faculty accelerator logo



All employees within UA are expected to know and abide by the data security policies outlined by  the Office of Records and Information Management UA, regardless of the software storing this information, i.e. Google Drive, OnBase, Airtable, etc.

Read More
UAF Airtable pilot

Innovating with Airtable: A UAF Pilot Project

For years, a growing number of users across campus have been using this tool for a broad range of projects. In the summer of 2021 they began collaborating with one another over a shared interest in the functionality of this low-code software (meaning that anyone with virtually no programming skills can build complex tools and apps). Eventually, these power users decided to ask the UAF PIT Crew to help them to manage a small number of pilot projects. The goal of the pilot is to test the utility of Airtable as a kind of “collaborative data playground” that is adaptive and responsive to ever evolving needs and purposes.

Where Google Sheets is akin to a 2D grid, Airtable is more like a 3D cube. In conventional data science terms, it’s a relational database that doesn’t require the use of coding languages like SQL. Instead it uses features like sorting, grouping and boolean-based filtering to gain insights into the data. As a matter of fact, keeping things code-free (or “human readable” as we like to call it) is one of the three tenets we’re proposing as central to the success of Airtable as a collaborative tool:

  1. Keep it human-readable. Try not to use codes or abbreviations unless absolutely necessary. 
  2. Build with shared & synced lists in mind. If you need a list of all academic departments, don’t reinvent the wheel! Use the list from our Open Academic Directory.
  3. Make it and mind it. There is no such thing as “set it and forget it” in caring for data. Data sets are only useful if someone is weeding, pruning, fertilizing, cross pollinating, and gaining insights from what’s within.  

If you’re unfamiliar with Airtable and worried about the bandwidth needed to learn something new, use some of the links below to connect with power users at UAF, get your own “base” to play with or to schedule training for a group of people. Airtable isn’t the perfect solution for everything, but what we’re already building is pretty amazing and the pilot team needs lots of feedback from you to determine where it might be useful and where it’s creating unnecessary overhead.

Pilots are IMPERFECT

The nature of this pilot is such that we’ll be monitoring feedback and making changes to interfaces, workspaces, and bases as we go. Your feedback is critical to its success! We are a large institution and although a number of smaller units have been using Airtable reliably over the last 5 years, the widespread integration of the tool brings on a new set of challenges. 

  • Interfaces and bases with large amounts of data may freeze unexpectedly and pages may need to be refreshed (especially when we’re making changes to features).
  • Some enterprise-level features may not be turned on yet, but you’ll see them released periodically over time.
  • There may be moments of backend insecurity for the feature known as “interfaces” as we test permissioning across the system. Do NOT store student or employee-related data in a base that is connected to an interface unless you’ve worked with the pilot team and have been given your own “Airtable Workspace” with secure permissions.  ALL employees within UA are expected to know and abide by the policies outlined by  the Office of Records and Information Management UA, regardless of the software storing this information.
  • Some information stored in our bases contain Banner-driven lists, however there is no pipeline INTO Banner from Airtable. Banner data is still considered the “single source of truth” for all reporting to external entities. Airtable synced lists should be considered as live information that has NOT been evaluated, cleaned, or frozen by PAIR.

“We have used Airtable to collect course syllabi for the past seven semesters, and it has become our College repository for syllabi. Airtable enables us to track the collection of syllabi each semester easily. The capabilities of Airtable have allowed us to easily and quickly review syllabi each semester, verify they contain Student Learning Outcomes, and identify common areas that need improvement. We’ve taken what we’ve learned and shared it each semester with faculty to improve our syllabi to meet UAF standards.

Our newest base, a New Admit database, was developed this past summer. This base is connected to and synchronizes with UAF’s SalesForce Admissions database. This database allows us to learn about new admits the day their admission application changes to the “Admit” status. This capability enables us to connect immediately with new admits and begin helping them get started immediately. It allows us to track contact history and each step a student must complete between being admitted and registering for classes. We expect the capabilities of the base to significantly impact the number of new admits that register for classes.

We’ve also developed an Airtable base to track Tech Prep articulation agreements and related instructor approvals. This Airtable base enables us to track each course articulation through every stage of the approval process. Airtable also serves as the repository for each approved course articulation document.

Keith Swarner

Associate Dean, Community & Technical College

WHY: The Information Ecosystem at UAF

The data stored in Banner is akin to a frozen lake, and for good reason! As a public institution, UAF has to provide reports to many accrediting, oversight (BOR), and governmental bodies. In order to report accurately and reliably, certain data sets have to be cleaned, frozen, and stored for many years. It takes a team of highly qualified people to manage and maintain our critical reporting data and the infrastructure around it. 

However, relying on data warehousing alone leaves many of us trying to pull information from Banner via complex queries, then adding that data alongside our own information (in the ways that we need to see it) using a mix of tools such as Excel and Google Sheets for numerical info; Drive and Dropbox for storage; Docs and Word for text-based information; followed by a whole range of project management systems used to track processes. Sometimes communication about all that data and the processes attached to it happens via email, or chat, or in comments attached to cells. Finally, Banner data will remain a “single source of truth”, but portions of that truth will be frozen, meaning some queries are only accurate up to the date of the last freeze.

