Four apps that can accelerate your school’s digital transformation

A woman uses a smartphone to scan the barcode.

More than 70 percent of education leaders agree that digital transformation is critical to institutional success, a September 2021 Hotwire survey reports. And it’s easy to see why. As the pandemic continues to multiply administrative headaches, a little technology can go a long way in reducing admin workloads.

And getting started is easier than you might think. You can “go digital” by using scanning apps to convert paperwork to paperless documents. You can “stay digital” by digitizing document workflows with e-signature tools. And you can truly “be digital” by automating your school’s workflows and systems — all through apps optimized for educational environments.

Start your school’s digital transformation journey by converting paper docs to digital

Research indicates that 77 percent of U.S. education workflows rely on time-consuming, error-prone pieces of paper. Paper forms are all too easy for students to lose and for parents to misplace. They often take weeks to get signed and find their way back to your office. Along the way, they can get smudged, torn and wrinkled beyond legibility. And once they have reached your desk, it may take months to work your way to the bottom of the pile — just in time to start on the next round of time-consuming paperwork.

Making the switch to digital documents is simpler than you might expect — and it can start at the individual classroom level. Many teachers and admins now use the Adobe Scan app to convert paperwork into high-definition PDF files. This app runs on any iOS or Android device (like an iPhone or a Samsung tablet). It uses the device’s onboard camera to capture a photo of any document, from a handwritten homework assignment to an application or contract.

Once you have captured the first page of a document, Scan lets you adjust and crop the borders — then add more pages as needed or rearrange pages you have already scanned. The app then exports a PDF file, which is easy to share via Google Drive, Dropbox or email. Simply by scanning paper documents, schools can cut down significantly on waste both in the classroom and the back office, while reducing the costs of paper and postage along the way.

Plus, in today’s remote-work world, most parents and students have found they are more comfortable with digital documents than with paper ones. So by converting paper forms to PDFs, your staff can create a sense of continuity between remote learning environments and your brick-and-mortar location — helping ease the transition back to in-person education.

Adobe Acrobat supports that transition by building on Scan’s functionality — making it easy to convert any paper form into a fillable PDF file, which can even be pre-filled with the most likely responses to common questions. The resulting PDF can be stored in the cloud, which means it is impossible to lose or misplace, even if the recipient loses the link. What’s more, PDF forms can be electronically signed in seconds — reducing processing time to just hours or even minutes per form.

“Stay digital” by replacing “wet” signatures with e-signatures

Every “wet” signature on a paper form adds processing time and increases the likelihood of having to return or reject a form due to a missing signature. Even a signed piece of paper can be risky, since it can be difficult to verify whether the person in question actually signed it. Even after you have collected and verified a signature, a single lost sheet may require you to restart the process from scratch. So it is easy to see why 25 percent of educators at both the K-12 and higher-ed levels have switched to e-signatures over the past year.

Adobe Acrobat Sign simplifies the process of electronically signing documents from any device, by automatically scrolling to each location where a signer needs to add their signature, the current date, or other information, and highlighting the relevant field. Once a field has been filled in, the Sign app instantly hops to the next location where input is needed and can even pre-fill repetitive fields with information from previous ones.

Most conveniently of all, Sign can be used at any time, from any compatible device — and can even save a legally binding signature collection for any user who creates an account. From consent slips and liability waivers to individualized education program (IEP) forms, digital signature apps are helping parents, faculty and students handle forms more quickly and effortlessly.

Fully automate workflows and data management through cloud storage apps, which provide centralized security for sensitive student records

A full 50 percent of educators cite “easier access to information” as the main driving force behind their digital transformation, followed closely by operational and time savings. That’s because traditional paper files have to be stored in bulky file cabinets that take up a ridiculous amount of space and are often challenging to organize and search — making it difficult to find the right documents when you need them. In light of these frustrations, it’s no wonder that so many institutions are investing in digital student information systems.

Adobe Creative Cloud supports seamless collaboration within your school’s digital workspaces, making paper filing systems obsolete. For example, from the moment an e-signed PDF arrives in your inbox, Creative Cloud can store it in a location of your choosing, organized for easy searching with just a few keystrokes. This toolkit also enables your team members to collaborate and annotate documents in real time — whether they are working on your institution’s premises, or from a verified device at a remote location.

Within this cloud storage system, Adobe protects every document with best-in-class security and even provides identity management services to assign authorization levels to specific employees and devices. This means every member of your school’s admin staff will have instant access to the documents they need to do their jobs, while unauthorized parties never get a glimpse of anything you don’t want them to see.

Just by adopting a few apps like these, your school can make life easier for students, parents, teachers and admins — while dramatically reducing your carbon footprint at the same time. Research shows that for every 1,000 students who switch to digital forms and e-signatures, a school can save an average of 1,530 gallons of water, 533 pounds of wood, 534 kilowatt-hours of energy, 84 pounds of waste, and 1,287 pounds of carbon dioxide. (See how much your school could save, with our handy Savings Calculator.)

To find out more about how to go paperless with the help of educator apps — and take your next steps on the road to digital transformation — visit Adobe’s Education Resource Hub for free step-by-step guides.