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Driving Superior Student Services through e-Forms

Using ECM to improve service and efficiency
University Business, December 2016

For institutions to remain competitive, they must support a growing student population while providing responsive and top-quality student services. Linn-Benton Community College, which serves over 20,000 full-, part-time and non-credit students in Oregon, automated admissions processes to ensure that exceptional student experience begins from the first point of contact with the college, while improving efficiency and reducing costs.

In this web seminar, two administrators from Linn-Benton described how the institution is leveraging electronic forms and workflow automation to streamline administrative functions, accelerating turnaround time and empowering staff to provide superior student services, and outlined some best practices for using this technology to ensure transparent communications.

LINDA DING
Senior Education
Program Strategist
Laserfiche

According to a recent study, IT spending in higher education in the U.S. was around $6.6 billion in 2015. With that amount of money and the resources pulled into building a technology infrastructure for today’s higher education operation, it’s no surprise that your students, staff and faculty members are expecting great return on that investment and expecting a modernized way of delivering services on campus.

However, many of us in higher ed are still struggling with paper. Paper-based operations on campus are still prevalent. Whether you’re a school of engineering, school of business or school of music, you are facing very similar problems while admitting new students, identifying talents and processing their requests quickly. Paper is costly and is a bottleneck.

Through our work with many universities and colleges, we have found that electronic forms are an efficient starting point for your business process initiative. The e-forms are all pretty straightforward, and everybody understands how they work. Also, e-forms create no friction for user adoption because of their intuitive user interface design. In addition, today’s e-forms have a robust workflow engine behind the scenes to make the operations more seamless.

Laserfiche e-forms is a web-enabled workflow process engine. It has the business process notation and modeling standard for mapping out your workflow design. It has an automated task management portal, mobile-enabled user interface for approval and review, and also aggregates all the information processes for reporting and analytical study.

AMY SIKORA
Assistant Director of Enrollment Progression & Technology
Linn-Benton Community College (Ore.)

What drove us to look for a different solution was our transcript evaluation request process. In the 2015-16 academic year we received close to 14,000 applications for admissions. It was a 53 percent increase from applications received during the 2013-2014 academic year. That’s a big deal for us, and there are only 12 contracted staff who work in our area.

The college has used Laserfiche since the early 2000s. We use it campuswide, primarily as a digital filing cabinet. You scan forms in and keep them in files within our repository. We upgraded to using e-forms and workflow automation with Laserfiche in 2015. This implementation has been very successful.

We knew we had to change some things because we weren’t very efficient. In particular, our transcript evaluation process was identified by several college councils as being a bottleneck to student success. It could hold up the entry process for students.
We started to look for an enterprise content management solution, and we became aware that Laserfiche could solve our problems. Since we’ve implemented e-forms and workflow automation for our transcript evaluation process, it’s felt like going from driving a horse-drawn buggy to driving a Ferrari. It’s been that amazing.

JANE TILLMAN
Student Affairs Specialist
Linn-Benton
Community College

The transcript evaluation process is vital to incoming students for a number of reasons. For instance, it allows them to be placed in the correct courses, meet prerequisites and speed up their degree completion. It also allows them to avoid taking a class again if they’ve already taken it at a different institution. In addition, it helps with compliance with our special admissions programs requirements.

Our old horse-drawn buggy process included using multiple products that didn’t play well together. We had one vendor for a form, another vendor for spreadsheets and another for email.

In the old days, students would fill out a form-based transcript evaluation request. Then the staff would manually duplicate the data from that form to a shareable spreadsheet. Then the staff would need to manually search for a corresponding transcript for that request. If found, the staff would evaluate the transcript. When they were done they would manually indicate on that same spreadsheet that the transcript was evaluated. They would also, after evaluating transcripts, go in once a week and manually determine which students had transcripts that were evaluated so we could send them a confirmation email on an individual basis.

We had a lack of synchronization between the systems—the forms, spreadsheets, email, etc. We had very inefficient manual processes. We would need to touch the same record many times and it was difficult to pinpoint where a transcript was in the process. There was a lack of efficient or meaningful communication with students. There were lots of mistakes, and lots of skipped people.

We also had a lack of security and a lack of trust in the system by staff and students. The system overall was fragile. One day we had an incident where our data was wiped out and couldn’t be retrieved. These factors all led to issues with timeliness. Due to all these obstacles it would take six to eight weeks to evaluate a transcript.

Sikora: For our new transcript evaluation process, we’re using Laserfiche e-forms and workflow automation to achieve the following: A complete automation of movement of transcripts through a series of folders within our repository. It makes it easy for us to pinpoint where a transcript is within the evaluation process. The students are notified each step of the way. They get an email when we’ve received a transcript. It lets them know what institution it was from. It prompts them to complete a request e-form to have their transcript evaluated. Then it automatically emails the student once their evaluation has been completed. The evaluated transcript gets archived within our repository.

There have been a lot of benefits to our new process. Our transcript evaluation timeline has been reduced dramatically—to one week or less, sometimes an hour or less. The process uses just one vendor, Laserfiche, from start to finish. There’s no more mismatched software that doesn’t play well together. It’s secure and trustworthy. We don’t have to worry about data loss.

Tillman: We’ve also used Laserfiche to streamline other processes and we’ve had great results. Some of the things we’ve used it for have been our academic suspension appeal process, our late refund request appeal process, and our new student center intake form. The LBCC Foundation and the president’s office are using Laserfiche e-forms, and we would love to see our HR and financial aid join in as well.

Sikora: I suggest trying e-forms all around your institution. Every department is going to want to use them once you demonstrate what they can do.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, visit www.universitybusiness.com/ws100616 

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