- Hard to access– Getting and using information within seconds, not days, is the norm in today’s global and mobile world. Paper lacks the immediacy and accessibility of electronic documents, and severely lengthens the time it takes for information to get from one person to the next. Paper can end up in the wrong file, mailed to the wrong address, or even in the trash – like at Intermediate School 47 in the Bronx, where 11 boxes of student documents were accidentally left on the curb. With electronic documents and workflow automation tools, you can create and route documents and data that can reach the right people, right away, without manual intervention. All they (teachers, principals, board members, students, and even parents) need is a device with internet connection and permission to access certain documents.
- The right information is harder to find – A study conducted by Deloitte & Touche found that U.S. managers spent an average of three hours a week looking for paper that had been misfiled, mislabeled, or lost. Electronic documents are easier to file and find because they can be indexed using keys like student ID, date, document type or other user-defines criteria. You can even use full-text searching, making it simple and quick to find important documents.
- Lack of process automation– Process automation is the intelligent management and routing of information through a business process or workflow. Using document management and distribution software, you can build rules to route, distribute and store electronic documents, reports and other data. At Passaic County Technical Institute, the database administrator used process automation tools to schedule reports to export and send themselves to the proper personnel every morning while she was away on vacation. You can also collaborate between departments or separate schools by sharing documents digitally so they can be reviewed, edited and saved.
- Unsatisfactory data collection and output quality – On paper, processes like school registration are muddied by guardians leaving fields blank, or secretaries misreading different kinds of handwriting. Using web-based form technology to collect and exchange information not only speeds up the process, but improves data quality. Software can be implemented in addition to data-capturing form technology to further improve data quality, such as type-ahead addresses verified through the USPS, and address purification mapping.
- Higher costs – Reams of paper, mailing expenses, manila folders, printer ink and repair – these things add up quickly. And let’s not forget the time it costs employees to manually enter data, file documents, retrieve them and scan them. Digital processes eliminates all of these costs once and for all.
- Slow return of approvals – Utilizing electronic signature solutions speeds up approval processes for external and internal documents. Electronic documents can be signed digitally and routed for the next step quickly, reliably and securely. This can speed up purchase requests, loan approvals, expense reports, contracts and much more. In terms of contact with parents, the electronic signature can facilitate the reception of report cards, permission slips, student handbook contracts, etc.
- Liability to regulatory compliance – Regulations such as HIPAA and FERPA require schools to take significant measures to maintain data confidentiality and integrity. Paper-based systems make tracking and managing data more difficult and expensive than digital document systems. Electronic document management systems can provide an audit trail of when documents are received or sent. Built-in security prevents unauthorized access, maintaining data confidentiality. FERPA also requires that parents be given certain student documents upon request within 30 days – with an electronic document management system they don’t even have to ask; they can simply be given an account and password for their student’s file upon enrollment.
- Its harmful to the environment– The world has begun to see the value in going green and reducing our carbon footprint. Going paperless by utilizing electronic document management systems and related technology helps cut down on deforestation and pollution.
- Improved service– Many customers prefer self-service over setting up appointments over the phone or waiting in line. The enrollment process during the start of a new school year in particular can create a long, long queue in the office. Providing electronic access to all relevant data not only gives customers more accurate and complete information, it makes them happier and more loyal customers. As does allowing customers or guardians to provide you with their relevant data. With certain software solutions, guardians can even access a calendar of open appointments and claim a slot for themselves without picking up the phone or visiting the school.
- Cluttered office space – A single filing cabinet holding 9,000 documents usually takes up about 20 sq. ft. in an office. Current estimates from author and efficiency researcher, K.J. McCorry show that 50-70% of space in an office are dedicated to filing and storing physical documents. Statistics also show that 3% of documents in each file cabinet are misfiled, and 45% of documents are duplicated information. That’s a lot of clutter and time spent sifting through it. With a virtual filing system, you’re saving the square footage in the office, around $300 per filing cabinet, and a whole lot of headaches that come with a crowded, less organized workspace.
Let’s face it – going back to school is a drag for everyone involved. Kids whine, parents have to replace all the outgrown school clothes and fill out all the paperwork, but the school staff have it worst of all – they’re left with the kids still sluggishly getting back into their school routine AND the mass amounts of documentation that comes with them. Registration packets may seem easy from the parents’ point of view, but registrars must tap into their inner cryptologists to decipher thousands of different handwritings, make calls to summon parents who left blanks in their paperwork, and then delegate all the paperwork to the proper person or file without losing a single sheet of paper. And that’s not even the half of it.
