According to some pundits of years gone by, we’re supposed to be living in a paperless world now. So much for pundits! Paper is still very much a part of most offices, but the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) has reduced its paper burden with the help of Webdocs from HelpSystems.
Guelph, Canada-based OUAC is a not-for-profit organization that processes undergraduate and professional school admission applications for 19 universities and the Ontario College of Art & Design in the Canadian province of Ontario.
That’s a lot of processing. In 2005, its 33rd year, OUAC received more than 3.5 million applications for full- and part-time studies, including applications from: students at over 1,000 Ontario secondary schools, mature students from across Canada, students transferring between institutions and international students from more than 110 countries.
Taking Paper-Based Processes to Task
Applications are submitted to OUAC online, but the same can’t be said for supporting documents. School transcripts and reference letters still often arrive on paper that must be matched with the applications and distributed to OUAC’s university partners.
That can be a very cumbersome process. OUAC decided to use Webdocs to tame the paper jungle associated with processing professional school applications.
System-i Based Webdocs Helps OUAC Go Paperless
Apart from the fact that the solution meets its needs, some of which are quite unique, OUAC chose Webdocs because it is System i-based. OUAC believed, correctly as it turned out, that this would allow it to implement the software much more quickly than would have been the case for the other products that OUAC considered.
Now, documents enter the Webdocs database through one of two routes: Paper that arrives via mail is scanned in. Documents that are printed as spool files are automatically converted into PDF files using another HelpSystems tool and loaded into the database. In many cases, Webdocs automatically recognizes index fields on the documents. When that’s not possible, users key in the index data. Webdocs then makes the document images readily accessible to all authorized users.
Electronic Document Management Streamlines the Student Application Process
Electronic document management has helped to improve efficiencies at OUAC compared to the paper chase that used to be a frequent burden when managing professional school applications. Paper documents no longer have to be hunted down manually. Now, they can be found quickly using the available index fields, immediately displayed online and, when necessary, printed for physical distribution.
Webdocs has also allowed OUAC to offer applicants new services, such as enhanced reporting, that weren’t possible when the documents existed only on paper. Catherine Wilson, manager of processing for graduate and professional programs, also appreciates the automated workflows facilitated by Webdocs. “With all of these documents flowing in, it’s easy for me to route them to the right people, without the need for any programming,” she explained. “That’s very helpful.”
One of the benefits of Webdocs that Wilson wasn’t expecting was its ease-of-use. “I was totally surprised at how quickly we all adapted,” said Wilson. “That absolutely shocked me. We have a full-time staff of four and a part- time staff of about eight who come in to help us for six months during our busy times. The part-time staff aren’t all working at computers everyday like the rest of us and some don’t have computers at home either, yet they were up and running right away. It just blew me away to see how quickly they took to it.”