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How Workflow Automation Can Improve Higher Education

At its peak in 2010, there were 21 million students enrolled in higher education in the United States.

Despite a slight decline in this number over the last few years, educational institutions must still deal with a colossal workload to make sure their students receive access to the resources they need to complete their studies. Universities often feel pressure to continue advancing themselves as successful academic institutions, as well.

Despite the rapid progress in technology and its use in other industries, too many universities still rely on manual processes for ‘behind the scenes’ work; for processes such as hiring, grant proposals, expense requests, vendor management, student processing and more. Manual processes lead to masses of paper files and disjointed processes relating to the administrative tasks that keep universities afloat. These processes are performed by both admin staff and educators for thousands of students each year.

The management of these processes is difficult, time-consuming and prone to mistakes. Staff end up frustrated with their backlog of work, and students become dissatisfied when their requests aren’t handled with efficiency.

Colleges and universities are increasingly embracing technology in the classroom, educating students on the latest tools and resources they need to be successful in the modern world. But they also need to take advantage of the available technology to update their internal processes.

Workflow automation is key to this evolution.

Major Issues with Manual Processes in Higher Education

Universities function in a similar way to large corporations. They both contain complex interactions between multiple individuals and departments, both internally and externally.

They must deal with enormous numbers of “customers” every year (more than 63,000 students were enrolled at the University of Central Florida in the 2015-16 academic year, for example).

So, it’s not a stretch to see how automated workflows can benefit these institutions in the same way automation provides benefits to an organization like a major bank.

In colleges of any size, thousands of hours of labor go into academic support. Not only in the student-body and faculty dynamic but also the support roles that keep the institution running smoothly. These include:

These include:

  • Administration – Registration, admissions, departmental coordination
  • Library and information – Research and acquisition
  • Human resource management – Staff development and training
  • Public relations and marketing – Promotion, alumni, community
  • Student welfare and support – Careers, counseling and advice, international and disabled student support
  • Financial management – Student financial aid, grants, staff finances
  • Health and safety – Student and employee safety

These roles often carry a lot of administrative work (in addition to teaching duties for faculty positions). Even if their processes for interacting with students are digital, a lot of them are mundane, everyday tasks that must be ticked off.

For example, organizing and mailing acceptance packets to new students or updating student records across the system at the end of each semester.

This amounts to a lot of time dedicated to repetitive duties which are at risk from human error. Automating these kinds of processes can speed up many administrative protocols, freeing up more time for university staff to work on projects of higher value.

Automating Internal Administration

The following is a simple example of how Nintex workflow solutions could be used to speed up one very common administrative process at colleges: requesting financial aid.

1.  The student sends the required verification documents to apply for financial aid. This sets the workflow in motion

2.  The student is automatically entered into a profile that contains a checklist used by college staff

3.  The document checklist is updated via Nintex Forms

4.  The Nintex workflow automatically notifies the student their application is under review

5.  The application is sent for verification

6.  Documents are checked, and any missing or further documents are automatically requested

7.  Nintex sends reminder notifications to internal stakeholders (i.e. the decision-makers) to prevent delays in the review process

8.  The review is completed and a decision is made

9.  An email is sent to the student informing them whether their request has been rejected or approved

This workflow process could be made even more efficient by setting various restrictions and allowances that would help process financial aid applications.

You could set filters on applications based on specific criteria, like if an applicant is an in-state or out-of-state student, set a total award limit, or put in place an automatic setting that made sure loan amounts didn’t exceed the cost of attendance, etc.

Nintex Can Improve the College Experience

Nintex workflow solutions include drag-and-drop design functionality which means workflows can be created in minutes with a few clicks by any staff member, rather than taking hours or days writing code.

By deploying workflow automation technology in higher education institutions, it will ultimately have a positive impact on productivity by replacing manual, paper-based processes.

The ease-of-use and self-service aspect of the Nintex Workflow Platform takes much of the effort from processes like those mentioned above. Combined with the ability to integrate seamlessly into existing infrastructure, it is a time-effective solution for educational institutions.

Rather than chasing paperwork, and processing tedious tasks, colleges should focus as much time as they can on more pressing matters at hand, like assisting students and improving their educational experience.

To learn more about how workflow automation can improve the internal processes of an institute of higher education read our whitepaper that delves deeper into the subject.


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