How the Higher Education Sector Is Embracing Robotic Process Automation

Unlike traditional automation, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) isn’t about automating physical tasks like warehouse robots would do (although it may help to use The Factory Metaphor to help better understand it’s implementation). Instead, you can think of RPA as a collection of mechanical minds that can save human experts from having to perform repetitive data entry tasks, processes that require interacting with multiple digital interfaces, or even some customer service business processes. While RPA is an important part of digital transformation across all industries, we’ve seen universities and other higher education providers use RPA to particularly great success.

 

Just as we’ve seen state and local governments embracing RPA during the COVID-19 crisis due to an increase in remote work, educators who face COVID-related challenges and the difficulties of remote learning are turning toward RPA. At Novatio, our mission is to help organizations find the RPA tools that make sense for their specific needs and make the transition to them as seamless as possible. Here are just a few great use cases for how Higher Ed is using RPA to their advantage and how we can help.

 

Application Processing

One of the greatest challenges higher education providers face during peak seasons is the influx of new college applications. This has been compounded for top colleges, which are actually seeing a significant increase in admissions during the COVID-19 crisis. Using legacy systems, human workers would have to manually read each application and check it against college requirements. With RPA, however, it’s possible to set up machine learning software bots that understand the parameters for high-quality applications, and these software bots can automatically process them.

 

An RPA bot can do this by automatically checking the courses each student is applying for and comparing their accomplishments to the prerequisites for the courses. This way, eligible students can be moved on automatically, and staff members can be flagged if a promising application lacks a necessary prerequisite.

 

Course Scheduling

RPA implementation in higher education facilities goes well beyond streamlining admissions. Course scheduling is another challenge that higher ed facilities must contend with each semester, and it requires collaboration between multiple different departments. Using legacy systems, each department will likely have its own data sets, and they have to manually share data with each other to determine the most popular course times for student demographics.

 

With robotic process automation, it’s possible for different departments to pool their data, and automated data analytics systems can check data between different courses and student information to determine the ideal times to hold each course. This improves the student experience, and it makes things much easier on the faculty, especially if your school struggles with scheduling. Naturally, this solution can be applied to other scheduling matters as well, such as sports, clubs, and other activities.

 

Financial Reports

Naturally, the COVID crisis has brought financial hardships to most sectors, and higher education isn’t any different. It’s estimated that 74% of colleges are now facing financial hardship, and it isn’t difficult to see why. Outside of the top colleges, enrollment is declining as students take breaks from education, and the decrease in state funding over the years has done nothing to help public higher education facilities.

 

RPA can help reduce costs in financial planning and processing by automatically collecting actionable insights backed by big data, so you’ll have everything you’ll need to plan accordingly for each semester. Of course, it isn’t just about keeping up with tuition costs and student spending. Intelligent automation can also help you process FAFSA applications, just as it helps you process admission applications. Determining eligibility criteria for each FAFSA form is incredibly time-consuming, but if you can set up software bots that understand the parameters for eligibility, you free up your staff to focus on core financial concerns.

 

Chatbots

A chatbot is basically a virtual assistant that can simulate a real human conversation. While you naturally want to keep human assistants on hand for complex inquiries, many simple questions can be answered by a chatbot on your school website. With the help of natural language processing, these bots are able to understand questions submitted in a conversational tone, and they can provide accurate answers to questions regarding admissions, scheduling, and financial aid from students, family, and staff.

 

Processing Grades

Faculty members have to keep up with student reports which are collections of a student’s grades, recommendation letters, their academic program(s), and everything else to do with their time in college. Certain updates, like writing and adding new recommendation letters, may require manual steps, but grade processing can be automated.

 

Most teachers already use a learning management system to automate tasks with grade processing, such as having formulas that calculate each individual student’s average, for example. Once final grades are recorded after the exam, RPA makes it possible to pull each student’s grade from their teachers’ learning management system, so it can be instantly added to that student’s report without any manual tasks being performed.

 

These are just a few excellent use cases for RPA in higher education. We’re here to make sure you get the functions you need with reliability and scalability to ensure you see a good return on investment. Whether you need artificial intelligence solutions for student servicing or to simply automate some database functions, we can get you started with some quick wins for your efficiency and your return.

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