Document Imaging
Student advisement, records folders go paperless

Blizzards of paper blow seasonally into Admissions, the Registrar’s Office and academic advisers’ offices across campus, drifting high and costing work, time and more than occasional search parties.

A long anticipated project to melt all that paper, digitizing students’ enrollment and academic records from application to graduation, is under way.

Kelly Deso scans documents.Called “document imaging” after a portion of software vendor SunGard’s Banner Document Management Suite, the project has the potential to eliminate ranks of filing cabinets, decades-old boxes and rooms full of yesteryear’s student records, as well.

“The paper chase here has grown 100 percent in the last 10 years or so,” said Dan Griffin, associate director of admissions and a key member of a cross-campus team that has met for nearly two years to launch a project first discussed at least six years ago.

“Secretaries and students used to spend hours a day just alphabetizing them by student. Now schools like ours can scan in and upload digitally each piece of paper that comes in. Once it’s indexed to the student, no more wandering the office to see who has the (student’s) file.”

Paperless folders have made their way into at least a half-dozen academic departments for the spring semester, as part of a pilot involving mid-year transfers and a handful of entering freshmen—about 300 students in all.

Admissions is way ahead of the curve, changing its entire workflow to digital for an expected 13,000 applicants for fall 2011. Campuswide go-live is scheduled for fall, when 2,200 new freshmen and transfer advisees will be in the system.

“It’s a big change,” said Jessica Reeher, advisement coordinator for communication studies and a member of a campus committee implementing the system in academic departments. “I think it’s going to fundamentally change the way we advise students.”

Instant access

Chief Technology Officer Joe Moreau, whose Campus Technology Services department has re-engineered SunGard’s document management software to work with Oswego’s implementation of Banner, said the software and hardware cost about $150,000, including scanners for Admissions and Registrar and dual monitors for employees who deal with transcripts and other documents that must be viewed life-size.

“They (users of Banner across campus) will come to understand they are gaining access to a lot of things they’ve wanted and have never had,” Moreau said. “We’ve had a remarkably strong, positive response from the advising community.”

For example, as soon as an often-lagging high school transcript enters a student’s digital folder, everyone on campus who needs to see it has instant access.

Records privacy, of course, has been at the forefront. A student’s folder can contain everything from academic-progress (CAPP) reports to change-of-major forms, from disciplinary records to comments from admissions counselors and academic advisers. The software has levels of security built in on a per-document, need-to-know basis.

Digital archives

Associate Registrar Shelly St. John said it would be years before document imaging is fully implemented in her department.

“It will take a year to scan in all current (undergraduate) students’ records,” St. John said. There are more than 7,200 undergraduates; Graduate Studies will follow. “It will take us three to five years to fully transition,” she said.

The decision has been made to then work through tens of thousands of archived folders. The Registrar’s Office has a legal obligation to keep certain student records for seven years, St. John said, and maintains permanent record cards for those who attended Oswego going back decades.

Orientation changes

Michelle Bandla, coordinator of first-year programs, and Jacqueline Campbell, assistant director of advisement, are on the front lines of document imaging, training advisers how to access and deal with student records through MyOswego. The next sessions are scheduled for noon Feb. 16 and 3 p.m. Feb. 18. Any advisers across campus may sign up and attend the one-hour training.

“We will also no longer be making paper folders for orientation, so summer and first-year advisers will need to be trained,” Bandla said.

The transition won’t be easy and it won’t go flawlessly, Griffin said, but he’s certain, from studying results at other campuses, it will be worth it.

“My mantra with the staff is, ‘Just survive the first year and then we’ll be fine,’” he said.

PHOTO CAPTION: Paper cuts—Kelly Deso, senior accounting major and Admissions Office student worker, scans and indexes documents in Sheldon Hall. It’s a key part of the pilot project, soon campus routine, to go paperless for students’ academic records.

(Posted: Jan 15, 2011)