A Web-based interactive gathering and reporting system on faculty performance and activities
The use of technology offers many opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of operations. This paper will show how the implementation of a web-based interactive reporting system has been used in an educational environment to more effectively report, measure faculty performance, and identify areas for individual faculty development. The system is now used by the School of Business at Clayton College & State University (CCSU), a progressive, four-year institution of higher education located in metropolitan Atlanta's Southern Crescent. The School currently (as of the Fall, 2002) has 18 full-time faculty members, including a Dean, Associate Dean, and eminent scholar, and Business Administration degrees with majors in Accounting, Management, Marketing, and General Business are offered by the School to meet the needs of its student body and surrounding community. In addition, the School, with the full support of the university's administration, began the AACSB accreditation process in August of 2000.
The University stresses the use of technology, both for the students and for the faculty. All faculty have been provided laptops for the past five years, and in the fall of 1997 (ITP, 1996), CCSU began an innovative Information Technology Project (ITP) by providing every student, through the use of additional student fees, the use of a multimedia notebook computer with unlimited Internet access and e-mail. In January of 2000, CCSU was recognized for its ITP project when it received one of 11 pioneer awards at the Fourth Annual Conference on Ubiquitous Computing at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. (Shiffert, 2001). CCSU is now in the second phase of the program, called ITP-Choice, which began in the fall, 2001. The ITP-Choice requires that each student now have access to his or her own notebook
During the 1998 - 1999 academic year, the University's Faculty Council of the University developed a comprehensive Summary of Professional Activity (SPA) form. All schools at the University now use the form, developed to record performance in teaching, scholarly activity, and service. The SPA form used by the School of Business has been modified, however, to meet the needs of the School. In addition, although the rest of the University manually completes the form, the School of Business now uses an interactive web-based Summary of Professional Activity form. Just as in the business world, the recording, viewing, and tracking of performance appraisals are important in the educational sector (Mottl, 2000). By using the interactive form, the School feels that decision-making will be improved and forecasts dramatic improvements in record-keeping and cross-referencing of faculty data. In addition, performance-appraisal software should make it easier for administrators to identify areas that need improvement and communicate necessary changes that need to be made (Dutton, 2001).
At the beginning of the ensuing Spring semester of any academic year (approximately January 10 of the subsequent year), faculty prepare the Summary of Professional Activity (SPA) Form, which reviews in detail all relevant professional activities that transpired during the year being evaluated. Soon thereafter, the Faculty Annual Performance Rating Form (FAPRF) is completed. The totals and data obtained from completion of the FAPRF then become part of the School of Business' Faculty Evaluation System. The Faculty Evaluation System (FES) using the Faculty Annual Performance Rating Form (FAPRF) was developed by the Faculty Evaluation and Development Committee (FEDC) of the School of Business and was then approved by the entire faculty of the School.
All forms work together to measure the annual performance of faculty by providing a reliable and consistent database to assist in implementing faculty evaluation so that important decisions regarding retention and merit increments can be made in a fair, efficient and timely manner. In addition, the Faculty Evaluation System is intended to serve as a mechanism to assist in faculty development by identifying weaknesses in teaching, scholarly activity or service that need to be improved. Data provided the SPA to the FAPRF is an integral part of the FES model, which uses a point system that is meaningful within the School of Business and useful in University-wide Tenure and Promotion decisions. All completed forms eventually become part of a faculty member's portfolio. Once the portfolio is submitted, the SPA becomes part of the official file maintained in the Dean's office for each faculty member. It is used in evaluations relevant to merit and retention and is also intended to assist in making important decisions regarding faculty evaluation. It may also be used, in consultation with the faculty member, for purposes of faculty development.
Completing the Summary of Professional Activity form requires that a faculty member manually enter data in to over forty different categories. In the past, compilation of the required data for reporting and evaluation purposes was a tedious task for the faculty, and review of the form was often cumbersome for the evaluator (Mottl, 2000). In addition, as is inherit with systems requiring submissions of this type, there were numerous omissions and inaccuracies in the reporting of this information. If data were not entered in a category, the administrator having responsibility for evaluation would often have to go back to the faculty member. The School of Business at CCSU decided that having a web-based system that would allow faculty access to the forms via the Internet so that all categories would have to have input before a submission was possible. A faculty member could complete the required form any time during the year, save the inputted data to a database, and modify or add information when needed.
Additionally, the supervisor would be able to easily gather information and generate reports. Having the system online and interactive should also reduce the amount of paperwork and make it easier for administrators to share information (Mottl, 2000). Although similar forms are used in industry to record, review, and compare data (Dannhauser, 1999), this was a novel approach in the educational environment. This is also another excellent example of how the internet can be used for a variety of purposes (Blumenthal and Clack, 2001).
Although some software designs have been mired by the limitations of the previous versions of HTML (Markham, 2001), in this case the basic forms design was very straightforward. Using the actual Summary of Professional Activities documents, each form was constructed to mirror the information specified on the form. Visual Studio aided in the construction of the forty-two forms needed to implement the application by providing a graphical design interface. Therefore, no HTML code had to be written at this point. This is important because as Markham (2001) indicated, the costs of creating advanced systems are often excessive relevant to the time required for research and data base development, specific programming knowledge, and dedicated equipment.
There is very little research on performance-appraisal software (Dutton, 2001), and as Kesner (2003) stated, there are always going to be challenges associated with the development of any knowledge-sharing program. In this case, several points of clarification were needed as the web forms were developed. For example, valid ranges for numeric data, a specific format for date entries, the type of and amount of data that the user could supply for some entries (number of textual characters or valid numbers), and which entries required open ended text responses. The clarification of these points would eliminate most of the ambiguities that existed in the manual collection of this data, and would then allow the design of the database to begin. By working with the Associate Dean and faculty members, the web forms were created and approved. At this point, some of the client-side scripting was added, which is used to validate user responses. As other points of clarification arose, an additional code was added.