Expert Viewpoint

Enterprise-Grade Workplace Productivity Tools Can Be Transformative for Educators

Solutions Adopted in the Corporate World Can Save Schools a Lot of Time, Money, and Waste

Most schools are open again for in-person instruction, but national test scores show student progress has slowed and preexisting gaps for at-risk populations have widened. Teachers are leaving the profession in droves — burnout has 55% of U.S. teachers looking for an early exit — and a tight labor market makes replacing them harder. Parents and school administrators are also frustrated, and the prospect of new COVID-19 variants adds to the tension.

Technology can alleviate some of these challenges, and K–12 district and school administrators and tech-savvy educators have come up with many creative solutions to enhance the learning process with technology.

The pandemic forced many educators and school administrators to embrace classroom technology, leading to enhanced communication channels for teachers, students and parents. Public schools’ tech adoption surged during the peak months of the pandemic lockdowns, and the sector has steadily grown ever since, with an emphasis on virtual meeting apps and collaboration tools.

Yet educators and administrators are still struggling with the many inefficient processes that cause unnecessary work, miscommunication, and duplicate data entry — which all take a toll on teachers, administrators, and parents.

Schools can streamline administrative processes and enhance staff collaboration with workplace productivity solutions that have been made popular by some of the world’s largest and most-respected companies. Enterprise-grade technologies to digitize processes as foundational as human resources paperwork, for example, can provide schools some of the same kind of efficiency and data-access gains that businesses have experienced through digital transformation.

Eliminating Paperwork and Manual Data Entry

In addition to technology designed specifically for educational settings, schools have already adopted some of corporate-world tools to get through the COVID crisis — most notably, video conferencing technology. But administrators and educators can streamline processes, save money, and improve morale by using other digital tools to collect data, circulate information, and reduce paperwork.

Paper-based processes and manual data entry waste time and money. In the U.S., schools use approximately 32 billion sheets of paper per year. This costs each school about $16,000 dollars annually, and it has a huge environmental impact. Affordable, enterprise-grade workplace productivity software can enable schools to reduce the amount of paper and data entry dramatically — without any impact on instruction.

This case study of a charter school district in Nevada details the schools’ switch from a paper-based registration process to a digital forms solution. So instead of handing parents a 60-page packet of forms to fill out and return for manual data input by school staff, the school now uses online forms and receives registration data in a digital format, eliminating manual work and saving a massive amount of limited resources.

Digitizing the registration process had other benefits, too. The school used a software system with tables and workflow capabilities, which allowed them to use filters to add color coding by acceptance status and attach notes to applications so people involved in decision-making could quickly understand where each application was in the process. The digital platform also allowed the school to set up automated actions like forwarding an application for next-level approval once it met the requirements administrators set up on the back end, keeping the process moving.

Keeping Data Safe While Enabling Collaboration

Schools can also use enterprise-grade digital productivity tools to protect student privacy and enable more collaboration. For example, when schools apply for funding programs, they often must collect financial and personal data from students and their families to determine eligibility and demonstrate community need. But parents and students may be understandably reluctant to provide sensitive information on an online form unless they are sure it will be safely stored.

There are digital workplace productivity tools that store data in a dedicated server that meets HIPAA privacy standards, which can reassure parents that their families’ personal information will be safe. With the right software, schools can also leverage calculation functions to eliminate the need to manually transfer information into spreadsheets, which may not have strong data protection features.

A secure digital productivity platform can also help educators automate such time-consuming tasks as collecting signatures from parents or personnel who authorize education plans, which is common in the administration of special-needs programs. A platform that lets the school embed a digital signature field in an online form dramatically simplifies collecting signatures and enabling collaboration on education plans.

Secure data storage is also a key feature schools should look for when selecting workplace productivity software. With secure data storage, schools can pre-fill forms, saving students, teachers, and parents valuable time. And when regulations don’t require the school to submit a physical document, the system can also eliminate the need to print and store material, freeing up space and reducing the amount of paper used in the school.

Moving Toward Digital Transformation in Education

Technology has changed the way businesses operate, enabling companies to work smarter, not harder. Ed tech solutions such as learning management systems, online teaching platforms, and classroom management software can help teachers do their jobs more efficiently and deliver remote instruction when necessary.

Enterprise workplace productivity tools that allow educators and administrators to seamlessly distribute and collect information can help schools operate even more efficiently. By reducing the volume of paperwork, eliminating manual data entry, and enabling collaboration in a secure environment, enterprise workplace productivity tools can help schools achieve digital transformation.

About the Author

Chad Reid is vice president of marketing and communications for JotForm, an online form software provider used by small and large enterprises across every sector around the world. He holds a master’s degree in communication and lives in Oakland, California.