The FMS Workload Reporting System (WRS)

Collecting and monitoring data relating to academic workloads

managing workloads

Universities have a responsibility to ensure that the workload allocations in their units are consistent and in line with their policies on workload allocation.

To achieve this there needs to be an accessible tool that can the capture agreed academic activities carried out on behalf of the University.

The FMS Workload Recording System (WRS) has been developed to allow staff to self-report their workload through a more transparent, equitable and collaborative process.

It is anticipated that this will lead to more informed PDR conversations, improved support around career development & wellbeing issues and allow equality diversity & inclusion considerations to be part of workload planning.

So, what does the system collect?

Previous work on collecting information around teaching activities highlighted the following key points:

  • The scope of the system needs to be wider than just teaching related activities
  • The auto population of activities through mining existing data sources was not always reliable 
  • Self-reporting is essential to ensure accuracy of the data collected
  • Each activity needs to be standardised using its own tariff formulae, for example:
                tutees reported hours = no of tutees x 5
                PARTNERS summer school lead hours = (no of students x 0.1) + 10

A working group was set up to specify what activities were to be recorded, each with its own tariff formulae to convert that activity into hours. These activities when they grouped into three distinct areas:

  1. Teaching & Assessment
    • Taught Sessions
    • Assessment & Feedback
    • Tutees & Projects
    • Other
  2. Research & Innovation
    • Research Projects
    • Research Awards
    • Research Applications
    • Others
  3. Management, Administration & Citizenship
    • Unit
    • Faculty
    • University
    • External/Other

The system was developed in phases:

Phase I (4 months)

Develop the website with an individuals summary view and a collection of self-reporting forms, all driven by a database of workload questions and augmented by data from existing sources.

individual worklaod summary
workload self-reporting forms

Phase II (one month)

Release website to a small pilot group of users to collect user feedback. Development of basic reporting tools (user activities, evaluation reports and cohort workload summaries).

cohort/unit workloads

Phase III (4 months)

Refine any existing usability issues raised by pilot group and develop the advanced reporting & administration tools required for full release.

Phase IV

Full release of the system.

So where are we now ?

The FMS Workload Recording System (WRS) went live in July 2022 to a pilot group of 158 academics.

The next stage (PHASE III) is to review what additional features or changes to the system are required and then prepare the system for its release to the whole Faculty.

Personal Tutoring, an example of rapid application development?

What is Personal Tutoring?

Personal Tutoring is the process of assigning the availability of university staff for student tutoring. It is not actually the process of assigning individual students to individual staff. Staff in the faculty are assigned to programme groupings/pots (not individual programmes), these groupings have a lead administrator that can then work out by looking at the expected student intake whether they need more staff resource, or can free it up for others.

The faculty admin team have undertaken this process for many years using excel spreadsheets and email communications to pass the information back and forward. This kinds of activity is both time consuming and prone to errors caused by duplicate copies of data and missed communications.

This is the perfect example of a process that can be done better using a web application, the kind of work the Technologies Developers in FMS TEL undertake all the time.

No time to plan properly

Sometimes a project comes to the unit that needs to be completed in a short time frame. Ideally the amount of time spent on a new website would be evenly spread between specifications, design, implementation, testing and support/improving., it may even go through many loops of these processes.

When a project does not have the luxury of time, then all these steps need to be compressed and decisions made on which steps need to be prioritised . In the case of personal tutoring the design phase and specifications where collaborated from the old Excel spreadsheets and turned into a simple tabular wireframe display. These spreadsheets where also identified as the origin of the data the site would be based off and import scripts planned accordingly. No complex interface features where offered, just a clean display of the data, with filters and stats to help the tutoring assignments. As for the implementation of the site, we decided to host the new site on top of another, saving time on hosting framework and infrastructure. We chose a site that had similar tools (FMS Projects, which has a statistics section) and tools we could utilise. We also based the core of the new site off knowledge and experience the team was used to (API’s and data tables, spreadsheet importing / exporting). Finally the testing and support side was compressed, keeping the interface simple, reducing the need for support and documentation. The limited number of users the site may have, also helps support as we can offer short term direct guidance.

With all these measures, we managed to reduce a development process that could take 6 months down to 3.

The Results

The Personal Tutoring site is due to go live in July 2022. We managed to write and get a functional version of the site done in roughly 2 months. This left 1 month planning the release, testing and show casing the site to the customers and making improvements from their feedback. Overall we are pleased with the structure and quality of the site. The code design is based on solid principles and should offer a degree of flexibility when Personal Tutoring gets used and the inevitable suggested improvements come through.

If you are interested in this topic and wish to learn more, please contact:

Dan Plummer, Learning Technologies Developer, dan.plummer@newcastle.ac.uk