GOOD QUESTIONS DESERVE GOOD ANSWERS
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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 and encourage faculty buy-in, in their first year of using the system, 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, and so on, until all faculty data is entered. This means that after just a few years you have a rich repository of faculty activity information. Again, if you need more years of data immediately, there are other alternatives such as using data proxies to enter data.
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
We recommend that a campus administrator oversee the implementation of Activity Insight campus-wide along with a project team. For more information see Choosing the Right Project Team.
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 the data entry workers 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, 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. And more than likely, your faculty are currently being asked for this data many times per year. The key idea is to enter the information once and use it many times, making life easier for your faculty.
No. You may revise the data you collect within Activity Insight and the reports that you can build with it at any time—at no extra cost.
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.
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 reportsDigital 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 fast and easy. 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 reportsActivity 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 dataEven 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 servicesDigital 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.