Faculty management at colleges and universities is a massively complex operation with numerous processes taking place behind the scenes―often manually and by several different staff members―to ensure the education and success of students. If you’re not on the back end of these processes, you may not have given them much thought, but if you want to understand just how much work is required to get the right faculty with the right qualifications into the right positions―and keep them there―just ask Kathleen Gibson. The former college professor, program chair and dean participated in the action in a number of roles during her 14-year tenure at Valparaiso University. She experienced first-hand the shortcomings of traditional faculty management processes and gained unique insight into the valuable efficiencies that can be created when digital tools are developed to make these processes integrated and centralized.

“I recognized early on that there were many digital resources available to support processes on the administrative side of higher education, such as for enrollment management, retention, and HR,” Kathleen explains. “However, most of the processes performed on the academic side by faculty, chairs, deans and academic affairs were completed manually and in isolation. Data management was highly decentralized, meaning it was not only being generated in disparate locations, but also was difficult, if not impossible, for all relevant stakeholders to access.”

These challenges inspired Kathleen to create a comprehensive solution. She embarked on a bold initiative to bring digitization to the academic management space within higher learning, assembling a dream team of faculty members, educational leaders, software engineers, and advisors. Together, they developed APL nextED, a complete solution that manages everything from compliance reporting, to staffing courses, to supporting faculty as they track their activity and professional development, scholarships and grants, promotion eligibility, contracts, and more. Never before has there been a software that performs all these functions in one place, integrating data and creating a centralized location for all stakeholders in the faculty management process.  

“We’re excited to have built the first comprehensive faculty management software solution (FMS),” says Kathleen, who now serves as Founder and CEO of APL nextED. “Our technology helps faculty and academic leadership manage processes such as staffing courses, performance evaluation, and productivity. The centralized data is accessible to all stakeholders through customizable user roles and is used to generate the reporting needed for compliance with accreditors and data-inspired decision making.”

The System

During her career in higher learning, Kathleen saw how the essential data needed to compile accreditation reports and other important documentation was stored in many systems and across multiple departments. This system of doing this was both time consuming and expensive: sometimes the data could only be found by painstakingly digging through paper archives and, without a software solution, data would have to be manually generated by as many as three staff members. By contrast, APL nextED centralizes data in a single hub, making it available at the push of a button in order to create a variety of standardized and customizable reports with ease. The platform simplifies workflows and serves as a vital resource when an institution is preparing for accreditation review.

“Streamlining the task of assembling faculty information can not only smooth and inform the accreditation process, but also support institutional research, planning and recruitment,” says Jamienne Studley, former deputy under-secretary, US Department of Education, and a member of APL nextED’s advisory board.

The growing Indiana-based startup has a passionate team of five working on developing the FMS and connecting it with the higher education leaders who can most benefit from its technology. Kathleen envisions that, as academia embraces shifting student profiles (non-traditional students), higher institutions will turn to APL nextED as their go-to resource for supporting faculty and academic affairs leaders in hiring instructors equipped to meet the needs of a diverse student body. The company has already secured partnerships with over 45 schools, including Baker College, Denver Seminary, CSU–San Bernardino, Indiana State University and others.

The team at APL nextED is excited to participate in the Michelson Runway Cohort 2 program and seeks to leverage the accelerator’s network in order to connect with potential investment partners. Kathleen expects that by the end of the program, the startup will be fully funded. Her team will concentrate their focus on closing a dozen multi-year software deals and establishing numerous partnerships in order to support the work of even more school faculties with digital tools. She is confident that institutions around the country will adopt APL nextED’s FMS solution, saying, “I spent over a decade working as a dean and professor where I saw the challenges that come with faculty management when using manual processes. My experience has afforded me insight into how digital resources can be used to support the work of academics and drive student success.”

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