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Transformations Falmouth University - Paperlite Admissions

Project Name: Paperlite Admissions

Lead Institution: Falmouth University

Project Lead: Emma Goodman


See the full Transformations programme playlist

 

Paperlite Admissions Project: to fully automate the application process using the SITS student record system and the development of online workflows and tasks.

  

Background

Aims and objectives

 

Falmouth University Admissions currently rely on paper based processes to support the applications received from UCAS and direct applicants, including overseas and post-graduates. This project aims to use Enterprise Architecture to explore activities and capture the current ‘as is’ process, identify key areas for improvement and then create a ‘to be’ process map utilising our EA modelling principles and tools that we have gained from our continued involvement in the EAPG. The project will then continue to build the paperlite process in e-vision. 

 

Context

 

UCAS paper forms will no longer be sent to Higher Education Institutions (HEI's) soon therefore a paperless solution to processing is required. Falmouth University Admissions currently receive paper application forms for over 7,000 applications for the Undergraduate courses, each form is photocopied and sent through the internal mail to admissions tutors who will then often photocopy the form again before sending a copy back to admissions after the selection process. This process is time consuming and involves duplication of the system in paper format. 

 

The business case

 

This project aims to fully automate the application process using the student record system and the development of online work flows and tasks. The project objectives are driven by the UCAS cycle who are themselves removing paper based processes, so our approach to this challenge should be of significant interest to other HEI’s also impacted by the change at UCAS. The data is already received electronically from UCAS, the project will commence in November 2011 and will aim to have the processes in place in time for the 2014 application cycle.

 

We anticipate significant process and resource savings will be delivered by the project which include staff effort in processing, photocopying and transporting paper copies of forms, we also expect staff savings to be delivered by removing duplication of effort across the various administrative and academic areas. The reduction of photocopying forms will also reduce environmental impact and reduce costs in paper, photocopying and associated equipment costs.

 

We also expect to achieve an improvement in service levels to applicants, academic and administrative staff by making the process more efficient and improving communication channels throughout the application process. 

 

Key drivers

 

Changes from UCAS are the main driver, this is an external factor that we have little if any control over and therefore we have to be prepared for the changes they plan to make. Institutional changes are also a key driver, Falmouth University has faced many changes and challenges over the past decade including an increase in student numbers, applications and the achievement of University status. The need to address cost efficiencies due to an expanding University but not necessarily increases in staff or income as more resources, including buildings and teaching staff are required is essential and resource intensive methods are no longer sustainable. We're also hoping that an online process will increase data accuracy, as Falmouth University has had the SITS student record system for many years but not the resources or processes/procedures in place to maintain the system as well as it has now. The SITS development team in ITC has successfully secured funding for the past 4 years to enhance the SITS system by putting in place automated workflows to enable the end user to utilise additional functionality within the web part of the system (e-vision). 

 

JISC resources/technology used

 

EA mapping has been used throughout this project and the original admissions process map was 2.7 meters long! (see blog for photo  http://emmag.jiscinvolve.org/wp/ ). The 'to be' mapping has grown organically rather than being a pre-defined result as we have found that working with the admissions team throughout the project has increased understanding of the systems abilities and discussions that have changed current thought to realise change as 'positive' therefore increasing expectations of the finished build product. 

 

The project team has also been involved in interaction with other HEI's, in particular other SITS system users. We've shared experiences and best practice and even technical code at times to make sure we all get the best product at the end of the project. This sharing is not unique to HEI's but is a valuable attribute that Jisc supports and encourages in the HE sector.  

 

Once the EA maps are completed we're hoping to transform them into Archi diagrams, however the process keeps changing as external factors such as UCAS and funding changes mean that managing the process maps within visio is more manageable at the moment.

 

The project team have been fully engaged with Emerging Practices and attended the Managing Change workshop at Coventry University. The whole session was extremely useful but particularly the EduChallenge simulation, there was much competitiveness in the room but congratulations to Liverpool John Moores for finishing first and converting all staff to the new changes.

 

Jo Smith from Falmouth attended the Sheffield Modelling bash and gave a presentation on PEAT which is a project management tool that is used by the project office at Falmouth but hosted by Exeter University as part of a previous funding programme.

