Cornell University

Founded in 1865, Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York State. Today Cornell is home to the nation’s first colleges devoted to hotel administration, industrial and labor relations, and veterinary medicine, and is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.

Key Impacts of Activity Insight

  • Significantly streamlined faculty activity reporting
  • Reduced likelihood of data entry errors
  • Ensure consistent reporting for faculty activities and accreditation
  • Automatically populate web sites with faculty profiles

Background

Founded in 1865, Cornell is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York State. Today Cornell is home to the nation’s first colleges devoted to hotel administration, industrial and labor relations, and veterinary medicine, and is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.

On the Ithaca campus alone nearly 20,000 students representing every state and 120 countries choose from among 4,000 courses in 11 undergraduate, graduate, and professional colleges and schools. Many undergraduates participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary programs, play meaningful roles in original research, and study in Cornell programs in Washington, New York City, and the world over

Challenge

When it came to faculty activity reporting, some of Cornell’s colleges and schools had separately developed electronic solutions while others were using manual processes to collect this information. In both cases, Cornell was missing out on an opportunity to use a common tool in a consistent manner. According to Sarah Albrecht, Management Information and Administrative Systems Manager at the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, the College Officers Group wanted a more uniform solution that all schools could choose to use to record and report various activities, including annual reporting on faculty activities. "Frustration had been mounting over the years in some schools because the process of collecting and aggregating this information was complex," explains Albrecht.

Solution

Going with a Proven Leader

Initially, the Cornell College Officers Group considered using the library’s faculty research-focused discovery tool, for academic reporting. However, it quickly became clear that administrators couldn’t pull needed data from this tool. Once the group started talking with the various schools on campus, it found that the Cornell School of Hotel Administration was successfully using Activity Insight from Digital Measures. The school demoed the solution to the College Officers Group, convincing the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning that Activity Insight could significantly improve its process. “We were impressed with the solution’s ease of use and information access, as well as the ability to customize screens, fields and reports - including CVs - as needed,” recalls Albrecht.

Getting Users Up and Running Quickly

While the College Officers Group hoped that all colleges and schools across campus would use the same tool, it took an opt-in approach to implementation, allowing schools to adopt Activity Insight of their own choosing. The schools that initially decided to use the solution needed to configure and launch Activity Insight within six months in order to use it for annual reporting that year. To get started, the schools hired temporary workers to input anywhere from one to five years of faculty CVs.

Cornell’s IT group configured three feeds to populate and routinely update Activity Insight with relevant data from the university’s data marts, including information on courses taught each semester, sponsored contracts and grants, and human resources-related data.

To date, seven Cornell colleges and schools and over 2,200 administrators, faculty, and staff are using Activity Insight.

Appreciating Ease of Use

According to Albrecht, the solution is simple to use, especially for those familiar with the concept of a database. The solution is easy to use even for those not comfortable with databases because each screen and field provides guidance as to what information should be entered.

At the same time, it’s much easier to search within and report from Activity Insight than using past methods. Albrecht also appreciates the fact that users can hit a feedback button directly within Activity Insight. “If a user in my college hits the button, I get the note. As the university administrator for Activity Insight, if I hit the button, my feedback goes directly to Digital Measures. This assures me that the feedback is going to the right person and that it’s captured in the official record.”

Results

Significantly Streamlining Faculty Activity Reporting

The schools using Activity Insight now enjoy a much more streamlined process for collecting, aggregating, and reporting on faculty activities. In the past, an administrator in Sarah’s school sent out a Word document for faculty to fill in and then had to aggregate all the information to report on it. The report was then submitted to the school’s dean, who would submit a pared down version to the Provost.

While the system is available to faculty 24/7/365, administrators send an email to faculty with a due date when the dean wants to see a snapshot. Once the date hits, Albrecht hits a button and generates the report. “The process and time to report is significantly more efficient than in the past,” says Albrecht.

Previously, college administrators such as Albrecht had to review data for errors as it came in from faculty. Now she focuses her time on checking for obvious errors that faculty may have made, such as omitting information. “There’s not as much room for data entry errors with Activity Insight because people have to enter data in specific fields. It’s also not possible to incorrectly type a citation for publications as the system guides users on the proper way to cite. Plus, our report to our dean is always consistent now,” continues Albrecht.

Easily Populating Web Sites with Faculty Profiles

One advantage of using a centralized solution for data collection is that schools can use the data in numerous ways. While Albrecht’s school uses it primarily for annual reporting of faculty activities, a number of schools use Activity Insight to populate their web sites with faculty profiles. “Those schools no longer need to hunt for data from a variety of sources -- they can be certain that profiles are up to date, and faculty members enjoy the benefit of single site maintenance,” explains Albrecht.

Simplifying the Accreditation Process

Some Cornell schools are using Activity Insight for the accreditation process. Because Activity Insight provides standard reports to support their accreditation requirements, the accreditation process is greatly simplified. “It’s valuable that Digital Measures keeps pace with reporting requirements of the major accreditation boards. We’re working with Digital Measures now to create a consistent CV format for all schools that need to respond to the NIH and NSF,” says Albrecht.