Illinois State University offers a new and improved way to track, share, and learn more about community engagement activities. The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) was recently launched Collaborative, a public database that collects and presents the community engagement and public service activities of faculty, staff and students.
The CCE manages the collaborative database, and faculty and staff are encouraged to begin capturing their community engagement and public service activities in the new system.
Christine Bruckner, assistant director for evaluation and data management at CCE, leads the project for the state of Illinois. âAs the name suggests, Collaboratory shows how campus and community work together, or collaborate, to solve issues of public interest and have a positive impact on the community. This system gives us access to information in a way that we did not have in the past.
Through Collaboratory, campus and community members can research and discover how faculty-student research groups, classes, student organizations, and faculty / staff relate to the community. Anyone can search by activity, individuals, campus units, community organizations, social issues or populations to learn more about their engagement, all without even logging into the system.
âAn important characteristic of Collaboratory is its ability to connect seemingly isolated activities by organizing them within a defined framework that connects classes, research, creative activity and / or service components. This connection provides us with a more complete picture of community or public service work. It’s something we haven’t been able to do in the past, âsaid Bruckner.
The system also provides administrative access to reports for faculty / staff when they enter activities and update their profiles in the system.
According to Bruckner, âThe robust reporting portal provides both digital counts of who, what, when, where and how of activities as well as descriptions of activities, including expected outcomes and impacts, issues addressed, how in which community partners were involved. in the activity, and what teaching or other high impact practices were used, to name a few.
The state of Illinois launched a small collaborative pilot project in October 2020 when Bruckner participated in a National Collaborative Cohort through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ American Democracy Project.
While in the cohort, Bruckner worked with a small team of people from the State of Illinois to integrate and pilot the Collaboratory at the University. The team members were:
- Cheryl Fogler, Deputy Director, Planning, Research and Policy Analysis
- Derek Meyers, Assistant Director, University Assessment Services
- Harriett Steinbach, Assistant Director, CCE
The initial pilot project lasted for a year, and the decision to continue using Collaboratory is the result of overwhelmingly positive assessments of Collaboratory’s ability to support the University’s core value of civic engagement and subsequent strategic goals. .
Just over 80 activities were logged in the first year of using Collaboratory, and the system officially launched in late fall 2021. According to Bruckner, the initial activities that can be entered into Collaboratory were identified in faculty reports in Watermark Faculty Success (formerly Digital Measures), service events within Redbird Life, Cayuse / Research and Sponsored Programs grants and contracts, and through stories shared with CCE staff .
âWe really encourage faculty and staff to log into Collaboratory and fill their profiles with their community engagement and public service activities,â Bruckner said. âAs we gather more and different engagement experiences, our understanding of our engagements and their impacts grows. Our ability to work more collaboratively and strategically towards a shared goal or vision is also growing. The data collected in Collaboratory does not live only in an annual report. It’s living data that can be harnessed to effect positive change in our classrooms, campus, and communities. “
According to Bruckner, the system has already proven useful for faculty and campus units interested in documenting their community engagement and public service activities for internal and external reporting. Faculty members can include the Collaborating Faculty Profile URL on their professional websites or in their annual Productivity and / or Promotion and Tenure reports.
Collaboratory also allows students to find faculty doing research or teaching community-based courses related to areas or issues that they are passionate about.
Campus unit administrators can easily reference unit profiles which provide detailed information on all unit activities and also request quick statistics and data points on faculty / staff community engagement activities and students within their respective units. This provides highly accessible information to administrators for a variety of internal and external reporting requirements such as program review, budget requests, and accreditation.
Along with the public-facing system, Collaboratory also allows community partners to reference and request updates for their organizational profiles within Collaboratory; explore their interactions with the State of Illinois; to search the database for faculty / staff or activities related to issues of importance to their organization.