Posted in Education Automation

The Business of Education Must Go On: How Schools & Universities Operate Remotely

Much has been written about the rise of online education.

Technology has unlocked an enormous opportunity for students of all ages, locales, and interests to gain access to knowledge on nearly any topic and from anywhere.

Even so, only about 30% of undergraduates enrolled in even a single online course in 2017.

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. 

This creates a problem. 

On the one hand, the continued functioning of schools and universities is critical to many facets of a functioning society. But, on the other hand, the institutions themselves are often ill-equipped to adapt to a circumstance where the staff and administrators aren’t able to report to campus. 

Day-to-day operations like managing paperwork and recordkeeping are often dependent on physical and analog processes performed under normal circumstances.

So, what happens when that’s not possible?

While much has been said about the benefits of moving instruction online, relatively little has been done to digitize the essential functions of most campus offices and departments.

 64% of parents feel their child’s school could use technology more effectively.

According to data from our 2020 survey on technology use in schools, 64% of parents feel their child’s school could use technology more effectively. 

How can institutions keep their essential business operations functioning in times of instability or uncertainty? 

What Is Business as Usual in a Crisis?

When it comes to everyday administrative tasks, schools and universities are not all that different from any other business. 

Sure, there are many realities and challenges that face educational institutions that aren’t apparent for many corporations. But, if you zoom out to look at the day-to-day workings of a school next to those of any small business, they look incredibly similar.

The essential functions for an operating school include: 

  • Recordkeeping and paperwork.
  • HR functions like onboarding, travel approvals, and vacation requests.
  • Finance tasks like accounts payable, purchase orders, and budgeting.
  • Student and parent-facing activities like registration, consent forms, and financial aid.
  • Other kinds of forms processing, such as facilities use.

These are the core functions that keep the school itself operating—just like a business. 

In that sense, schools and universities can learn a lot about transitioning to remote work from the path paved by the private sector in recent years. The idea of digital transformation has driven many businesses to rethink their core, day-to-day operations. In fact, 70% of companies say they’ve already created or are working on a digital transformation strategy.

Businesses in nearly every industry have learned over the last several years, not only the benefits of moving work online—ease, efficiency, cost savings—but also the advantages and flexibility that it provides when “business as usual” simply isn’t a reality.

Enabling remote work can become both an operational advantage and also a contingency plan.

In the case that schools are not operating as normal and the administration is working from home or remotely, these essential functions must still be performed. But if outdated processes require physical paperwork to be completed and signed or on-premise software to be accessed from the school’s local network, it can stop a school’s functioning dead in its tracks.

Let’s look at some of the ways in which schools can enable and prepare for remote working scenarios to keep important functions working.

Remote Working for Schools and Universities

Workflow automation software like frevvo enables schools and universities to automate or digitize much of the work that goes into day-to-day administration

During normal times, this can be a boon for efficiency and productivity. But, it can be even more important during uncertain times, enabling staff and faculty to continue operations remotely to keep essential services running smoothly.

K-12 schools, colleges, and universities can all benefit from implementing digital workflows.

Most importantly, with a flexible solution, your team will be able to quickly and easily create solutions for any number of essential tasks that may need to be managed by a remote team.

Our education customers most often implement digital workflows for common administrative tasks, such as:

  • Registrations or admissions
  • Parental consent
  • Emergency contacts or communications
  • Staff and faculty scheduling and requests
  • Transportation requests
  • Purchase orders and accounts payable
  • Staff onboarding
  • Information release forms

The critical business functions of the school should be accessible and manageable when administrators aren’t in the building, whether they’re temporarily working from home or the staff is forced to work remotely due to unforeseen circumstances.

How Montgomery County Community College Digitized Over 140 Paper Forms with frevvo

Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) in Pennsylvania was able to use frevvo’s dynamic forms to migrate a broad range of administrative tasks and paper forms into digital workflows that are accessible to staff regardless of where they’re working.

The HR, Finance, Academic Affairs, Registrar, and Advising departments were all able to use workflow automation tools to build customized forms and workflows for even complex processes, without having to write custom code or spend months (or years!) of IT time creating custom solutions. 

Workflows were built with integrations into existing systems and software and built-in security that met the strict requirements for accessibility, privacy, and data retention. 

In total, MCCC migrated over 140 forms and processes into digital workflows.

For each one, they used frevvo to build and customize the data collection, routing, approvals, and data storage using a few simple steps.

Step 1: Choose a Workflow Template (Or Create Your Own)

Getting started with digital workflows is simple with frevvo. 

Choose a Workflow Template

With an array of more than 30 pre-built templates, most day-to-day education processes can be created with a simple click. For custom workflows, users can quickly start from scratch and use the drag-and-drop editor to create the form and workflow they need. 

Step 2: Customize the Form with the Drag-and-Drop Editor

Using a simple and intuitive interface, users can quickly customize each form to capture the exact information they need throughout the workflow. Forms can capture basic inputs like names and dates, but they can also integrate with existing systems to offer pre-populated options, handle digital signatures, and other advanced features.

Customize the Form with the Drag-and-Drop Editor

Step 3: Add Logic or Dynamic Behavior

Pull in custom fields based on the end user’s behavior or add logic that customizes the form based on field entries and selections. You can even connect your SQL database, allowing the form to auto-populate certain fields.

With just a few clicks, you can build a dynamic form that can handle a variety of use cases with no programming knowledge required.

Add Logic or Dynamic Behavior

Step 4: Create the Workflow

Once the form is submitted, you can use the visual workflow designer to quickly construct a workflow that determines when, and where and to whom the data gets routed within the organization or to outside contacts. 

Create the Workflow

Based on the defined steps, each stakeholder will be prompted to complete, review, or approve the submission before it moves on to the next stage. In addition, conditional logic can be applied here as well to customize the workflow based on the original inputs or conditions. 

This makes it simple to build flexible workflows for handling a range of real-world scenarios.

Step 5: Adjust Visual Properties as Needed

As a final step, you can easily add names, labels, and design elements to make the workflow clear and concise for all users. 

Adjust Visual Properties as Needed

Step 6: Deploy the Workflow

That’s it. 

Once the workflow is finished, it’s ready to be rolled out. All frevvo forms and workflows are designed to be mobile responsive, ADA and WCAG compliant, and offer localization support and all of the critical features you need to create and deploy digital tools to everyone on your team.

The software is offered in both cloud-based and on-premise versions so you can choose a deployment option that best fits your security and organizational needs.

Prepare Your Institution for Remote Work Today

We live in a time defined by both incredible technological advancement and uncertainty. This presents real-world challenges, but also a massive opportunity. 

No institution should be left unprepared to face the realities of changing circumstances when the means for enabling remote work are available, accessible, and easy to implement.

Schools, colleges, and universities can reap the rewards of remote work while also strengthening their institutions and fulfilling their core mission.

Taking the first step is as simple as signing up for a free trial to see how frevvo can help you transform and bolster your business and educational operations.

Try frevvo for free and see what’s possible.