Consumers in most industries expect digital experiences. Our 2023 Communication with Educational Systems Study shows that the education industry is no different.
We talked to 1,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 years old about the challenges they experience when conducting business with an education system. We spoke to participants from different genders, ethnicities, and financial and generational backgrounds.
Our findings show that conducting business with school districts and charter schools frustrates Americans. The way educational institutions interact with families does not reflect the needs of their community or how digital technology is shifting into focus. Our respondents expressed their desire for fewer paper-based processes within schools and districts. Districts and charter schools must consider these frustrations by listening to the community's needs and digitizing their administrative operations and communications for staff, students, and families.
Why paper-based processes in educational institutions are frustrating
Generation X and Baby Boomers tend to have more access to paper-based technology like printers, copiers, and fax machines. Although, these older generations have dwindled down to a small percentage of families being served in K-12 today.
According to our study, younger generations, lower-income families, and households who don’t speak English or Spanish rely more on digital technology. These are the demographics that represent a large majority of K-12 stakeholders across the country. So when school districts rely on antiquated technology, they're isolating the majority of families.
58 percent of surveyed respondents reported that relying on paper-based transactions is a thing of the past. They become frustrated when districts or charter schools require them to print, pay by check, or fax documents to complete the necessary documentation for their students This frustration stems from having to jump through hoops to complete these specific tasks without quick access to paper-based technology. For example, a lower-income parent endures paying for transportation to a business offering printing services, a printing fee at said business, and any hourly wages lost due to taking time off work to get this done and return to school within its hours of operation.
The fact of the matter is that the old way of doing things doesn’t account for the ever-changing needs of families that come with the evolution of technology and the inequities in our society. This leads to understandable frustration and a lack of communication and engagement.
How online systems improve the way administrative staff interact with families
Your administrative staff's priority is serving the needs and well-being of students and their families. However, relying on paper-based processes is slowing them down.
The slower your team operates, the fewer people they can serve. Your staff is enduring this inefficiency and the cumbersome reality of completing tedious, paper-based tasks. Our report found 45 percent of school district members would prefer to exchange information over an online system over the next 2 to 3 years.
Digitizing your district's daily operations shows your staff you value their time and ability to oversee tasks that focus on program and department improvements. They will feel more appreciated when they have the proper resources to increase productivity and the success of their students and families.
Over 70 percent of our survey respondents said they feel schools could digitize many customer services. Acquiring paperless enrollment and digital records management solutions that provide online payments and mobile access will set your digital transformation journey into motion.
How going paperless improves the customer experience
Families want interactions with their student’s schools or districts to be quick and efficient. Participating in manual paper-based processes takes too much time and effort. They're able to rely on digital technology in most aspects of their lives, so communicating with their child's school should be no different.
We've found 76 percent of Americans want more efficient access, service, and communication from school districts.
Printers, fax machines, and copiers are obsolete. Today’s digital technology solutions replace these older processes and increase security and confidence for all parties involved. Members of your community particularly don't trust outdated processes that require using devices they're less familiar with.
Our report shows that 46 percent of Americans are not confident in schools because they still use so many paper-based processes.
Earn the community's trust by learning about and leveraging the technology they use. Ask about the devices and mediums of communication they prefer and implement their feedback in your system. Responses are likely to indicate families feel more comfortable exchanging information with administrators through a secure online platform.
After implementing the use of digital technology, give time for students, staff, and families to overcome the inevitable learning curve that comes with change. Once the dust has settled, constituents will begin to enjoy the accessibility, security, and ease of use that come with digital alternatives.
How online systems improve perceptions about the environmental impact
Not only will digitizing your operations reduce frustration from your families and staff, but the switch will minimize your district's environmental impact. People are concerned about the plethora of paper used at schools and districts. They realize digital replacements exist that don’t cut down 8 billion trees per year or contribute to 26% of total waste at landfills like paper does.
That is why we weren't surprised by the 65 percent of Americans in our study who reported the paper required to interact with government agencies is bad for the environment.
Paper powers copiers, fax machines, and printers. When your district relies on these products, you are contributing to deforestation and waste generation. People are grateful for the opportunity to do their part for the environment and communicate digitally—you just need to give them the option.
Scribbles Software helps school districts on their journey to go paperless. Instead of staff and family members printing and faxing forms, applications, and required documents—use electronic K-12 enrollment and choice solutions.
K-12 student records management solutions for storing and processing online records also help to save paper. Especially when staff sometimes stores and sends significant amounts of paper documentation to properly record a single IEP or any other special need or circumstance associated with a student.
Plan ahead: Don’t wait to go paperless
Paper-based processes may still be serving some families now, but the shift to digital technology is already underway for most Americans.
Change takes time. Planning changes over the next 2 to 3 years will simplify the process and ensure decision-makers and implementation teams are not rushing the rollout and training for staff, students, and families. A 2 to 3-year timeline will also instill a healthy sense of urgency for school and district staff to start looking for digital software solutions that best fit the unique needs of their stakeholders.
For schools ready to make the transition to managing documents or processes online, consider technology partners offering the features that matter to community members the most.
Automated messaging via email, voice messages, and SMS
Online payment systems and dashboards
Friendly customer service
Going digital reduces frustrations with your school district
If your district is still printing records, your staff and community are probably unsatisfied with the way your district is doing things.
Paper-based processes in schools and districts are frustrating for many families. Especially those from younger generations, lower-income households, and households that do not speak English or Spanish because they have less access to the resources needed to complete these tasks with paper.
Digitizing student records and enrollment improves the customer experience, the well-being of staff, and also reduces the school or district’s carbon footprint.
- How the Digital Divide Favors Older Generations of Parents
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benefits of going paperless!