How Business Process Management Enhances Distance Learning

20 million. That’s the amount of American postsecondary students that are enrolled in exclusively distance education courses, according to the Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. That is one of six students.

As digital disruption continues to transform the world, higher education is facing enormous pressure to adapt. Historically, the back-office of a school has been manual and paper-intensive. Schools today are struggling to meet today’s standards of agility, flexibility, and exceptional student experience despite digital transformation efforts. In order to overcome this challenge, schools are turning to solutions traditionally celebrated in other industries such as banking, government, and manufacturing. Among these solutions is business process management (BPM).

BPM is a solution that has transformed enterprises small and large for decades. Its methodology can be applied to higher education to yield similar results. In this article, we discuss how BPM enhances distance learning for students on the front-end and for personnel on the back-end.

What is business process management (BPM)?

Techopedia defines business process management as a method “to help organizations run more efficiently.” Business process management (BPM) is a concept that focuses on aligning all organizational elements to improve operational performance. Traditionally on-site, BPM recently has moved to a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering deployable on the cloud. Automated BPM platforms today typically exist in the market as “workflow automation software.” These platforms automate the manual, mundane processes of many enterprises including universities, small or large.

Despite the digital transformation, many schools are still struggling to automate their internal workflows. Business process management in the form of workflow automation software can help to get a university’s process management under control.

BPM in action within higher education

BPM platforms are quickly digitizing manual, paper-based workflows on higher education campuses. Most importantly, hold-ups or mistakes during workflows can be expensive and disastrous to both the student and school. This is especially true in departments like Admissions and Financial Aid.

Today, several processes are automated using BPMs (BPM software) in colleges. Not only Grade Change Requests, but also processes such as:

  • Change and Declare a Major
  • Transfer Credit Approval
  • Student Visa
  • Registration Overload
  • Graduation Process
  • Course Approval

Normally, administrators are relying on manual data entry, multiple steps, and physical hand-offs between stakeholders to get these requests approved and processed. This results in serious bottlenecks on campus, between time lags and human mistakes like data entry errors and missed deadlines. With BPMs, these requests are organized neatly and optimized. Combine this with automation and everything happens in real-time. No more paper and time wasted for the online student.

Below is an example of a Withdraw Request at a university made in intelligent BPMs software platform  ProcessMaker:

BPM Higher Ed Process

The benefits of BPMs on distance learning

Colleges today can’t afford to skimp in delivering exceptional student experiences. A poor student journey directly impacts enrollment rates, which are already on the decline rapidly. Calling in an intelligent BPM (iBPMS) platform can help accelerate the agility and productivity of a university, leading to richer student experiences in distance learning.

Say for example that a student wanted to change their grade in a course. The Grade Change Request process was formerly a paper-ridden, physical hand-off kind of process. The first step included the student requesting a grade change obtaining a specific form from a faculty member. At the time, the form was a multi-colored carbonless copy paper.

Next, the student completed the form in full. After that, the student walked to hand the form back to the faculty member, who then dropped that form off at another faculty member’s inbox. Now, repeat the hand-off to the Department Chairperson, and suddenly a lot of time has passed. Often times, these forms were lost, incomplete, missed signatures, or recorded mistakes in the system.

The entire manual process was a nightmare. These kinds of processes result in frustrated students, disgruntled staff, and hundreds of hours of lost resources. Multiply this scenario across thousands at one college alone and you have a recipe for disorganized chaos.

Online and distance learning rely heavily on creating positive end-user experiences for students to attract top talent. Organizing and optimizing the processes commonly found in distance education helps colleges to meet this goal. The more comprehensive, easy-to-use, and in-demand that distance learning appears to students, the more students want to apply to that school. Consequently, the college can then fight the declining enrollment problem that is attacking all of higher education today.


Distance learning has exploded over the last several years in the form of Massive Open Online Courses, open educational resources, and online degrees. As a tool for digital transformation, colleges need to adopt methods and technology to meet the demands of digitally-savvy students of today. BPM offers an opportunity to help bridge this gap in higher education to deliver extraordinary end-user experiences within distance learning.

Our intelligent BPM platform has been helping university systems and other schools around the world to digitally disrupt their educational offerings. Check out our solution brief for higher education today to learn more about our workflow solution.

About ProcessMaker

ProcessMaker is a low-code business process management and workflow software. ProcessMaker makes it easy for business analysts to collaborate with IT to automate complex business processes connecting people and existing company systems. Headquartered in Durham, North Carolina in the United States, ProcessMaker has a partner network spread across 35 countries on five continents. Hundreds of commercial customers, including many Fortune 100 companies, rely on ProcessMaker to digitally transform their core business processes enabling faster decision making, improved compliance, and better performance.

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