Mark Johnston of Grand Canyon University in Phoenix says electronic document management vastly improves customer service, reduces manual errors and cuts costs.

Education Technology and the Paperless Vision

Electronic document management is moving colleges off paper-based systems.

Electronic document management is moving colleges off paper-based systems.

When Grand Canyon University in Phoenix started its document management project a few years ago, the college stored roughly 15 file cabinets of records just for that school year alone.

Recognizing that the university needed a better way to manage documents, the department heads in human resources, financial aid and the various colleges were pushing for change.

The solution was FileBound document management software combined with a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. The FileBound software is the interface for document management, while the scanner transfers documents to a digital format.

“All our records were stored manually, in paper, in a big file room,” says Mark Johnston, CRM and FileBound administrator at the university.

“We needed a way to access records so that when a call came in, we could just bring up the information and handle the request in a simple phone call without putting the person on hold,” explains Johnston, who adds that the university also opted for FileBound because multiple users can look at a file at the same time.

After three years, Grand Canyon now has more than 1 million documents stored in FileBound. Johnston says the new system reduces manual errors, vastly improves customer service and cuts costs by reducing the number of records boxes the university has to pull from storage.

“It costs at least $50 to pull a box from Iron Mountain [the university's storage partner], so the new system has really cut our costs,” Johnston says. “Now, when a student calls in and asks one of our financial aid people if we received a form, we can respond immediately.”

Grand Canyon is one of many institutions that have moved away from a paper-based system to electronic document management.

“Higher education is in a transition,” says Brian Babineau, senior consulting analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. “Where there was once a paper-based system for grants and other funding methods, there's an electronic system replacing it.”

Colleges are looking for ways to make all of their data – from administrative forms and documents to classroom assignments and handouts – more available and more manageable for everyone, he says.

“Document management is important because there is so much information out there,” says Kathy Hoellen, director of teaching and learning services at Clemson University. “People are looking for a solution. They're digitizing information, but they may not be aware of the best way to present or manage it.”

Different Faces

Babineau says different combinations of document management technology can be used depending on individual needs across campus. While one department might scan paper documents to store them electronically, another department might make documents available online.

Two years ago, Clemson University was looking for ways to expand support of its distance-learning capabilities, says Hoellen. The university saw an opportunity to leverage its Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro multimedia content management software, as well as eliminate paper for students and faculty.

Clemson had used Connect Pro for synchronous online sessions for distance education. When looking for new applications for the software, the university decided to use it for support and communication during its implementation of Microsoft Outlook.

“Connect Pro became our virtual situation room,” Hoellen says, “a place to share support documents and connect distributed support personnel.”

The platform lets the university create online sessions that reach many people more effectively. For instance, large documents can be uploaded in their entirety, with basic information encapsulated in a “pod” displaying core information, with a link back to the complete document. This feature offers users more succinct information up front without having to sift through lengthy reports.

The school now reaches 58 Clemson sites, allowing shared documents, online presentations, research and classes. Hoellen estimates that with online shared documents, the school saves more than 1,000 reams of paper per year, not to mention the savings in travel, time and carbon emissions.

“We saw an increase of 1,000 percent last year” with the implementation of expanded online courses and document availability, she says.

Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper every year. That's enough to build a 12-foot-high wall of paper from New York to California.

Source: Earth911

Give Documents a Voice

Document management systems can sometimes go far beyond everyday administrative tasks to the very heart of the educational mission – providing an avenue of understanding and knowledge that did not previously exist.

Hood College in Frederick, Md., recently deployed two high-speed scanners – a Fujitsu fi-6240 and a Kodak i40 – along with Kurzweil 3000 text-to-speech software to help some of its students with disabilities.

Using the system, students who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other learning disabilities can scan chapters from their printed textbooks, while the Kurzweil software on a nearby server translates the print into audio files. Those files can be stored on their personal PCs for use when and where they need them, says Tom Kranz, disability services coordinator at the college.

The Kurzweil software also lets students adjust reading speed, highlights the text on-screen as it's being read and provides audible captions under photos, says Kranz.

The high-speed scanners also cut the scan time of a 40-page textbook chapter from 15 to 20 minutes down to about five minutes, he says, because textbooks have removable pages that allow them to be automatically scanned in bulk, without hand-feeding each page to the scanner. Because the Kodak scanner has duplex scanning capabilities, pages can also be scanned as double-sided documents.
Such flexibility has helped institutions get a handle on the ever-expanding ocean of paper documents. “The gains aren't so much in dollars saved,” says Babineau, but rather in work efficiency and effectiveness.

“Personnel no longer have to spend their time shepherding paper through the system, finding lost paper documents, or determining if the
correct version of a form is filled out correctly,” he says. “Electronic systems – which eliminate paper, track compliance and automate workflows – allow personnel administrators and faculty to make more informed, accurate decisions.”

 

 

 

 

Document management systems can sometimes go far beyond everyday administrative tasks to the very heart of the educational mission – providing an avenue of understanding and knowledge that did not previously exist.

Hood College in Frederick, Md., recently deployed two high-speed scanners – a Fujitsu fi-6240 and a Kodak i40 – along with Kurzweil 3000 text-to-speech software to help some of its students with disabilities.

Using the system, students who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic or have other learning disabilities can scan chapters from their printed textbooks, while the Kurzweil software on a nearby server translates the print into audio files. Those files can be stored on their personal PCs for use when and where they need them, says Tom Kranz, disability services coordinator at the college.

The Kurzweil software also lets students adjust reading speed, highlights the text on-screen as it's being read and provides audible captions under photos, says Kranz.

The high-speed scanners also cut the scan time of a 40-page textbook chapter from 15 to 20 minutes down to about five minutes, he says, because textbooks have removable pages that allow them to be automatically scanned in bulk, without hand-feeding each page to the scanner. Because the Kodak scanner has duplex scanning capabilities, pages can also be scanned as double-sided documents.

Such flexibility has helped institutions get a handle on the ever-expanding ocean of paper documents. “The gains aren't so much in dollars saved,” says Babineau, but rather in work efficiency and effectiveness.

“Personnel no longer have to spend their time shepherding paper through the system, finding lost paper documents, or determining if the correct version of a form is filled out correctly,” he says. “Electronic systems – which eliminate paper, track compliance and automate workflows – allow personnel administrators and faculty to make more informed, accurate decisions.”

The Sum of Its Parts

A document management system is a collection of integrated tools that convert paper documents into electronic forms that are more easily stored, accessed and managed. DMS technology falls into three categories:

  • Document imaging systems, such as scanners from Xerox and Fujitsu;
  • Electronic document management systems, such as IBM's FileNet content management system; and
  • Integrated document management systems, such as FileMaker Pro, that allow centralized, uniform control of databases.
<p>Steve Craft</p>

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May 24 2010

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