The ongoing spread of the Coronavirus is forcing schools across the globe to suspend in-person classes. While we hope to contain and cure the coronavirus, it does help to have a contingency plan if your area is potentially affected by the virus or any future infectious disease.
First and foremost, universities need to rethink the handling of paper and cash, the most common elements used and exchanged at a university. CNN Business reports that cash is one of the dirtiest things consumers touch, “There is no doubt we pass microorganisms through cash,” Paul Matewele, a senior lecturer in microbiology at London Metropolitan University, told CNN Business. “[Studies show] a number of things we would never have thought would be present.”
The New York Times reported that at Iowa State University one student saw his professor and teaching assistant wear gloves as they were passing out exams, “They were scared of getting it while passing out the exams,” the student said. Paper isn’t any cleaner either, Medical News Today reports that the Coronavirus can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces like paper for quite some time stating, “human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to 9 days. At a temperature of 30°C [86°F] or more, the duration of persistence is shorter.”
As students are removed from their campus, it is crucial for them to have structure and routine in their daily lives. Alise G. Bartley, a clinical assistant professor in the department of counseling and director of the community-counseling center at Florida Gulf Coast University says that “stay in the routine and feel like there’s a purpose so that they don’t fall into depression.” Many of the elements of their academic routine can now be digitized so at more innovative schools, simply being sent home from campus does not altogether stall the higher education experience.
But how can universities eliminate the need for paper and paperlike products? With the digital transformation of their paper-based workflows. With the right digital tooling and workflow automation capabilities, you can digitally transform all of your campuses’ operations and workflow management needs. By connecting all software tools to workflow software, both students and staff are able to access multiple resources, like grades and applications from one central, cloud-based platform. As a result, no one is left behind when searching for their latest assignments, and instructors are free to focus on their lessons or research as they are saved from the headache caused by basic administration tasks.
Universities function similar to large enterprises. Both contain complex hierarchies and interactions between multiple individuals and departments internally and externally. If enterprises can go completely paperless, so can schools. Universities can eliminate the need for paper by enabling the digitization of forms, signatures, and document generation through scanning, digital storage, and e-signature solutions. A digital workflow could look like:
- Movement of documents across campus via electronic workflows
- Enabling email review and email approval of digital workflows
- Having electronic records signed digitally
- Populating a series of form fields by extracting information from a database
These workflows can be applied across departments in:
- Business office
- Curriculum Review
- Enrollment Management
- Financial Aid processing and review
- Student advising
- Faculty onboarding
- Student onboarding
- Transcript capture
- Tenure Review
- Transfer course evaluation
While eliminating the need for paper in higher ed applications like:
- Accounts payable
- Contract management
- Donor management
- Human resources
- Vendor management
- Student billing
- Student records management
By digitizing workflows you empower students, faculty, and staff to feel connected to your campus, whether they are on campus or telecommuting. For example, online assessments can improve student engagement and give faculty a better understanding of comprehension levels, making them have informed decisions on their class’s progress and if a student needs intervention with remedial classes. Universities can even implement AI-driven chatbots online and route the user to the proper workflow without any human interaction needed.
In order for a university to go paperless and for workflow automation to be a success, universities need to buy in and the processes need to be clearly defined. Automation can do wonders in terms of making processes more efficient, its success is dependent on having a roadmap. It is also important to choose the BPM platform that is easily customizable, integrates easily with third-party systems, and makes process design seamless with low-code.