Despite the digital progress that the education industry has made in the past decade, schools remain frustratingly awash in physical paperwork.
From permission slips to student registration packets, paper-based workflows remain a constant source of frustration, inefficiency, and additional expense.
To combat these problems, many schools have invested in new technologies, like document management systems. These tools offer faculty, staff, students, and parents an easier way to keep track of the flow of paperwork.
Still, some school boards are hesitant to make the switch from legacy processes. If your district is stuck using paper-based systems, it can be tricky finding the right way to present the full spectrum of benefits that a document management software has to offer.
To help, we’ve gathered some information that can assist you in preparing a compelling case for your school board to invest in document management.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- The most common problems with paper-based processes
- The benefits of document management solutions
- A three-step approach to presenting the value of document management to your school board
The Biggest Problems in Paper-Based Processes
There are many inherent problems with paper-based record-keeping, and it’s important that your school board understands the dangers and limitations of traditional processes.
1. Shuffling papers leads to lost records.
In legacy systems, documents are shuffled from teachers and staff, to students, to parents, and back again all the time–and the more often documents need to change hands, the more likely they are to be lost along the way.
Parents commonly rely on their children to transfer sensitive information and physical payments (including paper checks and cash) to and from classrooms. This practice is more than just inefficient–it is highly stressful and potentially dangerous for parents who have no way of guaranteeing that their personal information and payments find their way to the classroom safely.
When records are misplaced, it can also put schools in a vulnerable position.
Take permission slips, for example: When there is risk inherent to an activity (like playing a sport), a waiver can help protect schools from litigation in the event of a student injury.
However, if the form goes missing, schools cannot prove that the student's parent or guardian acknowledged the risks associated with participation. As a result, the school could risk facing a costly and time-consuming lawsuit.
2. Physical document storage is inconvenient and risky.
When documents are manually stored in your school district, it can be extremely challenging for administrators to produce student records upon request.
Even in the most organized analog systems, record requests must be submitted to school board administrators who must then locate, pull, and photocopy them from their physical records–a process which can take days or weeks to complete.
It also puts documents at risk of damage from natural disasters like floods, fires, and hurricanes.
This scenario became an unfortunate reality for the Olympia School District when a disastrous flood destroyed millions of paper records being housed in the administration building’s basement prior to their implementation of DocuPhase’s document management solution.
3. Manual data entry is time-consuming and prone to errors.
Some schools maintain digital databases of information derived from scanned hard-copy records and view this as a sufficient digital transformation strategy.
While this is a step in the right direction, it creates additional problems for administrative staff and faculty who must assume the burden of manually entering the information themselves.
By having to type in data from paper records, faculty and staff waste time on tedious efforts while schools assume a higher likelihood that data will be entered incorrectly–and keeping a record of false data can be problematic.
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents are entitled to a formal hearing if a student’s education record is “inaccurate or misleading” and not promptly corrected upon request. As such, schools that rely on manual efforts to create and maintain education records place themselves at a higher risk of facing legal action due to human errors.
Benefits of Document Management Software
With these disadvantages in mind, the benefits of transitioning to a document management solution become much more apparent to school board administrators.
Here are some of the biggest benefits that highlight how digital document management has the edge over paper-based processes.
1. It eliminates the paper shuffle.
When your school board adopts web-based forms and e-signatures, you allow parents to submit information online from anywhere without having to entrust children with the transfer of paperwork to and from the classroom.
You also eliminate the dangers of unauthorized data access that are present in systems where PDFs are transmitted over unsecure platforms (like email).
With fully digitized forms, parents have a trustworthy means of sending payments and personal information to schools, and administrators can track missing approvals with ease.
2. It is a more efficient and secure way to house records.
Scanning records into your document management system allows you to get rid of clunky filing cabinets and repurpose the space they occupied in a more meaningful way.
Think about turning that old storage closet into a new meeting space or recreation room. There are countless opportunities to utilize that previously wasted space in ways that foster more team collaboration and heightened morale.
When forms and records are digitized, you also eliminate the need for costly materials including paper, printers, envelopes, and ink.
In fact, it’s been estimated that a school district might spend as much as $200,000 annually on paper alone: That’s $200,000 that could be more meaningfully invested in better supplies and student experiences, which ultimately contribute to their success.
Moreover, document management platforms allow authorized parties access to forms and records in a matter of seconds. This eliminates the effort that district clerks deal with when trying to locate and transmit documents manually.
