Enrolling over 13,000 students each year and located in Baltimore, Md., University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has been a Symplicity Accommodate partner since 2016. In that time, UMBC has enhanced its accessibility offerings to students, using Accommodate to find trends in reporting to target strategic support to all its students.
At UMBC Accommodate is used as a database to streamline its disability services processes and enhance student success initiatives. Supporting these campus-wide inclusivity initiatives for students with a disability is the Office of Accessibility & Disability Services run by Tawny McManus, Assistant Vice Provost for Accessibility & Disability Services and designated Accommodate guru Cassie Kilroy Thompson, Assistant Director of Student Disability Services & Operations. Both Thompson and McManus highlight Accommodate’s impact on data management, compliance, and student success.
Integration and Reporting with Accommodate
Accommodate's integration capabilities have played a pivotal role in UMBC's efficient data management. Cassie Kilroy Thompson described the data flow at UMBC, where they use PeopleSoft as their data management system. Data such as student profiles, faculty information, and class schedules are seamlessly imported into Accommodate. In addition to this, internally generated data by Accommodate and external data requests further enrich their data pool. This integration has allowed UMBC to maintain a complete and up-to-date database of student information, a critical asset for providing timely accommodations and support. The seamless integration between partner platforms has ensured the data within Accommodate at UMBC is up to date.
Accommodate's reporting capabilities have been a game-changer for UMBC in making informed decisions. They can conduct targeted searches to answer critical questions about their student population. For instance, they can identify trends in the types of accommodations requested, track the provision of services, and ensure that students receive accommodations promptly. This targeted approach enhances the quality of support and helps in fulfilling compliance requirements.
“When we're talking about looking at our data over time, that's been hugely helpful even just for community awareness, sharing with your campus about the work your office does and how your campus is changing over time,” said McManus. “If [your institution] hasn’t asked you yet, they're going to be asking for more information about your population. It has helped us say, ‘Hey, five years ago we were working with this percentage of students! Look at the growth over the years!’ Does that change my budget needs? Maybe not necessarily, but that really helps us know if for example, if we might need more people in the counseling center for student support. We may be able to say, wow, chronic health has really exploded in terms of students having increasing mobility and attendance challenges or needing online courses.
In addition, UMBC is using the data in Accommodate to inform their retention initiatives such as how many students are graduating, how many students are staying year after year, etc... “That's exactly what you can use Accommodate for with your specific population. People state all the time that students with disabilities don't graduate at the same rate as their peers,” said McManus. “My hope is to start showing that that's not necessarily true anymore with the right support and access that we are leveling the playing field. And so, retention and graduation research, using our Accommodate data is a big focus of our work for this year to try to work on student success initiatives and in turn get help get more funding for our offices.”
Turning Data Into Action
UMBC has mastered the art of ensuring data quality and accuracy within Accommodate. Daily imports from PeopleSoft provide real-time updates, reflecting changes within the last 24 hours. However, weekly imports serve as a complete update, addressing any potential gaps in daily updates, such as course drops. UMBC encountered an issue where dropped courses weren't properly recorded in Accommodate due to course deletions in PeopleSoft. To address this, their IT team developed a solution to mark courses as deleted, ensuring accurate records.
“Having Accommodate is vital to us,” said McManus. “We are the liaison between our research office, and we provide them with the student summary information we can get from Accommodate. We build those reports and share that data for national reporting. That is where the reliability and the accuracy of the data is very important.”
Additionally, Thompson and McManus have customized Accommodate to create filtered searches so they can see exactly what is being requested, and by what demographic of students. “I get a lot of requests about support programs, such as now we're working closely with an autism hiring program that's run by state government and they want us to share information about hiring specifically to our autism population students,” explained McManus. “The data in Accommodate helps us quickly gather that information in order to better support students.” With targeted messaging and filtering, UMBC can make targeted sharing of information just by running some reports on who our students are.
In one instance, Thompson noticed that students requesting notetakers for their accommodation were not accessing their notes. Yet, going through Accommodate and reaching out to students who actually needed a notetaker enabled UMBC to reduce its budget by 20% for peer notetakers that were not needed. “We didn't eliminate note taking assistance,” Thompson explained. “We just altered what assistance we were providing. And it was not pure notes because we could tell that it wasn't working since, they weren't accessing it. Instead, we offered up other means of assistance. So, the amount of money that we saved by having Accommodate and having the information at our hands was critical and then were able to apply that money in a direction where we needed it.”
"Having Accommodate is vital to us. We are the liaison between our research office, and we provide them with the student summary information we can get from Accommodate. We build those reports and share that data for national reporting. That is where the reliability and the accuracy of the data is very important."
Assistant Vice Provost for Accessibility & Disability Services, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Enhanced Reporting: The Power of Customized Forms
One of the highlights of UMBC's Accommodate experience is the ability to customize and add fields to forms. Thompson has strategically added fields to the system, facilitating tailored reporting and information access. Thompson has added fields related to internal workflow processes, meeting notes, and categories for meeting notes, making data searchable and accessible. Customizing forms and fields has greatly improved the ability to generate specific reports and track individual student progress.
“Being able to take the list views using List Builder feature in Accommodate and adding some of those fields to that allows us to, at a glance, pull out the useful data and has been one of the most useful parts of utilizing Accommodate,” said Thompson.
This includes the institutions’ continued commitment to inclusivity. With Accommodate, UMBC recognizes the importance of preferred names and pronouns for its students. They have incorporated preferred names from PeopleSoft into Accommodate to respect students' choices. Additionally, they utilize a field in PeopleSoft for pronouns, ensuring inclusivity and respect for gender identities. This commitment to inclusivity extends to their communications with students and faculty, where they consistently use preferred names and pronouns.
"Being able to take the list views using List Builder feature in Accommodate and adding some of those fields to that allows us to, at a glance, pull out the useful data and has been one of the most useful parts of utilizing Accommodate,” said Thompson."
Cassie Kilroy Thompson
Assistant Director of Student Disability Services & Operations, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Compliance and Confidentiality
Accommodate has been instrumental in ensuring compliance with ADA regulations and maintaining confidentiality. UMBC relies on the system to limit user access and securely store confidential data. “We have confidential data storage and limited user access in our Accommodate system so that not just anybody knows who's working with our office and what a student’s disability or diagnosis is,” McManus explained. “To have that ability, to limit who has access, is hugely important for ADA confidentiality and compliance. The other piece of compliance is, are you serving your students? When I first came to UMBC years ago I was wondering ‘Why is it taking students so long to get intakes?’ Now, we're able to track the time period from when somebody requested to register with us, had their intake appointment and then had their accommodation letters sent out. That’s huge to make service improvements.”
With Accommodate, Thompson and McManus are able to track the provision of services and respond promptly to any complaints or grievances. This meticulous record-keeping not only ensures compliance, but also provides robust documentation in the event of any legal challenges.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County's use of Symplicity Accommodate has transformed its disability services and student support initiatives. The system's robust data management capabilities, customization options, and reporting tools have allowed UMBC to enhance the quality of services, ensure compliance, and drive initiatives focused on student success. Accommodate has become an indispensable tool in UMBC's commitment to inclusivity, accessibility, and academic excellence.