College of Arts & Sciences Hobson Academic Services Center at The University of Oklahoma

Flood to Flow
University Business, August 2013
The University of Oklahoma
When Ellison Hall got flooded, student records could have been destroyed­—but were spared.

Central Oklahoma sits snugly in Tornado Alley, but it was a flood, not a twister, that shocked officials at The University of Oklahoma into the realization that student advising records were one natural disaster away from disappearing forever.

A weekend blizzard in late 2009 caused a pipe to burst in the building that houses the registrar and student advising office of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences. For five hours, water poured from the broken pipe on the third floor, says Rhonda Dean-Kyncl, the college’s assistant dean for academic services. By the time she arrived to inspect the damage, the first floor was under a couple of inches of water.

“Our advising offices are on the north end of the building,” Dean-Kyncl says. “Thankfully, the flood was on the south end of the building. We were about 50 feet from losing all of our student records.”

That near-disaster got Dean-Kyncl thinking about process. “There had never been any reason for me to think about how to make our advising process more efficient, how to make it more accessible to our students,” she says. “Frankly, the status quo was fine. But that night I realized we had major issues.”

Aiming both to digitize records and to streamline a cumbersome, paper-based advising system, the college turned to Laserfiche, whose tools were used to build a mobile digital records system that integrated with Banner database as well as mobile devices.

Under the new system, the college’s 10 advisors can use iPads they were issued to access files and communicate with students electronically. Students also have access to their electronic records, and receive email notifications of their advising contract status. When they arrive for their advising appointments, they review their contracts with their advisers on the iPad and sign them with their finger or a stylus. Dean-Kyncl refers to this as “mobile advising.”

Mobile advising enhances retention efforts by providing more accurate information on such academic services as petitions, course additions/withdrawals, progress toward degree, and academic disciplinary issues, she explains. In addition, communication between the students and their advisors has increased.

Operationally, mobile advising cut the college’s paper costs by 30 percent and saved nearly $20,000 in salary, office, and mailing expenses. Formerly paper-based processes now take minutes instead of days to complete.

In addition to all of the upgrades in efficiency, the process was a terrific wake-up call, says Dean-Kyncl. “The bonus for me is it has allowed us the privilege of rethinking everything. It’s given us the opportunity to honestly look at our processes and say, ‘Why do we do this this way?’ It’s given us a license to rethink everything we do and be more efficient.”

Applications are being accepted for the 2013 Models of Efficiency Winter Program. Apply now!