For most school districts, school choice is decided by a complicated set of factors, not just the potential students’ residential addresses. Economic status, special or gifted education needs, older siblings already assigned to a specific building – all these reasons and more can be used to assign students to the proper building within a district. This can be a slow, tedious, error-riddled process during registration time, because secretaries and registrars must work as fast as possible to make sure every student has a seat in their school on the quickly approaching first day. Throw in all the parents who register their kids on the last acceptable day and you’ve got utter chaos.
Once the registration information has been given and the students have been delegated to their proper buildings, those enrollment documents still have a long way to go before they can rest in their folders back in the main office. Copies of medical information must be made for the nurse, who must then relay health information to cafeteria staff, athletic staff, and to specific teachers. Address information must be given to transportation, and bus routes must be made quickly and with the utmost efficiency. Teachers and aides must be given student information pertaining to any specific needs of the children under their supervision.
After the chaos of registration is over, and all the students have a seat on their bus, in their classroom, and away from any allergens in the lunchroom, the documents must be sorted into their proper homes, usually within large file cabinets near the secretary (who may be looking a little too weary for just the first day of school).
Schools using a paper-based system have become very used to the whirlwind of tasks that comes right before the onset of a new school year, but there will always be mistakes. Parents will always leave blanks on forms, secretaries will always make typos when translating parent handwriting, and paper will always tear or go missing.
So it’s time for an intervention. It’s 2016 – it’s time to go digital. There are now highly sophisticated software solutions that allow technology to handle all student data from registration information, to automation of school choice decisions, to storage of student information in an easily accessible yet intensely secure digital warehouse.
It’s too accessible and secure not to switch to digital document storing, just ask the East Baton Rouge School Parish System, who just last year had a case of confidential student files stolenby an employee and hidden for over a year – some files are still missing. It’s too inconvenient for staff not to allow parents to register their children for school online (and the parents won’t complain, either), just ask the registration staff from Millburn Township Public Schools, who have eliminated months of staff effort and manual data entry in preparing for student registration by implementing Registration Gateway. It’s too simple and honest not to ensure the fairness and equality of a school lottery process using technology, just ask the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and Public Advocates, who just this month have flagged 253 charter schools for using discriminatory admissions processes.
How can software solutions help with these processes?
Online portals can allow parents to enter registration information, including school choice preferences, which immediately becomes available for review by the secretary at the office. With thorough digital processes, parents cannot move on to the next phase of registration without filling in all information deemed necessary by the school. Handbooks can even be scanned and made available during this process, saving a few trees and ensuring that parents must go through every page and accept the school’s terms and conditions. This saves a ton of money in paper and printing costs for school districts and simultaneously gathers the signed contracts from the parents. This is just one example of the flexibility of new digital record technology. What sets certain solutions apart from cookie-cutter digital forms is whether or not this information can flow directly into the SIS.
As aforementioned, each school district has a unique way of setting the rules for their student lottery. This may be to ensure that bus routes are as efficient as possible, or to make sure that each building within a district has the same amount of students receiving free and reduced lunch. School choice automating software uses algorithms to take a district’s specific rules and apply them fairly to students entering the lottery. It assigns a “weight” to each student measured by the factors determined by the school, and this allows the system to decide in which building the student should be assigned. This prevents parents from crying foul play if their child doesn’t get their first choice. It also prevents school personnel from tampering with the fairness of the process.
Finally, record-keeping software can provide a digital warehouse where each student’s file lives – saving a lot of space in the office previously inhabited by filing cabinets. It stores every document within the system, from the photocopy of the guardian’s ID card to the photo waiver that needs signing in order to take pictures of the kids during school. In short, every piece of data that has been in paper form – report cards, detention slips, hearing and vision tests – can now be stored online. This means that piece of paper with Johnny’s allergies – the one that went from doctor to parent to secretary to school nurse to cafeteria staff to teacher and back to the file – has simply been online the whole time. No photocopying, no lost documents, no liability.
There are a thousand reasons to go digital, but only one solution to all these issues – and that would be the Gateway Suite.
Phishing scams 101: Tips for protecting student data
POSTED JULY 3RD, 2016
In the digital age, technology is continuing to change and enhance almost every aspect of our lives. Schools in particular have benefited considerably from the introduction of digital platforms, which are increasingly replacing outdated paperless solutions. Platforms, such as school admissions software, can streamline the complex and detailed process of registration and store valuable patient data in a convenient and accessible way.
