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How to Simplify Record Management in Schools

Written by Jennifer Broflowski  on December 04, 2020

The beating heart of any school is not, as you may believe, the students or the teachers but its records. Every student that attends an educational institution, be it a public school, a private school, college or university, generates paperwork. Students, as well as staff and the school’s board of education, all produce vast quantities of files, records and documents, all of which need to be properly stored and made available to the relevant people at their request. With all these student records coming in and out of school districts, efficient and effective information management is essential. This article will highlight the necessity of a simple, and coordinated management solution for student records, and how schools can streamline their existing student information systems.

Student records are any and all documents created about a given student, either current or former, during their time at school. These include application reports, portfolios, exam scripts and medical records, all of which must be kept by schools and made easily accessible for the student, or their parents and teachers to view them when necessary. In many private, public and charter schools, as well as universities, these records are still stored in large archives, filled with shelves stacked up to roof with overflowing boxes.

Keeping hard copies of records comes with a plethora of issues and problems. Physical document storage is often very labour and staff intensive. Let’s say a school needs to find evidence to present to local government about a student’s income so they can receive financial aid. In the best-case scenario, the staff need to go to the archives, locate the student’s file, withdraw it, photocopy it and send it off before returning it to the correct file. This simple process still takes up to twenty minutes, and that’s assuming that the document in question has not been misfiled or lost, which could lead to untold hours of searching through each filing cabinet. Paper and ink record systems are prone to mistakes (such as someone looking for a file that has already been withdrawn) as well as theft, and unforeseen disasters such as fires or floods. If vital documents are stolen or destroyed ahead of their disposition schedule it can have significant repercussions for both the school and its pupils. While disasters like this are rare, they are still a large disadvantage of physical record management systems.

Thankfully, in the modern era, hard copies of documents are not the only solution. Many aspects of the education industry are moving towards increased digitization. Smartboards have now supplanted blackboards; Pupils can hold whole libraries and take their school districts home with them on tablets or kindles; and students can even order essay’s online. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that schools can purchase record management software, such as OpenKM, that specializes in introducing business process automation to the world of student record management.

Robotic process automation, using a record management program, protects against the problems of physical documents and offers numerous other advantages as well. Less staff are required to manage and sift through archives, whole rooms (once filled with boxes of paper) can be freed up for new classrooms, and electronic documents can be backed up with ease ensuring they are not destroyed by freak accidents. The Pennsylvania College of Technology is an example of how process automation can massively expedite and improve document management systems. This college not only converted all its educational records into electronic records, but also managed to empty their entire human resource department (a 20x30 room filled with filing cabinets) into a few hard drives. This massively saved on space, time and meant that the college only needed to hire two temporary archivists for admissions week, instead of the usual five. This is just one example of how electronic document management can streamline the educational business process. If you have ever used a digital library catalogue to find the right books or submitted an essay online, then you have already witnessed first-hand the efficiency that content management software can offer to professional learning.

Integrated student records are a massive benefit to business intelligence in schools. Schools with paper and ink document management systems often have poor business intelligence, with redundant, and unnecessary files being created frequently, or relevant files being impossible to access as they have already been taken out by another person. Document management software is designed by professional developers to address these issues by having good application integration. Most software is compatible with any model of a scanner or Smart printer, and files can be scanned from any such device, within a given school district, and sent to a central digital archive that then sorts the electronic forms to make them available to the right programs. The electronic record can be accessed by any authorised staff, student or parent and more than one person can easily view the same record. Document management systems like this make student information easily accessible, secure and provide instantaneous duplication and retrieval from the moment of document creation to the moment they are deleted.

Speaking of deletion, all records and files created by schools are subject to retention and disposition schedules. These are rules dictating how long a document must be kept and when it must be deleted or archived. In physical record management schemes, this is often done by shredding the documents. For most public schools, and any K-12 school that receives federal funding, the retention and disposition schedules are laid out by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA does not enforce specific guidelines on when documents should be destroyed, but generally, for temporary student files, such as application records, record retention applies for five years after the student has left school. Permanent records must be kept and archived for up to 60 years.  As stated above, this is not a binding rule and private schools or schools that do not receive state funding are not covered under this regulation. Many different student documents follow different retention schedules, such as those for students in special education, and keeping up with which files must be kept and which must be destroyed can quickly become confusing. This is why document management software can be programmed to follow these rules for you, automatically deleting or archiving records that have reached the end of their retention schedules. This ensures compliance with federal regulations and helps to reduce clutter from redundant or out of date information.

Electronic document management is vital for simplifying record management in schools. Many of the professional developers who make this software provide excellent community engagement and customer service. “If you are confused about how to implement these programs in your school, many developers provide helpful guides on how to use them in both PDF and live webinar format”, an expert from CraftResumes says. Moving to robotic process automation in record management is more cost-effective, efficient and, with all the different software providers out there, it has never been easier. So why not make a move in your school to get rid of the filing cabinets and replace them with scanners and hard drives.

Author's bio: Jennifer Broflowski is an established freelance writer who specialises in digital marketing. She is a versatile writer who has experience writing anything from creative copy to articles and useful tips to increase your productivity.

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