 

Being involved with the Course data project has also enabled many networking opportunities and the continued collaboration of the Creative Assembly which is currently Arts University Bournemouth, Plymouth College of Arts, Courtauld Institute and Falmouth University but also includes Norwich University of the Arts and we're hoping many more specialist Arts institutions will be joining us soon. 

 

Outcomes

 

  • Admissions process maps
  • Online tasks for admissions staff
  • Online tasks for admissions tutors
  • Applicant portal
  • Documentation
  • video 

 

Achievements

 

If successful we hope to lead institutional change to engage all staff and applicants with the online process. The main achievement will be the applicant portal and the ability to engage with applicants much earlier within the admissions process. Obviously with increased efficiency and allowing the system to take the bulk processing away from manual tasks this will enable all staff involved with the admissions process to concentrate on 'added value' to the applicants, hopefully increasing our conversion statistics from applications through to enrolments. Applicants should be better informed, have more access to relevant information about their course and their application through the portal which will be accessible remotely at real time 24/7, this should also benefit our international applicants so they don't have to rely on phone calls during the current office hours. 

 

Benefits

 

The main benefits will be to the staff and the applicants, their whole process will be transformed into an easier, customised process. The system knowledge that has been gained as well can be interchangeable throughout all online processes within myfalmouth.falmouth.ac.uk (evision, web front end for SITS student record system). Other benefits will be:

 

  • reduce use of paper
  • savings on photocopy costs 
  • time savings on staff resources
  • real time data transfer - no more internal post delays! 

 

Drawbacks

 

Whilst the finished product will have benefits, the journey to complete this project has been difficult. Falmouth University is continually changing, in the recent years we have faced mergers, University title, department restructures, key staff redundancies and change of leadership, this project alone has already had 3 different project sponsors and could have a new sponsor before it goes live. Replacing the current process will itself have drawbacks, the change in process automates many functions - this could remove the personal touch for some applicants, although the applicant portal should address that.

 

The system we use is difficult, the skill set required to run and develop Sits is very specialised and the project team have faced key personnel loss at the beginning of the project.

 

the project has been fully supported by admissions throughout the project but other conflicting priorities and projects have always been there, and without consistency in the project sponsor this has caused major delays to the projects planned 'go live' date (originally Nov 2012, now Sept 2013 but could face further delays). 

 

Key lessons

 

Projects should be fully resourced prior to initiation and if resources are deployed elsewhere or staff leave then the project aims should be revisited, this was a major issue for Paperlite and still occurs despite being raised at relevant project meetings and committees.

 

Staff shouldn't be expected to do additional project work without backfill, this leads to stress or unsuccessful project completion.

 

Universities that purchase systems that are difficult to develop should understand the on-going cost implications and value their staff to ensure consistency throughout the project. 

 

Looking ahead

 

The online process could be rolled out to further departments if this one is successful. The skills gained from the project can be transferred to other processes with Sits to enhance areas such as assesments, online enrolments, module selection etc.

 

The Paperlite product will continue to be enhanced and change annually along with the admissions cycle, this was one of the main reason development was done in house and not externally resourced as the processes will continually change and we will continually support those changes, therefore saving extortionate consultancy costs in future.

 

Admissions teams should get used to the new processes and have the freedom to enhance the application process for themselves and the applicants.

 

Applicants will get used to the new system and additional functionality can be added to assist marketing and communications in the future.

 

The project team will move onto the re-development of Online enrolment within evision benefitting from the lessons learned during this project. 

 

Sustainability

 

If implemented correctly this should be sustainable for many years to come, although technical support for the web screens to deal with any annual or statutory requirements will be needed. On-going support for these processes needs to come from the Sits development team, admissions at Falmouth University, senior management and academic staff as well as Tribal who are the software suppliers.

 

Most other HEI's are moving towards this online approach therefore the sector should support the sustainability of this approach. 

 

Appendix

 

http://emmag.jiscinvolve.org/wp/

http://www.slideshare.net/EmmaGoodman/applicant-portal-projectboarddiagram

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDQmhmaKybc&feature=youtu.be