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Over the past decade, document management — the storage, management, and tracking of electronic documents — has become standard for large and small school districts alike, as reams of paper, file cabinets, and storage rooms have been replaced by server- and cloud-based solutions to house digital records.
Process automation takes document management to the next level. It replaces time-consuming and unstructured manual processes with streamlined, automated systems to improve productivity. With process automation, your district achieves efficiencies that are not possible with document management alone, which frees up time for administrators, teachers, and staff to devote to other initiatives — like providing high quality student services.
PRODUCTIVITY AND TIME SAVINGS.
Automating the processes around digital documents makes more of an impact on your district’s productivity than the initial transition to electronic records. As educators well know, many administrative functions can be cumbersome, even with digital document management. Using process automation, your district can streamline multi-step processes that often require form completion, approvals, signatures, permission to edit forms, and the need to share and access the forms later. With less time spent on these tasks, your teachers and staff have more time to focus on finding ways to better serve students.
SECURITY AND PRIVACY.
FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) are federal laws that protect the privacy and security of student records and personal information. The laws aim to prevent the use of students’ personal information for commercial benefit, as well as to stop the more serious abuses of discrimination, identity theft, and other malicious or criminal acts. In 2016, California enacted the first state law on student privacy and security, SOPIPA (Student Online Personal Information Protection Act ), and other states quickly followed suit. In the 2017 legislative session alone, data privacy was a focus of 93 state bills.
Despite the seriousness of these laws and the principles they protect, many districts may unknowingly expose their students to privacy and security risks by using free tools such as Google and Dropbox. In 2014, Google was sued for violating FERPA and exploiting student information for commercial gain, a case that forced the tech giant to change its practices.2 No district wants to find itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit where children’s rights have been violated. That’s why it is critical for your district to have adequate process automation and document management systems in place: to ensure confidentiality, data integrity, and compliance with state and federal privacy and security laws.
Strict processes for setting comprehensive permissions, and for handling changes in permissions from year to year, is an effective way to comply with privacy and security requirements. For example, classroom teachers will have access to their students’ IEPs one year but may be restricted the next year as class configurations change. Free and reduced lunch status is another area where information is restricted to a limited number of administrators to respect students’ privacy. Granting, managing, and updating all these permissions district-wide can be an administrative time sink at best without the right tools; at worst it can open a district up to errors, negative publicity, and lawsuits. The capacity to quickly and accurately manage permissions is a critical piece of any process automation system.