UMBC’s Office of Academic Opportunities Programs (AOP) is dedicated to providing assistance, resources, and support to students who have traditionally been underrepresented in higher education in order to facilitate academic success. By coordinating with UMBC departments as well as off campus agencies such as the US Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, AOP encourages and empowers pre-college and ambitious UMBC students to achieve their academic goals.
In order to enhance its correspondence with students and their families as well as improve its business processes, AOP has adopted DocuSign as their e-signature and digital workflow tool. With help from developers in the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), AOP has converted much of their paper forms to electronic, automated forms that can be signed and submitted without ever having to print.
The McNair Scholars Program, for example, has transformed its entire application process to DocuSign, creating a digital envelope that allows applicants to upload any financial documents or recommendations directly to the form and submit it all through a secure email. DocuSign forms can also be filled out on any mobile device, which can significantly reduce the time it takes for students to submit their applications.
In addition to improving the experience for students, AOP has integrated DocuSign’s capabilities with their existing business practices to create a much more efficient system for processing and storing the submitted forms. One of the big disadvantages of paper applications is always the back and forth correspondence and approvals required when the form is filled out improperly. This takes up a lot of time that staff could be using to complete their numerous other tasks and tends to leave both staff and students dissatisfied.
With DocuSign, staff can create templates that guide signers step by step through the form, offering tooltips and validations to ensure that signers input the correct information. At any time, staff can also check on the status of each pending form as DocuSign timestamps each time the signer views and edits the form. Once the form has been submitted, AOP staff have designated Box folders into which DocuSign will automatically upload the completed application and all supporting documents. If they still need to follow up with the applicant, AOP can cancel or resend the form with just a few clicks.
McNair Scholars Assistant Director Michael Hunt, B.S. ‘06 Mathematics, says that the ability to adjust and automate the application’s workflow has gone a long way in reducing administrative work for McNair staff. Though the McNair Scholars Program has gone farthest in reducing paper, AOP’s other programs have also taken up DocuSign as well.
AOP Director Corris Davis, B.S. ‘98 Biological Sciences, praised the use of DocuSign for the many agreements and contracts used in the Upward Bound Program, which reaches out to high school students in Baltimore City and County. Many of these forms require both the student and a parent/guardian to read and agree to numerous program requirements and rules. DocuSign not only skips the hassle of having to submit all these forms by mail, but also does more to ensure that the signers fully read each section by preventing submission before each part is initialed and signed.
In advancing their mission to enable academic success, AOP has simultaneously improved their business processes to benefit both students and staff. Moving forward, as DoIT continues to integrate DocuSign with campus systems, AOP expects to create even more efficient solutions.