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3 ways to modernize your registrar's office to support student success

by Grace Ding


Considerations for a digital records management strategy

Time: 5 minute read

From registering for classes on their phones to using an intelligent locker for parcel pickup, students seek modern amenities when it comes to their college experience. But what about the paper-based, labor-intensive administrative areas such as student records and documents? When it comes to campus-wide modernization, these departments and processes are often overlooked — but can actually make a big difference in the success of your students.

You can transform your university by reducing paper and moving towards online forms, consolidated information and automated workflows in admissions, financial aid and student records. See how you can begin modernizing the administrative processes at your university — starting with the registrar’s office.

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Digitally track, monitor and store student records

Student information can come into your university from a number of different sources, including email, traditional mail and fax. These various pieces of information make up a student record. These records play a critical role in the student experience at your university, by allowing authorized parties to access the same set of accurate information at a glance. Using an automated workflow solution, you can automatically index, name, route and archive incoming documents in the system according to your pre-determined folder structures and naming conventions. With this information centralized in one place, it’s easier to get a more holistic view of the student’s record — instead of siloed, difficult-to-find information in different departments.

In addition to how records are compiled, you should ensure there is a consistent digital records management strategy throughout your institution. The process to collect, store, manage, organize and share your documents should be the same or similar across departments.

Smiling professor in classroom with hand raises

A successful records management strategy needs to address the following:

  • Constitutes records
    What does your institution needs to keep?
  • Retention schedules
    How long should you keep each type of document?
  • Disposition process
    How do you get rid of each document?

By managing your documents consistently, you can help your university comply with federal privacy regulations such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) — a federal privacy statute which regulates access to, and disclosure of, a student's educational records.1

Once your student records data is digitized, centralized and consolidated into a system that makes sense for ease of use and access as well as cross-departmental communication at your university, you can begin to use that data to take your efforts to support student success one step further.

Student on laptop logging in

Measures can include properly configuring security and access rights based on user type, applying tools such as audit trail to make sure actions taken on records are tracked, and quite possibly most obvious — digitizing paper records.

When physical documents are left in the open, not properly organized or even packed into a staff member’s take home bag to be worked on later, they have the potential to fall into the wrong hands, and for information to be compromised or stolen. When digital documents are saved improperly or on unsecured servers or networks, they too can be at risk for stolen or compromised information. An NBC News article stated that a hack at a large Florida university left 63,000 social security numbers of former students, staff and faculty members exposed.2

These kinds of hacking incidents can result in unfavorable media coverage for a university and also have a financial impact. As shown in the example above, while digital does not offer the same security holes as paper document, digital storage does still come with its own set of risks. Consequently, it is important to invest in a document management system with added security features such as the ability to hide sensitive material from unauthorized users and the ability to track changes made to the document.

Create transparent communications across constituencies

The bulk of a student’s information is collected during the admissions phase of enrollment. However, this information must be used, shared and accessed throughout the remainder of the student’s college career by various departments. In order to successfully and conveniently share and access this information, you must first digitize, centralize and consolidate it — not file it away in a cabinet or back office where staff members have to search for it. In fact, a typical employee spends 30-40% of their time looking for information locked in email and filing cabinets.3

A department can support its students and make informed decisions when it comes to their admission, financial aid or class and major changes when their information can be easily shared and accessed by a number of authorized parties. By digitizing records and loading them into a central repository that’s available to staff 24/7, on or off campus, staff and academic advisors can review students’ records and proactively reach out as needed. In the case study, Mobile Advising: Engage Students and Contain Costs, the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma states that digital records and mobile technology improved communication between students, departments and offices.4

Use analytics to support student success

Once institutional data is digitized and centralized into a system that makes sense for ease of use and access — as well as cross-departmental communication at your university — you can begin to use that data to take your efforts to support student success one step further. By having all information about a student at your fingertips, the registrar’ office, for example, can be alerted when a student changes their major multiple times in a given time period, and reach out to see if this student may need additional guidance when it comes to their academic goals, further increasing their chances of a successful, on-time graduation.

Modernize your administrative processes and support your students by taking the right steps to digitize, centralize, consolidate and protect their information.

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1 Privacy, Anonymity, and Big Data in the Social Sciences Jon P Daries, Justin Reich, Jim Waldo, Elise M Young, Jonathan Whittinghill, Andrew Dean Ho, Daniel Thomas Seaton, Isaac Chuang - https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2014/9/177926-privacy-anonymity-and-big-data-in-the-social-sciences/fulltext
2 University of Central Florida Hack Exposes 63K Social Security Numbers James Eng - http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/university-central-florida-hack-exposes-63-000-ss
3 Facts About Paper: The Impact of Consumption - The Paperless Project - Join the grassroots movement http://www.thepaperlessproject.com/facts-about-paper-the-impact-of-consumption/
4 Mobile Advising: Engage Students and Contain Costs http://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/4/mobile-advising-engage-students-and-contain-costs
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