Quality Endeavors No. 156

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February 2013

Since 1991 there have been more than 1000 continuous quality improvement and innovation teams at Penn State. We invite team leaders and sponsors to enter teams in the Team Database when the teams are formed.

Annually, generally over the summer, we contact the teams a year or two after they have started their work, asking them to update their information in the Team Database and share their accomplishments. The Team Database is a resource and potential networking tool. It can be used by units planning a project, to identify teams that have successfully completed similar-type projects, and by units wanting to increase efficiency or effectiveness, but not being sure where to start, to identify possible future projects.

Thanks to the teams that responded to our Summer 2012 query, and to those that had already added information to the database about the improvements and innovations they have implemented. More information on their accomplishments is below. Teams addressed issues of both effectiveness and satisfaction, and efficiency.  Technology played a role in many of the projects.

Increasing Effectiveness and Satisfaction

To revitalize the majors and courses of the College of Agricultural Sciences Undergraduate Plant Sciences Curriculum, the Plant Sciences Undergraduate Curriculum Team (#990) reviewed, benchmarked, and developed alternative educational offerings across the plant sciences and related disciplines.  As a result, a new Plant Sciences baccalaureate degree with four options - agroecology, crop production, horticulture, and plant science – is offered starting in Summer 2013.

Team  #953, the Teaching and Learning with Technology Quality Improvement Team in Information Technology Services (ITS) set out to implement a system of feedback channels for University users of Teaching and Learning with Technology services. They surveyed the General Purpose Classroom instructors in Fall 2011 and again in Spring 2012 about their satisfaction with the physical and technology spaces in which they teach. Recommendations for improvements based on the survey data were shared with the Classroom and Facilities Improvement Committee. The team also surveyed the users of Penn State’s Adobe Connect service in June 2012. They also participated in the Educause ECAR survey, a national survey of technology use, and the Educause Core Data Service project. Both will allow Penn State to benchmark against similar institutions. Classroom instructors will be surveyed again in Spring 2013.

The goal of the Pasto Museum Resource Committee Team (#989) was to broaden the museum’s impact and educational effectiveness. The Pasto Museum Resource Committee, formerly the Advisory Committee, developed new by-laws for the museum and a volunteer application process. They also defined a position for a part-time curator and the museum is now managed by an individual with a background in museums and education. As a result, the College of Agricultural Sciences’ museum has taken on a new face, is educating a broad range of visitors, and is supported by enthusiastic volunteers.

Approximately 30,000 students and family members pass through the Shields Building lobby and Admissions Office in a year. To improve this first impression, Team #995 from the Undergraduate Admissions Office in Undergraduate Education planned a renovation of the lobby and presentation rooms. Staff from all areas were involved in the various aspects of planning and outlining the requirements of this space. The results included the addition of a Welcome Center, with a glass door for increased visibility, addition of a ‘smart’ table and dual projector system for better presentations, more flexibility in the open areas, and space for student interns and Lion Scouts and SMART (Student Minority Admissions and Recruitment Team) student volunteer groups.

Increasing Efficiency

There are 110,000 budget transactions annually in the College of the Liberal Arts. While more than half of these were processed by the five people in the financial office, the other 40-45% were processed by 56 other individuals throughout the College who handled both financial and non-financial tasks. The Finance Organization Team (#1000) reorganized the work of processing budget transactions within the College so that a core group of 18-20 full-time financial assistants handle all financial tasks. The balance of the administrative staff is freed to concentrate on non-financial tasks. The results have been increased process consistency, more efficient and proficient work, and easier and more focused training on financial matters. Currently the Financial Office in the College of the Liberal Arts consists of 16 financial staff processing approximately 114,000 transactions annually in a more consistent and timely fashion due to the resulting efficiencies from the streamlining of duties.

To efficiently manage faculty searches in the College of the Liberal Arts, the Faculty Search Application Team (#967) developed a Web application that allows posted jobs to be viewed by potential candidates who then apply for positions and upload their materials directly to the site. The system automatically sends required acknowledgement letters and affirmative action materials to each candidate, allows search committees to view each candidate’s materials and rank and evaluate candidates on line, and appropriately archives materials using University retention policies. The system was first used in 2011-2012. Improvements were identified and the system was refined further in 2012-2013. The system saves staff time, eliminates the need for paper files, and increases accuracy and compliance.

The Common Data Set is a Web-based comprehensive set of institutional data created to meet the needs of the higher education community. Team #997, The Common Data Set System Improvement Team in Finance and Business, reviewed Penn State’s Common Data Set system design to streamline processes and eliminate manual data entry points. The team was able to streamline the process of creating historical files on the Web, eliminating unused files, clearly defining data sources, requesting electronic submissions where possible to eliminate manual data entry, improving printing functionality, creating a data verification process and setting a framework for future improvements.

