School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) goes digital

The School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) based in Western Australia has significantly reduced its manual enrolments administration with a solution from Konica Minolta and FileBound.

SIDE offers distance education for students from kindergarten to year 12 who are usually based in remote or rural communities, overseas, or in metropolitan partner schools. They can study full-time or part-time, completing one or more subjects with SIDE specialist teachers and the rest of the curriculum with their base schools.

As a distance education facility, SIDE provides most of its services online. Yet the admissions process still required paper-based forms and manual actions. SIDE needed to implement a solution that would let the school process admissions and enrolment forms electronically but still align to the WA Department of Education’s policies.

Tundie Jones, Deputy Principal Primary, SIDE, said, “We had been saying for years that we needed an online process but hadn’t found the right solution despite searching for one.”

“Having a manual process didn’t fit with the school’s ethos of modern, online learning. It didn’t allow for automatic information checking, also opening up the possibility for human error, and creating significant extra work for both teaching and administrative staff.”

“Additionally, it created bottlenecks because people would submit incomplete enrolment forms that needed supporting documentation or additional information. The school couldn’t finalise these enrolments until all that information was together. Having it all in paper form meant multiple paper copies and the potential for elements to get mislaid as they moved from person to person.”

Due to the nature of the students SIDE caters to, there is a steady stream of enrolments throughout the year, as well as the seasonal peaks that coincide with new school years and terms.

Tundie Jones said, “The system we used prior to FileBound relied heavily on manual operations and required teaching and non-teaching staff to be involved. This was at a significant cost to the school because it required multiple staff to pitch in, taking time away from their core roles.”

SIDE had searched the market for approximately five years and put out a tender before hearing about FileBound from Konica Minolta.

Tundie Jones said, “We set up a meeting to review the solution and it was clear that FileBound would work for SIDE. We considered potential issues and worked with Konica Minolta to minimise the risk for the school.”

SIDE chose FileBound because it could be used on any device, which was important because the school wanted to make it easy for people to enrol via laptops, smartphones, or tablets. The system could also be integrated with the school’s existing student management system.

FileBound let SIDE create a customised, online enrolment form that walks the prospective student through the steps required. If at any point a piece of information or supporting documentation is not immediately available, the process stops until the prospective student provides that information. This way, SIDE can ensure that no incomplete forms are submitted.

Tundie Jones said, “The online forms make it far less likely that human error will creep into the process, because the system can automatically check things like email addresses or phone numbers, to make sure they’re correct.”

“Once the form is complete and submitted, FileBound creates a workflow that sends the form to the right people for approvals. The information on the forms is then extracted into the student database and the form itself is archived for easy auditing.”

Konica Minolta supported the school throughout the planning and implementation process. This included providing user training, which helped facilitate the school’s change in systems and assuage any concerns staff had.

Tundie Jones said, “Implementing FileBound meant a job change for a lot of people, with administrative assistants taking on more responsibility for enrolments. But that also meant that teachers could take less responsibility for the paperwork and spend more time on teaching.”

“Moving to the online process has saved a significant amount of time that would otherwise have been spent chasing information and manually inputting data.”

Enrolments involve a large amount of paperwork including birth certificates, immunisation records, proof of address, and more. The school must comply with government requirements and be auditable.

Tundie Jones said, “The online forms have made enrolments much smoother. Parents start the process and simply work through it until it is complete. Only once each stage is complete does it flow through to the relevant staff for processing, which saves a lot of time.”

“As a result, staff members no longer need to chase people for information. Instead, they can simply process and respond to the application. Everything is in a single location, so no elements can be lost. And, because the system is electronic, we no longer need to store so many paper documents in physical filing cabinets, so we can save space.”

Following the success of the FileBound implementation, SIDE is working with Konica Minolta on another project for professional learning applications within the school. It is anticipated that this project will streamline professional learning applications and transfer responsibility from teaching staff to clerical staff, which is a more appropriate use of resources.