The No/Low Code Revolution: Airtable is difficult to describe as a software type: it’s not merely a spreadsheet or even a relational database, it’s also collaborative, highly customizable and part of a growing body of tools called no- or low-code software that allows those without programming skills to still effectively build systems that work for many different use cases. If you can build a course in Canvas or share a Google Doc, you can learn to use Airtable. It may be intimidating at first, but a growing body of faculty, staff, deans, administrators and even students are learning how to build things inside of Airtable that are innovative, useful, and changing the way we work together at UAF.


critical reporting data

“I was introduced to Airtable through UAF’s building automation contractor when we were looking for a way to transition some of our IT asset tracking functions out of shared spreadsheets consolidated in a Dropbox folder. Airtable offered live data that could be easily shared, along with user provisioning. I was able to utilize the tool as an integral part of our information updates and sharing for mechanical overrides that Facilities was performing as group as a part of UAF’s COVID mitigation plan. We could share this across our 24-hour coverage, and provide updates across shifts. The information was also able to be presented in a way that management could easily relay the status of equipment for each of our buildings.

I’ve been one of the primary advocates at Facilities Services for this tool since my initial success with it, and it has built a lot of momentum in the Preventative Maintenance office within Facilities Services. I continue to provide expertise with Airtable functions, usability, and general database/automation concepts. I would love to see other applications of Airtable here at UAF and offer support where I can.”

Ian McKee

Mechanical Engineer, Facilities Services

live updates and shared lists

Functional Data Playgrounds


Currently, Airtable is being used at UAF in all sorts of ways—sharing resources with students, managing inventory for facilities services, connecting students to community-based projects, facilitating the evaluation of GER outcomes, managing catalogs of courses, managing game mechanics—and some of the collaborative projects that have emerged from UAF’s power users will benefit any and all at UAF who want to use Airtable to make connections and reveal insights about relationships across campus.

 Institutional Knowledge & the Democratization of Data

Institutional knowledge and an understanding of how all of the pieces of our institution are connected is hard won and sometimes even after decades working here, we can still miss changes that aren’t reflected in our systems.

  • Where can I find a list of all UAF departments with their current chair and the email for that chair?
  • What school or college are those departments part of?
  • How often is that list updated and who is updating it?

The folks who are managing the pilot have put this list together and this list can be actively “synced” to any Airtable base YOU want to build and any time someone updates the chair or the name of the department, that change will get pushed out to you immediately. The question for you then becomes: “How can a list like that help me better manage all the data I’m responsible for? Other syncable public lists we’ve built are:


    Academic Program Review at UAF is undergoing changes to facilitate a more collaborative and student success-focused environment for the reviews of academic degree and certificate programs to take place in. We’re utilizing the software to present the related program review and SLOA information in the same place where programs submit their reports, to streamline and reduce the reporting effort involved, to make review committees’ feedback more transparent and available to departments, and to connect informational resources to program recommendations. Program review itself is conceptually about pursuing continuous improvement, so we intend to keep refining and improving on the new process as it unfolds.

      no more high stakes program review

      “Academic Program Review used to be undertaken using a complex mass of Word Doc template reports and pdf or spreadsheet supplemental information that was compiled, submitted, collected, and shared to committees through a handful of methods including Google Drive folders, Google sites, and hundreds of emails back and forth, in addition to a master tracking spreadsheet in MS Excel that one person maintained. Information was siloed and rarely carried over from one review to the next.

      With an Airtable base now driving the program reporting, committee reviewing work, and collection/warehousing of the related information, we have created interfaces that are customized to the different user groups to make their work straightforward and put all of the information and supplemental tools side-by-side with the reporting or review templates. We’re even using some dashboard interfaces to show overview summary information for leadership to utilize. We expect that the new tools will increase collaboration and transparency of the process, and automate some of the past communication and record-keeping administrative work that was tedious and manual.”

      Michelle Strickland

      Accreditation Coordinator, Executive Assistant, Office of the Vice Provost & General Studies

      Get Involved with the Airtable Pilot


      If you’re interested in having your own workspace, base, or want training in using Airtable, contact Madara Mason, emason@alaska.edu or Nathan Feemster, nfeemster@alaska.edu.  

        “Facility electrical is difficult to initially track and even harder to maintain. With Airtable I have been building, what I hope will be, a living database. A database where it will be simple for an engineer to review what is there and correctly plan a project or a technician/contractor to update changes per their project or work order.

        Initially I am utilizing it to build a database and verify information that we have collected over multiple decades and bring it into an Arc Flash modelling program to allow safe maintenance practices with regards to live (active) electrical work. Safety requirements have increased over the last two decades and maintaining an accurate Arc Flash Study is of paramount importance and required by code.

        Working between other projects or with the assistance of interns (or anyone that is willing) I can build a field study of existing conditions and use that information for correcting asbuilt drawings, one-line diagrams or creating the Arc Flash study for that building. With the assistance of interns I can focus on the modelling program and correcting what is recorded, whereas previously I (and others before me) have had to field verify each panel at its location, take notes and pictures, and hope that they all stay together, even electronically, and only then be able to start updating/correcting each building. With Airtable it is immediately loaded into my database where I can view it, use it, and ultimately keep a full history. All this functionality comes with the added bonus of being user friendly, with unique interfaces and surveys created ahead of time to facilitate recording/updating of each individual piece of equipment, and their unique needs.

        Airtable has made it possible for a better, more accurate, picture of existing electrical equipment, and provided an infinitely improved process to update changes.”

        Matthew Machak

        Facilities Services