people do not know, such as whether publications are peer-reviewed, however they can enter a great deal of information.
  • Ensure faculty see the benefit relative to their time. Point out the fact that they must already prepare annual activity reports, and documents if they want promotion, tenure, merit pay increases, awards/honors, and more. And point out the fact that administrative reports must be prepared for accreditation, your state/system, institutional research (such as the Delaware Study), media sources (such as U.S. News), and more. The key idea is to enter the information once and use it many times.

No. You may revise the data you collect within Activity Insight and the reports that you can build with it at any time.

Digital Measures has taken many steps to create a safe environment for your information while still making it easy for you to securely access it.

For more information about our security practices and policies, see Serious Security.

All data provided by and collected for your campus by Digital Measures are solely owned by your campus. As per the terms in Digital Measures' standard service agreement, your data cannot be disclosed, reused, sold, or disseminated in any way by Digital Measures. Further, per our standard service agreement, we legally agree to take steps to protect your confidential data just as we would any confidential data belonging to us.

Yes. Individuals with disabilities will have no problem using Activity Insight.

Reporting-Related

Yes. Here are the ways this can be done:

  • Send Digital Measures a detailed sample report as a Microsoft™ Word or Excel file, and we'll build the report into the system for you. Custom reports contain the same exact text, formatting and layout as the reports you send.
  • Use Activity Insight's Ad Hoc Reporting tool. This tool makes it easy to get data out of the system on an as-needed basis.

Yes. Digital Measures can custom-build the CV formats you would like to have in Activity Insight. You can also use one of our "out-of-the-box" vitas.

The short answer to this question is "You." Our clients each set their own user permissions for the faculty, staff and administrators on their campus. Security can be assigned in nearly any way you desire. The typical security configuration most campuses use is similar to this:

  • Faculty and staff are only able to run reports on their own data
  • Several designated individuals are able to run reports for the individuals in each department. You may also desire that these same people, or alternate people, be able to modify data in the system for this department
  • Several designated individuals are able to run reports for the individuals in each college or school. You may also desire that these same people, or alternate people, be able to modify data in the system for this college or school
  • Several designated individuals are able to run reports for everyone on campus. You may also desire that these same people, or alternate people, be able to modify data in the system for everyone on campus

Yes. Custom reports can be built into the system for each of your academic units. This allows each of your colleges or schools to produce custom annual activity reports and CVs, for example.

Yes. You may add, revise and remove reports at any time.

Working with Data

There are two ways to bring data into Activity Insight from other systems.

First, you can use web services. Web services allow systems to "talk" with one another. For example, you can connect Activity Insight to your campus student information system to push data into Activity Insight about each of the courses that your faculty teach, relieving your faculty from entering this information manually.

The second way to bring data into Activity Insight from other systems is by loading the information from files that you export from the other systems. To do this, simply submit an import file in comma-delimited (.csv) format or a file that meets these two conditions:

  • Every column in the file needs to "map" to exactly one field in the system
  • Every row in the file needs to have a unique identifier that matches an account in the system (new accounts can always be created)

This will enable you to use data from your campus student information system such as Banner, Datatel, PeopleSoft, or SIS+.

Digital Measures supports an open standard referred to as "web services." The purpose of web services is to allow systems to "talk" with one another. For example, this allows you to connect Activity Insight to your campus website to maintain profiles of your faculty and staff that are always up-to-date. If a faculty member adds an item to Activity Insight such as a research grant, the item immediately shows up on the person's profile on your website in real-time.

There are four ways to get data out of Activity Insight:

  • Custom reports
    Digital Measures makes it easy for you to build complex, custom reports for your accrediting bodies, campus and other stakeholders. Because Digital Measures digitizes the actual reports you need to prepare and uses the same specific data elements, calculations and formatting of the reports that you provide to us, building these reports is no longer a chore. When you click to run a report with Activity Insight, the report is then built in real-time using all data entered as of that instant.
  • Ad hoc reports
    Activity Insight's ad hoc reporting tool allows you to easily select the exact data elements you would like from those collected in the system. You can select the date range and whether you want to include data from all of your faculty and staff or only data from particular colleges, schools, departments or units.
  • Back-up all of your data
    Even though Digital Measures creates extensive backups of all of our client data, we still think it is a good idea for each of our clients to periodically download and store a full copy of their data. Activity Insight makes it easy to automatically download a full copy of all your data on a periodic basis. The data back ups are in comma-separated value (.csv) file format which you can then save to other databases and software applications.
  • Web services
    Digital Measures supports an open standard referred to as "web services." The purpose of web services is to allow systems to "talk" with one another. For example, this allows you to connect Activity Insight to your campus website to maintain profiles of your faculty and staff that are always up-to-date. If a faculty member adds an item to Activity Insight such as a research grant, the item immediately shows up on the person's profile on your website in real-time.

Yes. You may load data as often and whenever you would like.

All information entered into Activity Insight is always available. Even though your faculty and staff change over time, keeping information for those individuals who are no longer with your campus is still important for preparing accurate historical reports on your campus' productivity.

For answers to questions not listed here, please contact us.