At Interfolio, the health and well-being of our clients, their academic communities, and our employees are always a top priority. As we navigate the rapidly evolving global COVID-19 situation together, here you can find the various actions and precautions Interfolio is taking to serve the higher education community throughout these challenging times.
Providing continued service and product performance
Interfolio has already taken action to ensure consistency and connectivity of our products and services during this time.
At this time, we are continuing with normal business operations in the UK and the US—our cloud-based software solutions remain consistent and available, as well as our extensive security, monitoring, and controls.
All Interfolio teams will remain vigilant and on-schedule, primed to address your needs and expectations.
We have encouraged our employees to work remotely to ensure that we are mitigating any health issues that may arise during this time.
The Scholar Services support team will continue their normal support hours:
Our university partnership team remains available to help you troubleshoot and work through contingency plans as you develop next steps for your campus—online and offline.
Our mission is to provide you with faculty-first technology, enabling you and your institution’s day-to-day success, now more than ever. As we collectively look ahead to next steps, we are here as a constant partner in your planning, support, and success.
We are working with partner organizations to gather and communicate resources you can utilize on your campus. What are some other resources you have found helpful? Are there examples of communication you would like to share with your peers? Do you have any best practices to share around contingency planning? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add to this post.
On faculty engagement, and making the Faculty Information System a reality
The Interfolio team is off to a racing start this year. We have been hard at work, listening to our clients’ direct feedback and keeping a pulse on the needs of faculty members and academic staff all across the world.
And now, as a result of continual conversation with our clients, filled with honest input and thoughtful suggestions, I’m proud to say Interfolio has reached a milestone that we’ve been working towards for some time—the first comprehensive technological approach to supporting scholars and their institutions.
In light of some pivotal technical developments recently rolled out to link our separate faculty technology modules, we now feel confident in saying that we offer what the higher education sector as a whole has long been saying (to industry, and to each other) that they need: the Interfolio Faculty Information System.
The role and value of the Faculty Information System
For some time now, it has been clear that colleges and universities are deeply in need of a practical, modern set of transformative capabilities to address a variety of widely felt tensions between the institution’s academic mission and its existential necessities.
This is a refrain we hear in our frequent conversations with a wide variety of institutional stakeholders, including chief academic officers, deans, academic technology leaders, institutional research directors, diversity and inclusion officers, university human resources management, and others on the administrative side of academic institutions.
In the absence of a widely adopted faculty-centric workflow and information system, critical transformative questions are left unanswered or can be answered only with much isolated, manual effort. These questions include:
How does the number, type, and productivity of faculty in our various departments compare to those of peer institutions?
Where are our measurable research strengths? Which approaches have been most successful in securing funded research?
What is the likely impact of the upcoming cycle of P&T cases on budget requirements?
At what points in the employment lifecycle are we experiencing the greatest losses of faculty from underrepresented groups? In what areas would additional or new efforts prove most impactful?
But perhaps even more poignantly, we have taken note of the abundant complaints from hundreds of thousands of active scholars and students about the technological status quo, indicating that the practical tasks required of them when pursuing their own academic careers seem perpetually to present logistical headaches and inconsistencies.
Virtually always, such complaints lead back to reveal an ill fit between universities’ chosen technology and the actual administrative processes being undertaken. Professional academics are fatigued from technical exercises in data and document management that they see as jumping through hoops, with only disparate and isolated benefits to them. And on the far end of the spectrum, some scholars have begun to express hostility and skepticism about the legitimacy of the data collection and use by the institutions that employ them.
Evolving into the Faculty Information System
The historic modular development method
Until recently, when an institution worked with Interfolio, they adopted one or more separate modules that focused on certain key clusters of need: running faculty searches, conducting tenure reviews, storing confidential letters for past graduates, formatting faculty activity data into reports (or CVs), and so on.
That was intentional, and the modular approach is not going away.
With the development of the separate modules, we were addressing the known, agreed-upon sources of pain we were hearing about from academic officers, departments, and staff. Even knowing the wider implications of what we were onto, we deliberately sought to help client institutions move off of paper, improve process efficiency, clarify and record communication, knit together reporting, and unify data into a central hub—because those were clear “wins.”
But for the reasons I’ve touched on above, all of these somewhat mechanical considerations fall under a shared vision that could transform how scholars and universities interact: strategic ways to pair the actions that the scholar takes throughout their career with the actions that academic leaders take to study the institution’s activity.
From product line to platform
Last month, we rolled out a unified platform interface that unites all of our modules within a single, consistent Interfolio environment:
And at the same time, we released some new functional connections to allow data and documents to flow between the modules (including, for example, between our faculty activity reporting module and the individual’s Dossier). These product developments lay the first brick on the road in a new direction for Interfolio—towards an integrated platform focused on the full scholarly and career lifecycle of faculty members.
Now an academic institution can account for the full path or trajectory of all its scholars, from graduate school through retirement, within an increasingly mature online environment that has been built in collaboration with higher education from day one.
Situating Interfolio within the higher education technology landscape
By focusing on the scholar and supporting their lifecycle events (e.g., reviews, promotions) and professional moments (e.g., biosketches, profiles, service work) in a central system, Interfolio can ease the individual and institutional burdens with transparency, equity, diversity, data collection and insight.
Unlike yesterday’s discrete technical tunnel vision, the Faculty Information System:
Is more faculty-focused than an applicant tracking system (ATS), supporting deep artifact review, referee letter support and complicated shared governance work-flows.
