Educators have a long history of investing in technology to help students learn and thrive. We’ve recently seen an increasing number of school districts petition for digital enhancements within the classroom, but unfortunately many are met with funding, administrative, and incentives challenges. Because of these ongoing barriers, more than 50% of school districts still operate in an outdated, costly, and inefficient paper-first world. ‘We’ve always done it this way’ just isn’t cutting it anymore.
To better understand how educators are approaching digital documents, my team at Adobe surveyed 200 K-12 school administrators and teachers. We found that 89% of school districts plan to introduce digital workflows, both for student-facing forms and internal ones like staff onboarding, but they face several challenges in getting across the finish line.
Administrators and teachers across the country identified the following as the most common reasons school districts struggle to convert workflows from paper to digital:
- 83% face barriers related to families’ access to the technology required for digital paperwork
- 81% find it difficult for families to implement or comply with digital-first practices
- 71% struggle to find the funds needed to fully digitally transform their district
Clearly, the obstacles to adoption span a range of internal and external factors. And, while some of these factors are more complex, they aren’t impossible to overcome. There are a number of community resources from corporations like Google, Microsoft, Comcast and our own Adobe Education Exchange that were developed to help students and teachers chip away at this barrier.
As leaders in education, what can you do to overcome these challenges? Based on our research, here are the top three areas to focus on:
- Set accountability milestones
Nearly all school districts strive to provide digital processes for teachers, students and their parents, but administrators often struggle to break existing paper-based habits themselves. To overcome this, and before implementing new processes outside the organization, first develop and present new digital workflows to staff. I suggest setting 30/60/90-day accountability milestones, as this provides staff with a clear digital transformation path and can help avoid regressing into old routines.
Assessing your current operational processes can make an immediate impact – beginning with human resources, procurement, finance, or vendor management. This action not only allows you to address the brunt of the paper workload, which takes an average of 3 hours per week, but also allows you to focus one department at a time before scaling across the district.
- Streamline parent communication
As the back office focuses on its evolution, you can work through more complex barriers, such as helping families implement digital documents. Each district serves a unique community with different needs; however, clear communication with parents on how digital documents and forms will be used is essential. By doing this, you’ll have the opportunity to audit your current process of corresponding with parents and determining if there’s an opportunity to streamline document distribution. For example, sharing PDF documents that can be read on any mobile device will help parents to adopt new routines without having to adopt new technology.
- Celebrate savings
According to Cartridge World, approximately 10% of schools’ annual budget goes to printing costs. As you transition to digital documents, your printing and paper budgets can be reallocated to hire additional IT workers or invest in technology skill trainings for staff. Beyond monetary savings, reducing errors with automated workflows saves time so teachers can focus on students instead of on administrative tasks. Document and celebrate these savings with staff, students, and parents to showcase the benefits of going digital.
As the world becomes more digitally savvy, it’s important that our schools evolve as well. Digital transformation can be intimidating, but by starting small and planning big, you can improve efficiency within your district, minimize time spent managing paperwork, find cost savings, and focus on what really matters – the students and their education.
Chitra Mittha currently leads product marketing for the Document Cloud Business within the Education segment at Adobe. Chitra has more than 20 years of strategic product marketing experience in the technology industry and has held various leadership roles include leading product marketing for Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Sign.
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