According to EDUCAUSE's 2017 Top 10 IT Issues report, the top priority for higher education IT this year is improving student success. Driven by concerns around the value and outcomes of higher education, institutions are especially looking to leverage technology to assist with process optimization and process re-engineering opportunities to better support changing student demographics.
For Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC), one of the largest community colleges in Oregon, focusing on student success meant taking a look at how transcripts are evaluated for the large volume of transfer students that apply to the college every year. This transcript evaluation process is vital to incoming students for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Ensuring placement in the correct courses/meeting prerequisites
- Speeding up degree completion
- Avoiding duplication of course registration/work
- Maintaining compliance with special admissions requirements
"The transcript evaluation process at LBCC was problematic for students and staff. It took an average of six to eight weeks to have a transcript evaluated, and our process organization and communication with students was lacking or non-existing," said Amy Sikora, Assistant Director for Enrollment Progression and Technology.
From Bottleneck to Breeze
With the legacy process, staff used a spreadsheet to log transcript evaluation request information and results. The process was manual-heavy and unintuitive, and was identified as a bottleneck to student success. Systems weren’t synchronized, which resulted in multiple points of data entry. It was difficult to locate where a transcript was in the process, and students were not notified until the evaluation had been completed. This resulted in many calls and inquiries from students wanting to know if their transcript has been received and the status of the evaluation.
Ultimately, staff spent as much time, if not more, on locating transcripts and documenting evaluation results as they did in the actual evaluation portion of the process. Data was not always completely secure because of the use of multiple products and multiple vendors.
Confronted with these challenges, Sikora and her team implemented the Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM) system to centralize and automate their transcript evaluation process.
With the improved process, transcripts are scanned or imported into the Laserfiche repository upon receipt, and named and indexed using metadata extracted from the document. Students are automatically notified via email and prompted to fill in an online Transcript Evaluation Request form. Once the form is received, Laserfiche routes the relevant transcript to the evaluator team for review. Evaluation decisions are logged in the metadata and students are notified of the decision via email.
The benefits of the new process have been transformative. Evaluation time has decreased from as long as eight weeks to just one week or less, and the solution has enabled evaluators to spend the bulk of their time on their core responsibilities instead of on manual tasks such as data entry. Transparency and communication with students has also vastly improved, as they are kept in the loop about the status of their transcript throughout the whole process. In the event that they do contact LBCC regarding their transcript, staff are able to easily locate the relevant request and provide timely updates.
"Laserfiche has been a great investment for our department," says Sikora. "We used paper forms before, and had to decipher student handwriting, documentation would get lost, and the process was clunky at best. Now students can access the forms online, and they are routed through to appropriate staff for processing, and the student is notified though each step of the way."
Energized by the success of the process re-engineering initiative for transcript evaluation, Sikora and her team are pursuing ways to expand their Laserfiche implementation to other areas in the department and across campus.
"We are using Forms for many departmental processes such as student appeals, international student supplemental application materials and are actively working toward getting the whole college to use Laserfiche," Sikora said.
Grace Ding is a Higher Ed Marketing Specialist at Laserfiche.