Just as it takes a lot of coordination, effort, and a team of talented teachers and administrators to run a school, a lot of paperwork is required to keep things running smoothly.
Up until recently, schools primarily used traditional printed paperwork to gather and distribute important permissions, notifications, and forms. However, with evolving technology, increased efforts in making eco-friendly choices, and more and more remote learning options, electronic signatures are becoming increasingly popular solutions for schools and learning institutions to utilize.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at how electronic signatures are playing an important role in the success of educational institutions and they can be effectively implemented.
Why Schools Should Use Electronic Signatures
Schools have come a long way in how technology is being utilized to complete daily processes and better support staff, students, and parents. Electronic signatures have become increasingly used in recent years by educational institutions of all sizes to enhance various aspects through benefits such as:
Teachers and administrators can more easily collaborate on and complete important paperwork with the click of a button, thus significantly reducing the amount of time spent on supporting tasks.
With more and more schools supporting remote teaching and learning, especially since 2020’s COVID-19 pandemic, providing a tool such as the ability to sign digital documents electronically greatly improves and simplifies the remote learning process.
Important forms, permissions, and notifications can be sent and received between faculty, students, and parents in a matter of minutes.
By implementing electronic signatures, schools are able to cut costs on paper, ink, printer, and mailing supplies. This is not to mention consolidated time and effort during the work day spent gathering paperwork can now be spent completing other tasks, thus maximizing a school’s daily run costs.
Enhanced Security: It’s imperative that sensitive student and teacher data be kept private and secure. By utilizing electronic signatures, schools can increase security through features such as audit trails, Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), signing certificates, digital encryption keys, and more.
By making certain form fields mandatory, and introducing the capability of correcting and resending paperwork quickly when needed, schools are able to bypass the majority of time spent correcting mistakes.
Forms, permissions, and other paperwork can be completed in a matter of minutes by recipients, thus increasing the speed at which important processes can be completed. With bulk sending options, like those offered by Foxit eSign, thousands of document completion requests can be sent simultaneously for completion by recipients at the same time, significantly reducing the effort in form gathering even further.
Because schools handle a lot of sensitive student data, compliance is a big deal. Acts like FERPAare instituted to help students retain control over their personal files; electronic signatures can help make many of these compliance requirements much easier to follow due to better control over the signing and sending process.
FERPA stands for the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, a United States federal law that protects student records and their privacy. It’s applicable to every school that receives federal funding via several programs sponsored by the Department of Education.
The vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States are subject to FERPA because the Federal Student Loan program and most financial aid programs are affiliated with the Department of Education. The law also applies to some primary schools and high schools.
Students hold the rights to their own records when they are over the age of 18 or attending a college or university. These rights are given to the parents or legal guardians of students under the age of 18. When a student turns 18 or finishes high school (whichever comes first), the rights revert to the student.
Schools Use Electronic Signatures
Once implemented, electronic signatures can be used for a variety of daily processes. Some common forms that schools increasingly utilize digital forms and electronic signatures for include:
- IEP/504 plan paperwork
- Permission slips
- Enrollment forms
- Grade reporting
- Testing forms
- Staff hiring forms
- Transportation forms
- Educational benefit applications
- Opt in/out data privacy forms
- Immunization forms
- And more
Tips for Implementing Electronic Signatures
Implementing electronic signatures for use within an educational institution can be a relatively large task. Here are some helpful tips to make the process easier:
Make a List:
Before diving headfirst into implementing electronic signatures in an educational environment, it’s important to have a clear idea of how the solution will be used. Make a detailed list of needs, expectations, and uses needed from electronic signatures; this will help make the decision on which provider to use a little easier.
When in the process of selecting an electronic signature solution, bear in mind that not all software options are alike. Consider choosing a company that is not only familiar with the unique challenges and needs of educational institutions, but also ensure that your signature software of choice prioritizes security and is flexible to the schools individual needs.
For electronic signatures to be successfully implemented, it’s essential that they can integrate into the software being used by the school. Through flexible APIs like Foxit eSign’s, for instance, schools can easily integrate forms with any software they’re using. Plus, pre-built native API integrations with Foxit eSign can enhance the use of popular platforms like Salesforce and others.