Despite incredible advancements in technology in recent years, most K-12 schools still use massive amounts of paper.
It’s estimated that the average school uses 2,000 pages per day, which quickly adds up to 360,000 pieces of paper over the course of 180 school days.
Between the classroom (handouts, worksheets, tests, homework, report cards, permission slips, etc.) and administration (application forms, student records, newsletters, HR and accounting, etc.), there’s a lot of paperwork to manage and track for administrators, teachers, and students–on top of an already-packed list of responsibilities.
Administrators in higher education know the burden of document management better than most.
Student housing forms, faculty contracts, and staff time-off requests are only the start of a never-ending list of documents for which colleges and universities are responsible.
In the past decade, we’ve seen more businesses ditch their filing cabinets and embrace the benefits of digitization in the workplace. But many in academia still rely on traditional paper-based administrative processes.
The benefits of digitizing forms and automating workflows
Some tips on becoming a paperless institution
Key Business Processes in Higher Education
In many ways, colleges and universities function like large corporations. Things like purchase orders, staff onboarding documents, and time-off request forms are vital for all businesses, and academia is no exception.
However, in addition to these standard business processes, higher education institutes are also responsible for many sector-specific documents, like student loan applications, housing forms, and curriculum approvals.
To make things more complicated, they must also contend with an array of departments that each operate with unique workflows and methods of data collection.
It goes without saying that orchestrating the flow of so many documents between so many departments is daunting–especially when relying on paper forms and records.
Risks of Relying on Paper-Based Processes
While schools have historically relied on paper forms to gather critical data, there are multiple dangers associated with this practice.
Here are some of the most common risks involved with paper-based forms and workflows.
Loss of Critical Documents
When paper documents must be transferred from desk to desk for signatures and approvals, there’s a big chance that they’ll be forgotten or mistakenly thrown away.
There’s also the risk of data loss due to damage. Things like stains, tears, or disaster situations like flooding or fire can destroy vital records like registration forms or loan applications.
An efficient flow of information ensures things run smoothly in a school, but paper-based processes make this complicated.
For example, if a form needs a signature but the approver is not present, it will most often be left on their desk.
Without any sense of urgency or accountability, the approver may wind up pushing it aside and forgetting about it. This results in a lengthy turnaround time for review and return, putting productivity on pause in the meantime.
Benefits of Paperless Forms and Automated Workflows
There’s a lot of risk associated with paper-based processes, but schools can eliminate many of them by replacing their manual workflows with digital procedures. Here are some of the most valuable benefits of digital forms and automated workflows for colleges and universities.
Shorten Turnaround Times
According to a study conducted by Boise State University, professors spend 30% of their time on non-academic activities, such as administrative paperwork. This is incredibly frustrating for faculty members, as it takes time and attention away from their classes.
The consequences are equally frustrating for students, who may be met with long waiting periods for simple requests.
However, paperless offices have the tools to combat these frustrations.
By using web-based forms, information can be collected and indexed automatically, eliminating the need for manual data entry or filing. This allows teams to focus on more engaging and productive projects.
Automated workflows also eliminate communication bottlenecks. By automatically and instantly transferring digital documents to the parties that need them, your school can greatly shorten its review and processing times.
This eliminates stress for students, faculty, and and staff. Employees no longer need to worry about tracking down signatures, and students can enjoy faster approvals on important documents.
Improve Data Accuracy
Having an accurate record of information is crucial, especially when it comes to records like financial aid applications that tremendously impact the lives of your students.
Electronic forms and e-signatures are one way to facilitate easier and more accurate data collection.
For example, forms may be incomplete when submitted in a paper-based system. Unless someone is manually scrutinizing every submission, schools can wind up accepting paper forms that are missing required fields or signatures.
Online forms, by contrast, cannot be submitted unless all required fields are completed. This measure helps to automatically ensure that your records are filled out in their entirety when received, which improves the reliability of your data.
Lastly, implementing paperless workflows can yield big budget savings.
By removing the need for physical resources like paper, ink, and toner, schools can stretch budgets further and reallocate these funds toward more valuable expenses.
Digital workflows also help administrators make better choices for their organizations.
Automating your procedures can grant real-time data insights into budgets, expenses and process lifecycles. This information can be used to measure & identify previously unseen pain points, allowing you to make more informed decisions.
Tips on Becoming a Paperless Institution
The transition to going paperless can seem daunting, especially if long-standing paper practices are in place. Here are a few tips to get your teams started.
Assess Your Needs
Begin with a technology survey to assess the current state of your organization. How many of your internal processes currently depend on paper printing? How many faculty, staff, and students have access to the technology needed to complete forms and paperwork online?
Start your transition by getting the full picture of your current processes, your desired outcome, and what it will take to make that happen.
Determine Which Forms and Workflows Should be Digitized
Once you have assessed your needs, look at your current paper-based forms and workflows. Pick a few to start with that can be automated to ease your teams into digital procedures.
Internal processes may be a good place to begin. Faculty resource request forms for things like instructors’ edition textbooks can be easily created with frevvo’s custom drag-and-drop form builder, and workflows can be configured for the unique needs of each department.
