Student records – transcripts, admissions, & registrations, board minutes, and human resources make up a good part of the documentation collected, stored, and interacted with in the education sector. Given the unique retention requirements, many of these documents must be securely stored for years. With that comes a similar level of resources devoted to management of it all. Over time, paper-based records management in educational settings has become an expensive, complicated, and resource intensive task – from school districts through higher education settings.
Is there an alternative to manually retrieving and filing documents in an education setting? Yes and here is a real world example. The following was the situation P. Perretta (Kirtland Local Schools) was in, some of the difficult scenarios she encountered in managing school records, along with the solution that was settled on. The types of educational records in this example included student records, board minutes, W2 forms, and other personnel records. Student records received the highest priority initially. Coleman Data has and continues to go through their archived records, sort and scan them, then put them into a searchable electronic index for both secure storage purposes and easy future use.
The Document Storage & Retrieval Setting
We found ourselves going into the archives in the basement and just rifling through boxes to try and find information that we needed. It was very cumbersome to go in search of records. We had them in several different rooms. More than the inconvenience of finding the information we wanted, we were just worried that something was going to happen, that we would not be able to access the records at all at some point.
The Difficulty in Managing Volumes of Paper-based Documents
It has been extremely tedious. For example, if I had a teacher who was here in 1968 – and this is exactly one scenario – she told me she thought she worked here in about 1968 but was not very specific. She needed information as to when she was here. I had to go through years of board minute books and try to scope out her name – taking my index finger and going up and down pages. Now, Coleman Data is in the process of doing our board minutes for us and converting them to a searchable format so that all we really need to do then is go in and put in their name to find the record. This, instead of hours and hours of searching.
The Search for a Solution
We went to Akron to meet with them and thought we had a real behemoth on our hands, but when Paul and Bob (Coleman Data’s salesmen) saw our records, neither thought much of it. We showed them our storage rooms downstairs that are just packed to the gills with boxes that are marked but in no particular sequence or anything, and they said that’s okay, give them to us and we will figure it out. They explained the entire process to us, introduced us to the people that would be doing our job – showing us what they do and how they would go about it. Paul pulled out a folder and showed us that they would scan the front and back of the folder. Some of them had writing on them and notations. He showed us how they would treat pictures and the other various items within each folder and how they would catalog them and everything.
Solution Found – Now the Benefits
We saw a benefit immediately. There was an immediate benefit. They gave us CDs that we actually own, keep, and can access without using proprietary software. The records are easily searchable. Sandy has people asking for student records back from the 70s and things like that. The days after Sandy got the CDs from Coleman, she said look at this. She said that all I did was pop this in and before this would have taken me a couple of hours. She can now type in a name and the approximate year that they graduated and she can pull up transcripts at the drop of a hat. It is quite a difference. In fact, I have some retired teachers that have told me they cannot find their certificates and they want to renew their certificates and can’t find their transcripts. It is like a weight off me, not to have to go to the basement and wondering; how am I going to do this? I have all of the W2 forms in perpetuity for all of our employees and we are continuing to sift through things that we would really like to pass along for Coleman Data to do.
Coleman Data has been a godsend. From the minute they got here, they have understood exactly what we needed, the format that we needed. They even went to our former storage company and tried to figure out a way to convert the information that they could get from there. We did have CDs but they were not even readable. The tech fellow at Coleman Data figured that out, and everything we have asked them to do they have figured out and done without fail.
The document management solution for this public school scenario involved imaging and indexing various educational records. The tools to get there being high-end scanning equipment for the imaging piece and data entry services to build the index. The electronic documents are then integrated with the existing software at the school. Imaging and indexing is both a solution in itself to document management, or a large part of a ground-up, integrated solution – the latter involving dedicated DM software.
Many educational DM consumers start with the imaging piece as it gets to the bottom of the largest, most unwieldy problem – gaining control of the massive volume of records.
- Electronic solutions provide truly secure storage – unlimited and easily accessible backups, while restricting access
- Ease of interaction with documents – they can be interacted with in a fraction of the time in comparison to paper records
- Document retention requirements – 100% compliance achieved with an electronic solution
The whys of transitioning to electronic record keeping in education have clear security related and functional benefits. There is also a large cost savings and return when investing in digitizing your educational records – more on that here.
In addition, there is great flexibility in when and how many documents will be converted, being entirely up to the educational institution to decide the period that best fits their needs. As seen in the example, this school system prioritized student records as having the most importance. Regardless of your needs, you can choose to have some or all of any type of documents converted on your own schedules.
Coleman Data Solutions is an approved MCOECN vendor. Come see us at the OSBA trade show November 12-13 in Columbus and explore the document management solutions available for educational organizations.