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.
The Benefits of Workflow Automation for Schools
Among the many benefits of automating common processes in schools, a few stand out. When schools automate key processes, they reduce waste, save time, attract top staff, and are more organized.
Reducing Waste (and Saving Money)
Over 40 percent of school waste is paper. Much of this isn’t paper used by the students, but rather forms and other documents being printed and kept by teachers and other staff. Schools are commonly strapped for funds. Rather than cutting back on crucial staff or other necessary supplies, schools can save money by cutting back on paper consumption. By automating everyday forms and workflows so they’re digital, schools reduce paper waste as well as help the environment.
A report by Software Testing and Big Data Hadoop states 20 percent of work hours are spent on repetitive computer-based tasks. Schools aren’t immune to this statistic. Consider all the forms a secretary may have to file or enter into a computer each day. Parents return forms for volunteering, who is allowed to pick their child up from school, emergency contacts, and more.
Secretaries deal with forms from teachers as well, such as time off requests. There are administrative forms for finances and so on. If some of a secretary’s tasks were automated, he could then focus more on having positive interactions with parents and on assisting students rather than paperwork..
Attracting Top Talent
The Great Districts for Great Teachers survey, conducted by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), found workflow management to be one of the top influential factors for signing on and retaining the best teachers. In general, the more time teachers can spend directly with students, the better. Teachers know this and don’t want to waste precious time each day organizing permission slips and other forms when there is higher-level work to be done.
Automation Helps Organization
When school processes are automated, everything is kept electronically. This prevents loose pieces of paper from being misfiled or going missing. There isn’t any confusion on whether a parent turned a form in on time or if someone forgot to approve time off for a teacher. Reminders can be automatically sent to people who have forms they need to fill out and they can save time by using an electronic signature rather than taking a trip to the school.
The Best Processes for Schools to Automate
It’s impressive just how many processes schools can automate these days. However, it can be overwhelming to go from zero to one hundred in automation, so let’s take a look at some of the top tasks schools can automate first.
Registration & Admission
Admission applications and registration forms all typically happen before the school year even begins. Summer is a busy time for families and filling out the same information for all of the children in your family is a burden. It also takes staff endless hours to organize all of these forms.
When this process is automated, it saves both families and staff time. Additionally, staff doesn’t need to worry about clarifying illegible handwriting or unanswered questions on forms. As far as course registration, an automated system allows students to be instantly aware if a course is fully booked so they know to find an alternative.
Schools use a variety of consent forms, including ones for sports activities, field trips, volunteering, health, information releases, and more. You can use frevvo’s free templates for all of these forms. There is even a multi-language general consent form. Parents can sign electronically and have a PDF copy emailed to them for their records.
It’s essential for schools to have parents fill out emergency contact forms. In the event of an emergency, it’s critical for administrators to have information about the student, their emergency contacts, doctor contact information, and more, easily accessible. frevvo’s free emergency contact form templates can be created in multiple languages, signed electronically, and emailed or saved to Google Apps.
Sick Days & Paid Time Off
When teachers need to take a sick day, they are typically required to have plans ready for a substitute teacher as well as fill out any necessary forms for the sick day. Having an automated process means office staff can learn more quickly that they need to find a replacement and it reduces the stress of an already ill teacher.
When office or other staff put in for vacation days, the process is unnecessarily long and complex. A form needs to be completed and confirmed as received. Then, an administrator needs to be notified and approve or reject the request. If rejected, the staff member needs to adjust it for approval. When finally approved, human resources processes it and marks it on calendars. Alternatively, with workflow automation, emails could be sent automatically and approval can be completed with no printing or signing of forms.
Maintenance & IT Requests
If a window is broken or a computer isn’t working, teachers don’t have time to stop teaching and grab a form from the office to fill out. Teachers need to be able to put these requests in on a computer, without leaving the classroom. Filling these forms out online means the requests won’t get lost, the staff that needs to help is notified immediately, and there is an automatic log of when requests went in and when they were fulfilled. IT help requests can also be useful for tracking trends and figuring out patterns of technical issues.
Transportation is needed to transport athletes and coaches to away sports events, to take classes on field trips, and other situations. Without approved transportation well ahead of time, these events cannot take place. Therefore, it’s essential that the process of requesting and approving transportation be simple. If there are no available buses or vans on the day of a field trip, that information can’t be learned last minute.