Get Your Staff On-Board
While your staff may be resistant to change, you should communicate the benefits of workflow automation and dynamic forms to get them excited.
Be sure to explain the time savings they will enjoy when their data collection and workflows are fully digital.
Your teams will likely be eager to get rid of tedious tasks like manually entering data from forms and will look forward to redirecting their energy toward more fulfilling tasks.
For schools who choose to implement frevvo, you can also highlight the system’s ease of use.
It’s natural for teams to fear the learning curve that comes with new software. But the best form builders put user experience as their top priority: frevvo does just that.
Our simple drag and drop form and workflow builder is an intuitive platform that can be picked up by anyone, offering peace of mind for team members who dread process changes.
When institutes of higher education take steps to automate workflows and digitize paper processes, they bring about improvements that benefit faculty, staff, and students alike.
If you’re interested in upgrading your students’ experiences, reducing your reliance on paper, and streamlining your back-office procedures, frevvo can help. Find out more by scheduling a live demo to learn how our solutions can be specifically tailored toward the needs of your organization.
Technology has evolved in leaps and bounds in recent years and no one can deny the incredible potential it has to impact education. With the promise of advances like e-learning and classes taught using virtual reality headsets, the possibilities for digital transformation in education seem endless.
Technology, it seemed, could make learning easier and address different learning methods, for instance by making learning more visual or collaborative.
Not only that, technology could significantly streamline the way teachers and education administrators communicate with parents about everything from reminding them of homework or tests to getting field trip permission slips signed.
We had a suspicion that the technology used by many schools is outdated, so we decided to find out how parents feel about the state of technology used in their children’s schools.
So we surveyed parents to find out how satisfied they are with the way their children’s schools use technology for communication.
Most education is still done on co-located campuses and in classroom settings. And most institutions, even those with progressive technology adoption, remain firmly rooted in in-person instruction.
This means that most schools and universities function primarily in the traditional sense. From a business perspective, the operations of most educational institutions are driven by processes that assume the day-to-day work of the administration will be handled in person and on campus.
In other words, many schools aren’t prepared or equipped for remote work.
Higher education has made great strides in embracing digital transformation, yet, much time is still wasted due to administrative inefficiencies. Workflow automation offers the opportunity to eliminate inefficiencies and save time and money by automating tedious manual administrative processes.
What Is Higher Education Workflow Automation?
Simply put, workflow automation is the process of automating the sequence or chain of events that need to take place in order for a process to be completed. For instance, automating the admissions workflow might streamline the process by electronically routing documents to the right people at the right time without manual email or phone calls. Additionally, the process of notifying students of changes to their application status – as well as other communications – might be automated.
Workflow automation in higher education not only reduces time-consuming busywork, freeing staff up for more important tasks – it also reduces the margin of human error, which has real world consequences for both students and administrators. Critical decisions like admissions and financial aid often hinge on these central processes.
Staff may struggle to juggle admin with the rest of their workload, resulting in students becoming frustrated by long waiting periods for simple requests that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to process and provide feedback.
Moreover, when academic staff are preoccupied with administrative tasks, their research and teaching suffers. As such, workflow automation that reduces the administrative burden academics face can be an effective way to attract top talent.
Students today are more technologically savvy than ever before and school systems should be the same. Some schools still mainly keep records as paper documents in filing cabinets. Others have moved onto the stage of digitizing where physical forms are uploaded to computers and sent back and forth through emails.
The most advanced schools have started having simple tasks become fully automated. Fully automating tedious tasks is the stage you want your school to be in. This article illustrates the benefits of workflow automation for schools, which processes can be easily automated, and offers a step-by-step guide on how schools can use one platform, frevvo, to get started.
Schools must be very careful when they plan activities for students. Whether it’s a study tour, sports activity or even simply using the student’s personal information for a media event, it is of utmost importance that the school first gets the necessary consent forms signed from the parents to avoid any confusion later.
How much paper does my school use? What does it cost? It’s not easy to answer that question but we’ll try.
According to the NYC Government, the paper discarded during the school year in one NYC school added up to 28 pounds for each student, teacher, and staff member. A standard sheet of laser-printer paper of the usual thickness, either US “letter” size or international “A4” size, weighs 4.5 grams. That means 100 sheets weighs almost exactly one pound. Put the above two together and you get about 2,800 sheets of paper per person every year in a single school.
For a district with 10,000 students, teachers & staff, that’s 28,000,000 sheets of paper. At Staples, a pallet (200,000 sheets) costs $1,400. So, our 10,000 student school district spends at least $200,000 every year on paper. And, that’s not even taking into account printers, toner & other supplies which could easily double or triple the cost.
Imagine if that was all electronic. If a sheet of paper holds about 2K of information, all 2,800 sheets would fit into about 5.5MB. For our 10,000 student school district, all the information would fit on an inexpensive flash drive and you’d have some room to spare. And, you don’t even have to spend money – you can put it all in Google Drive with unlimited free storage for education.
And, it’s not just money you’ll save. You’ll help the environment too by saving 2,500 trees and 55,000 gallons of oil.
Of course, you can’t just stick millions of sheets of paper on a flash drive. The reality is far more complex but you can start chipping away today.