Demystifying the Digital Measures process

11/30/2007 8:00:00 AM

Digital Measures (DM) is the Web-based data repository into which annual activity data for the University's academic faculty is entered and maintained. The data is subsequently used for dual purposes, the generation of faculty annual evaluations and the compilation of faculty productivity reports that the Board of Regents requires. Reports can be saved in several formats, including Word, Excel, and PDF. Additionally, the DM reporting function provides an option to generate faculty resumes.

Most University units used DM for 2006 academic faculty annual evaluations and are expected to do so again in 2007 and into the foreseeable future. As might be expected in introducing a new product, DM implementation in 2006 did not run as smoothly as hoped, and faculty using the DM data entry portal for the first time experienced varying levels of frustration. Similarly, administrators attempting to use DM for reporting purposes have discovered some anomalies in how data had been entered.

In late August 2007 responsibility for administering DM was transferred to the Information Technology unit and Duncan Aldrich was asked to move DM beyond its basic implementation into a fully functional program. After assuming responsibility, and spending more time than anticipated merely coming up to speed on DM management, Duncan, in cooperation with the Provost's Office, has begun implementing plans to minimize what to date have been DM's three greatest shortcomings at the University.

The first of these shortcomings is that some aspects of data management that can be automated are yet to be automated. The underlying issue is that data not automatically uploaded from the University's data warehouse to the DM database must be keyed in —and a substantial amount of the keying burden has landed on faculty. Last year, LeRoy Palinsky of Campus Information Systems developed a process for transferring scheduled teaching information from the University data warehouse to DM. Because records for all classes taught at the University are automatically added to DM, individual faculty members are relieved of keying the data in. Faculty DM accounts have essentially been "seeded" with their scheduled instruction information. Beginning this year (in fact just last week), grants and contracts information is similarly being transferred from University systems to DM faculty accounts. The grants and contracts data should appear in DM accounts in mid-December. Beginning in the spring 2008, loads of additional faculty information — such as rank and tenure status — will also be automated.

There is an important caveat associated with the automated data transfers. Though relieved of extensive data entry themselves, faculty members must carefully review the information in their DM accounts. While most data transferred to DM is in its final, official form, other data is preliminary and has yet to be fully reviewed. The logic for including preliminary data, of course, is that faculty will need only to review and correct most items rather than keying them in from scratch. "Most" is highlighted because for various reasons some instructional and grant activities may not have made the migration to DM. So at the most basic level, faculty will need to check that courses they taught and that grants and contracts they submitted are included in their DM accounts. At another level faculty must check that all information is keyed correctly.

The second shortfall has been a scarcity of support for manual data input. To help relieve faculty of the data input burden, Duncan will supervise the work of two student assistants who will input publication and presentation citations that faculty email to duncan@unr.edu. Citations can be sent as word processor files attached to emails, or can be pasted directly into the body of the message. In fact, if you send your entire C.V., this information will transfer the past five years of publication and presentation citations to your DM account. When sending, please include your full name and NetID both in the message and in the any attached files.

The third shortcoming is that given the dispersed entry of data into DM, there has been some inconsistency in data entry, which complicates data analysis. The expectation is that both of the plans outlined above will significantly minimize data consistency problems. In the spring, support will similarly be provided to check that data is entered correctly.

Training sessions open to all Digital Measures users are scheduled in the Getchell Library Projection Room on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 6 at 1 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. Training is also available upon request - Duncan has met with academic departments to share insights in DM use and with department chairs who are planning to share those insights with their faculty. Please note that Duncan will not be on campus between Dec. 15 and Jan. 2. You are also encouraged to contact Duncan individually for DM assistance.

Other plans are in the works for implementation next year to further ease DM use on campus. More on that in the next installment.

For more information, contact Duncan Aldrich directly at either (775) 682-5569 or duncan@unr.edu

To find out more about Digital Measures, consult DM's Web page.


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