How to Select an Automation Solution
Once you’ve decided what processes to automate first, it’ll be easier to choose an automation system. Your options will vary depending on whether or not your staff members are experienced in writing code and what processes you want your workflow automation to include.
If you want a system that is easy for any staff member to use, frevvo is a good option. With frevvo’s cloud-based software, there’s nothing to install. Anyone can use the drag and drop designers to create online forms and workflows without programming experience. There are pre-built templates for popular forms, such as emergency contact forms, absence requests, consent forms, travel authorization, and more. All of these forms are mobile-friendly so parents can fill them out from their phones if they prefer.
Automating K12 Processes with frevvo: A Step-By-Step Guide
Many people see the benefits of school process automation, but aren’t sure what to automate first and if it will be worth the time. With frevvo, schools get a variety of unique features that will guide them on what to do, saving time and money.
Step 1: Choose a Template — or Create Your Own
Once school administrators or employees have logged into frevvo’s cloud-based solution, they are presented with an array of template applications that are easy to use and require no knowledge of computer programming.
Install any template with a single click to get started quickly. A dozen of frevvo’s education-specific applications are pictured below.
That said, users are not limited to pre-built templates; frevvo places no restrictions on what forms and workflows you can create and you can start from a blank canvas and design exactly what you need.
Step 2: Drag and Drop to Customize
frevvo makes it easy to customize any template as needed. It’s fine to leave templates in the shape they’re in or customize as needed. Simply drag and drop fields with frevvo to add additional requirements for forms, such as email addresses, or to conversely simplify them.
Step 3: Point and Click to add Dynamic Behavior
Templates already contain visual business rules for common dynamic functionality. For example, they automatically set today’s date or employee information, perform calculations where appropriate, etc. It’s easy to customize or add rules to create dynamic forms that fit your exact requirements using frevvo’s built-in Visual Rule Builder.
Step 4: Control Where Forms Go
Once a teacher or other school employee fills in a form, it often must go to others, such as a school principal or district human resources representative. frevvo’s visual workflow editor allows forms to be routed to whomever they need to go to in whatever order, with title changes easy to make within the program. Using the aforementioned visual rules, you can also route the form conditionally depending on data entered in the fields.
Step 5: Adjust Visual Properties as Needed
Properties can be adjusted for each step within workflows. Whether it’s tweaking messages or conditions for users, it’s easy to configure steps visually.
Step 6: Deploy the workflow
Deploy your workflow with a single click. You’ll automatically benefit from features like:
- Mobility: Forms and workflows are automatically responsive and will work on all mobile devices.
- Security: frevvo will encrypt your data throughout so it’s safe and secure. Only authenticated and authorized users can access the workflow.
- Compliance: Built-in ADA and WCAG compliance means no employees are left out.
- Localization: It’s easy to make your forms and workflows available in multiple languages.
- Flexibility: Choose cloud or on-premise to fit your needs. All features are available in both versions.
Example: School Time Off Requests Workflow
Using an automated time off request workflow is a simple process for school employees.
Step 1: School Employee Fills Out the Form
The first step is for the employee to fill out a time off request form. Schools can deploy the form into a customizable and branded portal so it’s easy for employees to find.
Step 2: A Principal (or Other Supervisor) Reviews the Request
Once the employee has filled out the form, it will automatically forward on to the next designated person in the school’s chain of workflow command and send a notification. While this is often a principal, users are welcome to set their own chains as noted above.
Step 3: The Request is Automatically Filed with HR
As a final step, the school time off request form can automatically be filed with the district’s human resources department, ensuring that the document is clear, has all its necessary information, and will be securely stored. Considering the vast number of documents that go missing in non-automated environments, this step might be the most valuable of all.
Adapt and Improve Workflows as Your School Needs It
Nothing stays the same for very long in education. Schools are constantly getting new mandates from their boards, districts, or government agencies forcing them to implement new tests, accountability measures, and processes.
With a customizable workflow solution like frevvo, schools can stay on top of all the changes in the world of education, creating and customizing new forms as needed and being ready to go in different directions at a moment’s notice. All of this can help teachers have a better experience, save schools time and money — and ultimately free up more resources to help students thrive.