But perhaps most important is the added security of sensitive information.
Document storage solutions like DocuPhase encrypt and house data on remote, redundant servers via cloud-hosting, so that records are kept safe from unauthorized access and data loss.
DocuPhase also allows school boards to set up automatic record disposals. By preprogramming documents to be deleted once a specified timeframe has elapsed, schools can cut down on the amount of sensitive data they are storing needlessly.
3. It eliminates manual data entry and repetitive efforts.
Document management solutions offer numerous features that eliminate the burden of manual data entry from your clerks and administrative professionals.
In a manual system, administrative officials would need to spend time filing or typing in the data from every form they receive individually. This not only restricts them from performing other more valuable job functions, but it also lends itself to more frequent human errors and a far less reliable record of student data.
However, when districts leverage document management systems, they can take advantage of web form functionality that enables automatic indexing and digital organization of your forms immediately upon submission. This greatly increases the accuracy and the accessibility of the data you keep, while empowering your staff to focus on more proactive initiatives.
It has benefits for parents, too, who no longer need to fill out the same information year after year for each of their children. When enrollment paperwork is online, parents can leverage pre-populated fields so that they only need to update a few items every school year.
Getting School Board Approval for Digitized Document Management
Support from your school board is the most crucial step in implementing new ed tech solutions. They are the decision makers who control how resources are allocated throughout all the schools in your district, so suggesting additional investments can be a tough sell.
Keeping in mind that school boards may not be experts in the tech solutions you plan to present, the key to making your case is proper presentation of the efficiency gains–and subsequent ROI–that digitization can offer.
Here are the three steps we recommend taking as you prepare to make your presentation.
Step 1: Identify the biggest challenges in your current processes
The first step in breaching this topic is to identify how and why paper-based processes are causing problems in your school.
Help your school board administrators understand the specific challenges present in your current manual document management system and the impact it has on both individual schools and the district at large.
Here are a few examples of pitfalls you might consider presenting:
- When staff are forced to spend hours on manual record management and data entry, they must divert their efforts from more valuable initiatives like assisting with staff recruitment and parent communications.
- When schools rely on manual data entry, their records are more prone to mistakes: This puts districts at risk of compliance issues, creating a much more stressful audit season.
- When physical permission slips and other sensitive records are lost, school boards must contend with potential legal repercussions and their associated costs.
Step 2: Highlight the bottom-line benefits of document management
Making the case to your school board to implement a new document management platform can be tricky –after all, it seems like a huge investment that requires a lot of change.
But highlighting the budgetary benefits that paperless processes have to offer will resonate most with your district officials.
Achieving a return on investment (ROI) through document management can come sooner than they may realize through advantages such as:
- More consistent regulatory compliance (which reduces the risk of costly lawsuits)
- Less money spent on paper, printers, toner, etc.
- Fewer hours wasted on manual processes (like data entry and records retrieval) that hinder employee productivity
Step 3: Present your solutions
Conduct independent research and prepare to present some document management solutions that you think will best suit the needs of the schools in your district.
We recommend evaluating each software by the following criteria:
- Whether the system is an end-to-end or point solution
- How the solution keeps your records safe
- Whether the software will tie into your existing technologies (like your student information system, HRIS software, accounting platforms, etc.)
- If the solution allows you to manage and restrict document access by user or department
- How platform users will be supported after implementation
Using DocuPhase as an example, your evaluation would show that our document management solution:
- Is an end-to-end platform designed to digitize back office processes from start to finish
- Offers enhanced cybersecurity measures including data encryption and secure forms submissions to ensure that sensitive data collected from parents, students, teachers and staff is protected
- Features an open API that connects with existing software to create a central repository for documents from all departments
- Has role-based permissions which allow you to manage and restrict document access as needed
- Provides a dedicated client support team to help you and your entire district get the most out of their investment
Assessing each potential solution with the above criteria as a guide will allow you to more easily identify the functionality that matters most to your district and will help you present the importance of each feature when making the case to your school board.
Once you've made your case and have highlighted the advantages of using a document management software to go paperless, have your district administrators contact our team of document management experts here at DocuPhase to learn more.
Our consultants are eager to answer all their questions, from how their staff and faculty can get the most out of our solution to how each of our features is designed to streamline efficiency and bring them rapid ROI.