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The Case for Digital Transformation in Education

Student and teacher working at computer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

This post is sponsored by Adobe.

Over the last two years, paper-to-digital transformation has accelerated rapidly as almost all businesses and industries have had to learn how to work in a hybrid world. Fortunately, technology has advanced to make digitization not only more efficient but also easier and more accessible than paper—in fact, the number of digitally signed agreements in Adobe Sign (opens in new tab), for example, increased 17x (opens in new tab) since the start of 2020.

In education, we have seen digital paperwork (opens in new tab) replace virtually everything—admissions forms, IEPs, waivers and permission slips, student records, device management, student handbooks, and more. While the adjustment to hybrid learning certainly arrived with its share of challenges, these changes have created opportunities to reimagine processes that reduce errors, drive cost savings, and enhance security and compliance—prompting industry leaders to find solutions that better serve those working in education.

To better understand the growth, processes, benefits, and content of the digital agreements, Adobe surveyed (opens in new tab) 300 enterprise education leaders across the U.S., U.K., and Australia for their insights.  

Eco-friendly and Over 80 Percent More Efficient

Our research found that it takes education employees an average of 70 minutes to chase down signatures. By comparison, it takes only 19 minutes to review and sign eco-friendly digital agreements. This 73 percent time savings adds up and positively impacts morale. As the proud daughter of a teacher, I know education administrators, faculty, and staff are driven by empowering students to take charge of their futures—not shuffling papers. 

We also learned that a shift to digital agreements improves productivity of educators and administrators across critical functions like:

  • Better meet deadlines (88 percent)
  • Better meet work goals (88 percent)
  • Focus more on important things about jobs (88 percent)
  • Be a more independent worker (80 percent)

One of my favorite examples of a school benefiting from embracing digitization is De Anza Community College (opens in new tab). Joseph Moreau, vice chancellor of technology and CTO at Foothill-De Anza Community College District said, “Not only did the digital workflow save time and money, it also allowed the administration to focus more on students and less on bureaucracy.”

Closing the Inclusivity Gap

 COVID-19 jump-started an important conversation about what is and isn’t working in our current education system—a conversation that has been needed for years. While the shift to automated processes has certainly been a pain point, the research also identified the opportunity for improving diversity, equity, and inclusivity (DEI) in the language used in many forms used in education. Educators and administrators reported seeing the following in agreements and forms:

  • Gender-binary language (36 percent)
  • Limited fields for signatories to authentically describe themselves (21 percent)
  • Inappropriate or outdated language when referring to personal descriptors (12 percent)

Digitization allows institutions and schools to quickly overhaul current processes and easily set up systems to support continuous updates to documents, helping to standardize language updates broadly and immediately. Ultimately, digitized documents allow real-time adjustments, like inclusive phrasing, to reach all students, staff, admins, and families from the moment documents are updated. Paired with effective and clear DEI policies, more schools can update their forms to reflect their commitment to close the inclusivity gap.

The Road Forward

 We have made great strides in furthering creativity and digital literacy in the classroom to improve (opens in new tab) student engagement and career trajectories—however, this research highlights why more schools must embrace digital transformation to further the student experience with more efficient and inclusive processes that support everyone.