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4 Steps to Creating a Faculty Management Solution at Excelsior College

By Guest Author January 12, 2021

By: Laura Goff, Associate Dean, School of Undergraduate Studies, Excelsior College

Part of providing the ultimate student experience also involves providing the best faculty and staff experience. Now more than ever, institutions are taking swift measures to ensure that faculty and staff feel safe, supported, and have the best employee experience possible — regardless of whether they are in a classroom or their living room.

There has been a surge in companies investing in technology to enhance their employee experience — and this is no different for higher education. For our team at Excelsior College, an accredited not-for-profit online institution, we’re providing more efficient experiences for our faculty and staff through our new faculty management solution.

We know that the student experience often depends on those who interact with our students on a daily basis — our faculty. Supporting them holistically not only makes for a stronger institution, it also means a better experience for students and staff alike. 

College graduation ceremony

Excelsior College, an online institution based in Albany, N.Y., has more than 21,000 enrolled students and over 182,000 graduates.

With 21,000 enrolled students, and given the unprecedented uncertainties in the midst of the pandemic, giving our faculty a clear roadmap for what to expect this year was a priority for us. When you don’t know what each day will bring outside of work, knowing what to expect each workday is a critical component of the mental and emotional well-being of our team.

Here’s a glimpse into how we created our faculty management solution with Salesforce: 

1. Assessing the Need 

We needed a solution to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the college’s faculty administrative processes. The processes included Faculty Staffing, Faculty Training and Development, Faculty Evaluations, and Faculty Course Assignment. These processes were being delivered through a combination of complex calculations and workflows between our home-grown student information system (SIS), human resource system (UltiPro), several Access databases, and manual processes.

The intent was to improve the availability of data to support these processes, allowing Excelsior to adopt better planning and decision making and to streamline the processes by reducing manual activity and reliance on multiple system interactions. This needed to be done through the onboarding solution that provided a centralized view of data, improved reporting, and optimized workflows. 

In short, as we looked at what we wanted to accomplish, we realized that Salesforce had the capabilities we needed, and we already have a very successful and popular Salesforce instance in place within the College. Using Salesforce technology helped ensure we were using a platform already in place. By simplifying the ecosystem by reducing the number of platforms needed for faculty management, we were able to better serve our faculty. We partnered with Spark Orange to build out our solution.

Woman reading a piece of paper

A new faculty management solution has made administrative processes more efficient and effective, keeping the focus on student success.

2. Creating a Solution with the End User in Mind

For faculty members, the Faculty Portal Lightning App is a one-stop shop where they can view their profile information, course assignments, payments, performance evaluations, upload resumes and credentials, and more. With single sign-on enabled, they can easily click the links in the portal and access the College’s other systems, including UltiPro (HR system), Brainier (training site), Canvas (learning management system), and Remedyforce (help desk ticketing system).

During this project, we transitioned our custom data model, which we developed seven years ago, into’s Education Data Architecture (EDA). Integrations were built to push data into Salesforce from the HR system, student information system, and learning management system. This brings together information about faculty, school affiliations, courses, course offerings, facilities, etc.

In the Faculty Management Service Console, course managers and faculty program directors have a comprehensive picture of a faculty member, like whether she/he has completed required Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and other training, which courses a faculty member is qualified to teach, which courses they’ve taught in the past, and what their activities are in Canvas — all visible in one place, without the need to look in different systems.

Course scheduling is expected to be more efficient. Course managers can see past, current, and future terms in the console. The new process for assigning faculty and inviting them to teach allows course managers to send invitations to faculty members to teach for a course/term. Faculty members can accept or decline the invitation in the Faculty portal. 

Next, individual or batch contracts are generated using Conga, which has been added into Salesforce to generate documents. Payments are calculated automatically and exported to the HR department for payroll processing. These new processes and tools help eliminate a lot of tracking via spreadsheets and email communications.

With all the data in Salesforce, we were able to create a variety of reports for management to measure business operations and aid in making better decisions regarding course scheduling and teaching assignments. The end result is a central system that allows the faculty member to manage most of the non-academic work in one spot, and allows a level of transparency for management.

3. Letting Results Speak for Themselves

The college launched the faculty management system on October 26, 2020. Training and use of the various processes were rolled out according to the sequence of management activities for a term. A total of 482 invitations were sent and 468 invitations were accepted by faculty, which assisted with the planning of teaching assignments. The 97% response rate shows a high level of faculty interaction and investment in the platform. In total, 491 course assignments were completed with corresponding contracts signed. 

With the start of the term, a new faculty evaluation process began the week of November 9. Scheduled tasks now prompt the faculty program directors to evaluate performance of first-time instructors during the first two weeks of the term, for more efficient tracking of management responsibilities. All evaluation documentation is accessible in one area for ease of use.

As we begin using other processes, we expect to collect richer data to determine end-user satisfaction each term. A designated staff member for each school is trained to ensure successful onboarding of the processes.

 4. Don’t Stop Innovating 

The next phase for Faculty Management will be to launch functionality for clinical faculty in the School of Nursing to assign, track, and evaluate nursing examinations. In addition, further integrations with third-party systems, such as course evaluation software from EvaluationKit, will be considered.

One of the next focus areas will be overhauling the existing application process, which will be built on the Salesforce platform. We want to step back and re-envision the application process for students and simplify the steps they need to take, while at the same time ensure admissions counselors have easier access to the data they need in one centralized spot from which to serve potential students. There is great enthusiasm internally for Salesforce, and we are evaluating several student success-related initiatives that may use the platform.

Learn more about how you can improve the employee experience at your organization or institution and register to attend our upcoming webinar on this topic.


About the Author 

Laura Goff, Associate Dean, School of Undergraduate Studies, Excelsior College

Laura is an associate dean at Excelsior College within the School of Undergraduate Studies. She has worked in online higher education for more than a decade focusing on health science and public service disciplines. She worked on the faculty management project as the representative for academic programs, liaising between the schools at Excelsior and the project management team.