Is more committee-minded than a human resources information system (HRIS), allowing for deep understanding of the divots resulting from disparate inequitable processes emerging from differing departmental approaches.
Is more action- and impact-focused than just faculty activity reporting (FAR), allowing for data to support the numerous faculty lifecycle events and professional moments of an individual, while supporting the insight and governance needs of the modern institution.
Is more comprehensive than research information management (RIM) or current research information systems (CRIS), as it supports profile, teaching, service and professional data sets that comprehensively tell the whole story of the scholar, as well as the department, school, and institution.
Is focused on the lifelong compilation of the scholar’s storyby providing an enduring, transferable Dossier.
This most recent development in Interfolio’s mission in higher education, the announcement of the Faculty Information System, is just the next step in a story with a lot of history already, and even more to come. Every day I’m inspired to see our seasoned team find new successes in offering the drivers of higher education—namely, scholars—a smart new category of technology worthy of their role.
Throughout my 20-year career in edtech, I’ve seen a host of higher education institutions attempt to solve or mitigate large challenges with new technology. I’ve watched the evolution of enterprise resource planning systems, student information and CRM systems, learning management systems, enrollment systems, and outcome assessment systems; however, I’ve rarely, if ever, seen institutions focus their attention on faculty.
Given that faculty drive the lion’s share of revenue through funded research and teaching (in the form of tuition); comprise the greatest component of cost in the form of payroll; are responsible for brand, reputation and rank of a university; deliver student success and ultimately completion rates; and are responsible for myriad governance decisions: can colleges and universities continue to afford to not invest in faculty?
Two companies with a history of putting faculty first
Since 1999 we’ve centered our business on scholars, first by helping over 1 million of them apply for scholarly opportunities, and then by assisting over 10,000 faculty hiring, promotion and tenure decisions at higher education institutions. Faculty are the hub of every university, and we make it our goal to provide valuable tools that center around their work and accomplishments, while also helping them to drive their institution’s mission.
That’s why we’re so excited to announce our recent acquisition of Data180, a company founded by two former faculty members that provides a solution for accreditation and faculty activity reporting that’s become vital to the success of higher education institutions.
A sea change in higher education
Interfolio’s combination with Data180 is indicative of the sea change that’s taking place in higher education. Institutions are starting to recognize the need to protect and invest in their faculty, and it’s not hard to see why.
Any strategic initiative or outcome around growth, retention, faculty diversity, reputation, or data (such as accreditation or fair hiring compliance for grant eligibility), lives and dies with the faculty. Unsurprisingly, higher education institutions across cohorts have begun seeking tools within this new must-have category of “faculty technology” to help their faculty be more effective, efficient, and strategic.
Investments in faculty
The faculty-focused investments our clients are making with Interfolio—coupled with their requests to incorporate activity reporting solutions like those provided by Data180—demonstrate the emergence of a “need to have” technology to support faculty throughout their career and provide the institution with never-before-harnessed data.
Both Interfolio and Data180 know that there has to be significant benefit to the faculty in order for a technology to be holistically adopted and useful to everyone at the institution: staff, administrators, deans, and faculty alike. Institutions investing in faculty-centered technology know that if you provide tools to your faculty that actually add value to their daily work and professional life, they are more likely to want to use them. As a result, institutions will see more validated and accurate data about the work their faculty do daily to deliver the institutional mission through teaching, research, mentorship, and service.
But what’s most important is that faculty will—finally—receive investment commensurate with their importance, so they can continue to be the driving force behind what makes higher education exceptional.
We believe faculty is the group most central to the success of higher education.
Faculty define the culture and intellectual climate of a campus. They drive research initiatives, grants, published works, and critical thinking. They are responsible for the success of current students and the influence of generations of alumni. And, not least, they are responsible for the important governance decisions that shape the institution, like curriculum, hiring, promotion, and tenure. Faculty are uniquely equipped to steer your institution through the myriad external pressures that affect higher education by means of their expertise, talent, drive, and dedication.
Despite this very clear value, very few systems are available to make faculty work easier or more productive. As mounting costs create demands for efficiency, institutions across higher education have tried to reduce spending by hiring even fewer full-time, tenure-track faculty. In doing so, they have exacerbated many of the issues they sought to alleviate, creating more service and mentorship demands on faculty, fewer faculty resources for students, and a two-tier system whereby nearly 75% of the professoriate lack a governance role at the institution. As the remaining full-time faculty have more and more on their plate—mandates, assessments, and reports that demand more paperwork and time on top of existing obligations—what tools exist to help prioritize the teaching, research, and service that faculty were hired to do?
We believe that the right technology—when it accounts for faculty requirements, work, and decisions—has the ability to make faculty life easier and more productive. Too many times, technology decisions are “done unto” faculty. Someone in some office buys something and hopes that it makes things a little more effective. But if you build tools that are seamlessly integrated into the work that faculty are already doing—applying for jobs, going up for review, seeking tenure—technology isn’t an additional burden for faculty. By engaging faculty work, decisions, and data directly, technology has the potential to make institutions far more efficient and effective than they are today.
In fact, when technology is built for the most important element of higher education everyone benefits: with support, faculty have more time for teaching and research; with transparency into faculty data, institutions can enact meaningful change around big issues like campus diversity and budget; with the right tools, governance becomes an engine for transformation at the university.
This mutual benefit for institutions and faculty guides all of our work. Institutional decisions are better when they take faculty expertise and information into account. Faculty committees are most effective when aligned with the strategic mission of their institution.
Advance faculty, advance the institution.
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