Considerations for a digital records management strategy
Time: 5 minute read
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.
A successful records management strategy needs to address the following:
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
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.
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