In this article we look at document management in educational organizations. We look at the typical functions of these organizations and the kinds of documents generated during these functions. We will also look at the management of these documents and the specific benefits that could be expected from a good document management system.
Though a great deal of documents and collaborative working are involved in developing syllabi and training materials, we do not look at this specialized area in detail. This academic function is a separate topic by itself.
A vast amount of information has to be maintained about each student, starting with the admission process itself and typically ending with the issue of a course completion certificate when the student completes the course and leaves the organization.
The records must show any changes in the studentsâ€™ contact and other personal details, course and billing details, and progress details, including achievements in different areas.
Different departments such as faculty and administration departments would access the student records. They must get uniform and up to date information at all times.
Access to student records should be allowed only for authorized persons. Information communicated about students should be accurate and should also be done in a confidential manner.
Parents and guardians should have access to the records of their wards.
In an electronic system, data does not need to be duplicated for reference purposes by different departments. Instead, student data can be entered just once into a central computer. Terminals attached to this computer can then be installed at all the departments for accessing student details whenever needed.
Password protecting access ensures appropriate system permissions are respected at all times. Parents and guardians could also be allowed access to the data, in this case limited to data about their wards. They can do this from their homes or even from abroad.
Compared to paper, a computer based system offers several advantages:
Reference is easy and can be done from anywhere. Paper documents have to be moved among people who want to refer to these types of documents. Such movement poses the danger of damage and loss.
With proper backup and other kinds of measures, damage and loss to computer-based data can be minimized, and preservation is easier.
Operating efficiency is far higher with instant access under a good document management system. Such a system makes retrieval of stored documents easy and intuitive. Locating and retrieving paper documents is a cumbersome process.
If paper documents are duplicated for ease of reference, possibilities of working with obsolete data becomes a risk. On the other hand, if everyone refers to the same data source in a central computer, where the latest update is clearly marked, this risk is eliminated.
Controlling expenditure is a difficult task with a paper-based system. The efficiency of the processes is so poor that you would be left behind competitors who use computer-based systems. This becomes clear if we look at the purchasing process.
Departments might initiate purchase requisitions unaware that the item is already in stock. In a computer-based system, they could check the stock position from their terminal before placing requisitions. Even though checking stock position is possible even in a paper based system, the personal interactions and time consuming verifications required often leads to it being neglected.
Several departments might place requisitions for the same item. If a purchasing process is initiated separately for each requisition, it would not only lead to more paperwork and time, but also to loss of quantity discounts and higher shipping costs. In a computer-based system, it would be easy to flag all such requisitions and club them into a single purchase action.
The purchasing process itself is made far more efficient and effective in a computerized environment. Requests for quotes can be emailed for immediate response, quotations can be compared faster, negotiations can be recorded automatically and orders placed quickly. Pending orders can be tracked more efficiently using flags to alert you when shipments are delayed.
Areas like recovering your dues could also be facilitated and even automated to some degree by using computerized document management systems. Student billing and reminders could be automated and up to date status reviewed at any time.
With budgets, you could develop a financial plan that considers availability of funds. With computerized accounts, expenditure can be tracked against budgets and flagged when the levels reach allocated amounts. The danger of running out of cash is thus minimized.
A Web community of your alumni could be developed for maintaining a continuing and interactive relationship. Students leaving your organization could be encouraged to register at the community, enabling them to keep in touch with their old schoolmates.
You could use the community to keep your alumni informed about the developments at, and achievements of, their old school or college.
In such an environment, it would be far easier to receive donations and other kinds of support from your old students.
Benefits of A Good Document Management System
As detailed above under relevant sections, with a well-designed and computerized document management system, particularly one that is Web-based, it becomes possible to derive specific benefits.
Keep student information up to date, confidential and yet accessible to authorized persons
Improve both internal and external communications for building good relationships and facilitating effective performance
Exercise tight budgetary control over expenses and streamline purchasing procedures to keep outgo of funds within its availability
Improve availability of funds through prompt collections of dues and effective management of donations
Improve accountability at all levels and help build a professional image of the organization among donors, parents and the community
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