Although we are currently in the midst of a time of uncertainty and change for everyone, there are functions that continue. One of those, to an extent, is the university system. With higher education already ahead of K-12 in offering online education, many universities have announced their classes will be online-only through at least the summer semester. While the higher education system is one of the better prepared for the current situation, it is still facing pressure, with its resources and workflows being tested like never before.
Normal administrative processes within universities encompass gathering, managing and securing information from literally thousands of students, parents, faculty and staff members. The processes can be highly complex and include:
- Registration, admissions, and enrollment
- Student financial aid
- Career counseling
- Research and publication
- Campus security
In many cases, these processes and more are still paper bound, long and repetitive, and manually done. Processes can be extremely time consuming and the risk of human error is introduced during the manual steps. This leads to student and faculty frustration, lost or inaccurate student paperwork, and a risk of inadvertent information breaches. Higher education institutions are turning to technology to automate workflows to make their administrative processes efficient, accurate and secure.
Workflow automation are being used by universities and colleges to automate repetitive and manual tasks present in virtually any administrative process of the institution. This automation frees up staff time to be spent on higher value tasks for the school and delivers benefits in accuracy, timeliness, and security.
Using technology to automate a manual step in the process reduces or eliminates the risk of incorrect information being input into the system through human error. Accuracy of grading data ensures student satisfaction with the results the university records. Ensuring acceptance packets go the correct applicants can mean the difference between getting the highest quality students or losing them to other schools.
Workflow automation can speed processes since less human intervention is needed. Automating financial aid processes can get approvals faster to students thus ensuring their commitment to attend the university or college. Putting in an automated process for review and publication of research allows faculty to produce and publish the important papers required to reflect the prestige of the institution.
When manual steps of processes are replaced with automated steps, the risk of inadvertent human error causing a security breach of confidential student information is eliminated. Data in digital workflow automations can be encrypted and password protected. Governance rules can be used in the document or content management systems to define who is authorized to input, view and modify data and to put a life limit of how long the information is retained in the system.
There is also the space-saving benefit to automated workflows. By converting paper documents to digital form, literally hundreds of filing cabinets the institution has can be eliminated. Paper documents, when received, can be scanned, OCRd, indexed and put directly into the now-digital workflow — from remote locations, which is critical at the moment. Older paper records in current file cabinets can be handled similarly. While not all paper can be eliminated, a system that is “less paper” oriented can help free up valuable space that can be used for classrooms or in other ways to better support student needs.
How does a higher education establishment know when an administrative process could use workflow automation? Look for these signs:
- The process is entirely dependent upon paper forms
- There are a disproportionate number of complaints about the process taking too long
- There are complaints that data or information in records and communications is wrong
- Paperwork is often lost or misplaced
- Paperwork must be recreated
- Seasonal help is needed to get over “humps” to make sure the process is completed on time
A school could have administrative trouble and not even know it. Working with a workflow automation solution provider can help many institutions identify the processes and steps that will produce the best results from automating the workflows.
The higher education vertical market has introduced technology into the classrooms to improve students learning experiences. Universities and colleges are now dependent on this and are learning how technology can also be used to automate administrative processes as well. This presents not only opportunities for the institutions to stay functional, it offers opportunities for solution providers to help them do that.