As with any data storage platform, however, sensitive information is vulnerable to theft from cybercriminals. According to Digital Guardian, cyber attacks have grown in frequency in recent years, and particularly phishing attacks, which your school district could be at risk from.
“Cyber attacks have grown in frequency in recent years.”
What is a phishing scam?
Phishing scams involve the theft of protected data which can enable the criminal to steal an individual’s identity. As Microsoft explained, phishing scams are highly sophisticated attacks that target individuals. They work like this: a school administrator may receive a faux email from an ostensibly reputable source, such as the principle or superintendent. The email will contain a URL link or attachment, which the recipient will be instructed to open or download. If the victim complies with the directions, the attachment or link will install malicious software on his or her computer, allowing the criminal to steal the protected student data.
Student information is particularly valuable to a cyber criminal because it may contain parental information such as home addresses and social security numbers. Sometimes a criminal will access the protected data in the same way, but instead of stealing the information will instead hold it hostage. This is known as a ransomware attack.
While phishing scams are somewhat rare, given the uptick in incidences in recent times, it’s important to be prepared. Here are a list of tips.
How to avoid phishing scams
- Educate all of your staff about how to recognize a potential phishing scam. There are usually a number of telltale signs that an email is inauthentic, Microsoft argued. Firstly, the email may contain a high number of grammatical errors. This is a big red flag that the message is from a malicious source, as most professional or official emails are checked for spelling errors. The second sign is to feel out what may seem unusual. Phishing emails will typical ask the victim to surrender important data, Norton reported. This may seem odd, especially if the supposed sender – such as the superintendent for example – hasn’t made such a request before. Staff should be instructed to always double check that an email is authentic before complying with instructions.
- Hold routine training seminars to ensure that everyone is educated on your school district’s cyber security protocols.
- Ensure that each school has an up-to-date and comprehensive cyber security infrastructure in place. This includes platforms such as anti-virus software and firewalls, Panda Security explained.
- Have experts come in and routinely inspect the IT system for any problems or potential security threats.
- Stay calm and exercise common sense. Most scams are easily recognizable. Use a level head and best judgment.
Schools throughout the U.S. education system face common challenges that interfere with the quality of student learning. Online systems designed to enhance tasks like conference scheduling and organizing student cumulative folders can help schools reduce the impact of these issues. Here are two obstacles that paperless solutions can help schools overcome:
Poor parent involvement
According to the Center for Public Education, research has shown that an estimated two-thirds of teachers believe their students would do better academically if their parents were more involved in their children’s education. Meanwhile, 72 percent of parents agreed that students with uninvolved parents were far more likely to “fall through the cracks” in school, as students with more attentive parents often receive the most attention from teachers.
School solutions can enhance parent involvement by making important student documents digitally accessible. Systems like SRC Solution’s Central Records Gateway offer parent-sharing features so they can log in from home and have updated documents like progress reports and behavioral assessments at their fingertips.
Automated conference scheduling systems, such as SRC Solution’s Conference Gateway, also increase parent participation in parent-teacher meetings, enabling parents to conveniently select an open meeting time online. This encourages parents to attend parent-teacher conferences, as it allows them to work around their own schedule and more efficiently plan ahead. They can also note specific questions or topics they want to discuss at the meeting so that the staff can better prepare beforehand and truly personalize and improve the quality of their parent-teacher relationships. This is important, as the National Education Association explained that only 48 percent of parents feel teachers hold efficient conferences, so detailing discussion points ahead of time can drastically improve the outcomes of meetings.
Lack of funding
The Atlantic noted that recent reports have shown schools across the U.S. are expected to do more for their students with increasingly less government funding as the years go on. This has put a lot of pressure on schools to reserve the money they do have for important student programs and other essential needs. Going paperless can assist districts in cutting back on yearly expenses. According to Aiim Community, most organizations that do away with paper-based workflows save over $500 per person each year in supplies like ink, paper and printers.
Address fraud is another common issue experienced by K-12 districts that ends up taking key funding away from schools. If it goes unnoticed, address fraud can cost schools millions each year. For example, The Hechinger Report explained that schools in Beverly Hills, California – which deal with at least one case of registration fraud each month – are charging parents with $150 for every day that their child was enrolled illegally in their schools, as they believe this is a fair equivalent of the funding they lost as a result. SRC Solution’s Address Purification Gateway automates the process of identifying falsified addresses to ensure your district’s money is spent properly and residential students are receiving the education they deserve.