Team #965, the Housing and Food Services Warehousing Logistics and Efficiency Team in Finance and Business was established to define and implement strategies for procedural and operational efficiency gains to reduce costs and improve customer service and overall warehouse operations, including reducing operating and capital costs, while increasing food safety, space utilization, and operational efficiencies. The team has identified critical areas for improvement and efficiency gain and initiated incremental implementation of low cost procedural changes that allow for maximum operational improvements. They continue to: explore technology and logistical based systems to improve inventory throughput, procedural, staffing and labor efficiencies; review food safety and food defense programs; and review capital equipment costs and areas for capital expenditure investment.

“If the University Libraries collection is one collection geographically dispersed, why do we have to ship our books back to the library of origin after they have been borrowed by a patron?” This question led to Team #972, the Collections Mobility Task Force in the University Libraries. As a result, a floating collection will be made permanent at Penn State for all campus libraries. Campus libraries will be phased into collections mobility; by Phase Two in Fall Semester 2012, ten campus libraries were participating.  Phase Three libraries were added in Spring Semester 2013, for a total of nineteen campus libraries participating in collections mobility.

Web Activity

Several teams focused on Web page improvement.

The goal of the Admissions International Web Page Committee (#973) in Undergraduate Education was to better serve international prospective students and applicants. International applications increased 148% from 2008 to 2011, reaching 6,638. The volume of questions and phone calls from international students created awareness that the Web site needed to be improved. The new Web page replaces long pages of text with a list of popular topics with clickable links, uses language more user friendly for non-native speakers, lists required academic credentials by country, and provides easier access to financial and visa documentation with links to relevant pages on the Office of Global Programs Web site.

Team #983, the Web Standards and Design Team from the Office of the Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses set out to provide an updated design and improved navigation for the 14 University College Campuses and Berks Campus College Web sites, while maintaining a unified presence supporting Penn State’s “one University, geographically dispersed” philosophy. The in-house team made key decisions using a one campus, one vote approach. To minimize travel costs, they used online conferencing technology. They continue to work together on refining the site and on two new issues, improving accessibility and developing a mobile site.

The issues that prompted the Eberly College of Science Web Advisory Team (#986) to redesign the Eberly College of Science Web site were that it was not easy to update the content, it was not aesthetically appealing, it was disorganized, it wasn’t very functional, and it wasn’t a good first impression for web users when they visited the site. In designing the new site the team asked users - general public, students, faculty, and staff - to perform specific tasks, and then provide feedback about ease of use, aesthetics, and functionality. In the time since the original upgrades were made, work continues to improve the College of Science web presence. New sub-sites for current and future students and advising are planned for the coming year. Also, several of the departmental sites have been migrated to a common content management system and a design that is aligned with the College site. The goal is to provide sites that appear to belong to the same “family” with consistent branding while improving usability and providing well-organized content.

University Health Services

One of only a small percentage of university student health service units accredited by the AAAHC (Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care), teams from University Health Services in Student Affairs continue to review and improve their processes and services. Teams this year included:

  • #966 Infection Control Practices in the Clinical Setting – The team surveyed Clinical Staff to confirm their knowledge of recommendations to prevent the spread of potentially infectious organisms. Training was developed and provided based on survey results.  “Problem areas” had significant test score improvement in a resurvey.
  • #980 Physical Therapy Student Worker/Volunteer Orientation Team – Students volunteers indicated they were satisfied to very satisfied with their experience and their training was appropriate for the role they performed. However, there were suggestions for better scheduling of their orientation and their work. As a result, the orientation tour was scheduled over two weeks, and students were scheduled for work during times of expected patient appointments.
  • #959 Physical Therapy – Student Health Insurance Claim Review – Student claims for physical therapy were being denied by United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR) as maintenance physical therapy services and additional documentation was required. University Health Services (UHS) began tracking claims for services provided by University Health Services (UHS), and created a “memo” to be handed out to students given a referral by UHS for orthopedic services. The changes implemented in Spring 2011 resulted in a total of zero physical therapy claims being denied for services being provided by University Health Services (UHS) Physical Therapy. In Fall 2012 there was a new provider, Aetna Student Health. If the problem reoccurs, then a new Quality Improvement effort will be started.
  • #961 Nursing Documentation – To ensure accurate patient care advising for health and liability issues/reasons when suggesting over the counter medication, UHS made changes to the electronic health record phone template. They also gave verbal reminders to the phone advice nurses during clinical meetings and written reminders via messaging through the electronic health record. Starting compliance was measured at 98.4 %. Remeasurement in January 2011 revealed an increase in compliance to 99.6%.

We encourage you to add your new team to the Team Database or update your team’s accomplishments.