Robotic Process Automation in Education
I’m endlessly inspired by the innovations of modern tech, and seeing the potential of RPA’s application in public sectors (such as education) to revolutionize the outdated legacy systems and create stronger educational environments for both administrators and students offers incredible hope for the future. RPA startups with this kind of breadth of application have the unique opportunity to revolutionize education as we know it.
Education Industry Seeing Continued Robotics Process Automation
The education sector has been riding the wave of digital transformation for years and is now turning to automation, and robotic process automation (RPA), in particular, to streamline day-to-day tasks and increase ROI. RPA tools are quick to implement and provide human-free operation, allowing universities and academic systems around the world to focus more on the core of their teachings.
How is RPA being applied to education today?
RPA is being leveraged in education, particularly higher education, to develop more sophisticated administrative operations by functioning as a virtual employee. RPA tools can perform tedious, high-volume tasks reliability without any supervision, attendance, or attention from humans.
Human-centric solutions can’t compete with these improvements in efficiency and quality of work, and they shouldn’t have to. The human power of universities and schools can be redirected toward the aspects of education that a robot will never be able to replicate – building relationships, engaging with students, supporting healthy school environments, and resolving conflict.
Research shows that around 60% of an educational organization’s process activities can be addressed by RPA. Some of the use cases for RPA in education include:
- Enrollment – RPA can analyze and validate documents, assess eligibility criteria, and make an objective decision on whether a student is admitted. It can also execute interviews and onboard newly admitted students.
- Meetings – RPA can automate meeting scheduling, cross-check attendee’s schedules, draft customized emails to attendees, and remind them beforehand.
- Attendance Tracking – Software bots can track the attendance of both teachers and students, saving manual effort and time in class and alerting the parent or student if attendance falls below a predetermined limit.
- Progress Reports – Once student scores are electronically recorded, RPA tools can source the appropriate information from the database to input into progress reports and communicate these data and insights to parents or students.
- IT Operations – Robotic Process Automation can eliminate technical and time-consuming IT tickets on issues such as password resets, system reboots, account unlocking, and installing updates.
- Human Resources and Finance Tasks – Automate processes such as accounts payable and receivable, employee onboarding, payroll processing, and more.
- Chatbots – Automate answers to frequent queries from various stakeholders (students, applicants, staff) such as course information, admissions schedule, and others to reduce the human need for these repetitive and mundane tasks.
What Are the Market’s Favorite RPA Solutions for Universities & Schools?
The market has seen the greatest strides from RPA in education among three university and school functions: back-office functions, student-facing functions, and hybrid functions.
RPA implementations in back-office university functions provide benefits as in the private sector; RPA streamlines and enhances the core business operations, such as IT, HR, and finance. Universities and schools have seen the greatest benefits to integrating RPA into financial reporting, payroll, and human resources tasks as well as some IT and accounts payable.
As an example of the impact of these changes, RPA can remove as much as 85% of the manual hours from traditional employee onboarding.
On the other hand, student-facing solutions have become a favorite in the market as well, mainly in the admissions office. These RPA tools interact directly with the data added or used by students, and may also find use cases in exam scheduling, student and career services, and facilities booking, like study rooms.
The use of RPA in admissions processes, for example, can support a 250% increase in application volume.
Other RPA solutions target student-facing functions without being directly student-facing themselves. These integrations allow administrators and teachers more time to interact with students directly and handle the special cases and scenarios where human involvement is necessary.
Top Education RPA Companies
Many of the top RPA companies in the market right now are finding applications for their RPA tools and software in education. Some of the companies that stand out in this field include giants such as Kofax, UiPath, and Automation Anywhere.
Kofax is an intelligent RPA software company developing solutions that digitally transform different types of content-intensive workflows, helping users realize time efficiencies, increased profitability, and enhance business resiliency.
In summer 2021, Kofax partnered with Coforce intending to ‘digitally transform the education sector,’ ultimately helping educational institutions integrate RPA to automate a myriad of manual workflows, including student registration, absence administration, teacher scheduling, onboarding employees, and processing invoices.
UiPath is the world’s first platform for hyper-automation with the goal to build the world’s best RPA software. In 2019, UiPath began a cost-saving initiative with the University of Auckland in New Zealand to eliminate time-consuming tasks and improve the student experience. Through UiPath’s software robots, the university redesigned existing processes related to the student transcript process, purchase order process, and the school’s financial team’s setup process.
Another company breaking barriers with RPA in the education sector is Automation Anywhere, a global leader in RPA empowering customers to automate business processes with software bots from end to end, serving as digital workers that can perform manual repetitive tasks to dramatically increase productivity, employee engagement, and customer experience.
Automation Anywhere recently found a valuable application for their RPA software at the University of Melbourne on the student admissions team. The employees were overwhelmed with backed-up admission approvals due to the time-intensive data entry, attachment downloading, and document validation processes involved. Through Automation Anywhere’s RPA technology, the school was able to implement automated processes across admissions plus supplier tracking and faculty administration. The software bots now automate all data entry and document attachment processes, allowing the university to boost staff engagement, boost the student and staff experience, and increase business efficiency.
The Biggest Changes in RPA Education Today (2021)
The biggest changes we’re seeing in RPA education today come in the form of cost and time savings, improved performance, and enhanced student and staff experience.
RPA doesn’t eliminate the need for staff, but it redirects where they spend the majority of their time and efforts, empowering them to focus more on the actual learning and relationships critical to an academic environment while software robots handle the mindless and repetitive tasks.
Cost and Time Savings
RPA helps educational establishments manage massive volumes of tedious tasks more efficiently, completing work in a shorter time frame with more consistency. Boosting productivity in this way maximizes returns for the school or university.
Research shows that integrating RPA software can drive a whopping 25-60% cost savings. In the example of Automation Anywhere and the University of Melbourne, they’re now able to save 10,000 hours of work annually with the integration of RPA.
Fewer Errors and Performance Excellence
One of the most exciting features of RPA and an area with great opportunity for change is performance excellence. These digital robots can perform a specific, predetermined task 24/7 without breaks or errors. Outputs don’t require any revision, and in the highly technical academic administration processes, where there’s no room for errors, the time saved and peace of mind are invaluable. This improved performance eventually also helps to maximize profit for the schools.
Improved Student and Staff Experience
RPA is revolutionizing the student and staff experience, freeing employees of the responsibility and burden of high-volume tasks. Staff members are more engaged at work because they’re spending time and energy on things that they feel really matter, and this passes benefits onto the front office, where organization staff can deliver higher quality student experiences. Proving this, the finance team at the University of Auckland reported 98% client satisfaction with the implemented RPA from UiPath.
The Move Toward Automated Education Systems
Though the adoption rate of RPA in the education sector is lower than it is in some other industries, likely due to the lack of expertise in the field and reluctance to change old-school systems, the impact of RPA in education is notable even in its early stages. Educational institutions are now moving closer toward fully automated administrative systems, which benefits all staff, students, and stakeholders.
As an angel investor in tech, I predict we will continue to see novel applications for RPA in education in coming years, with innovative perspectives on new solutions that can reduce menial work, improve organizational efficiency, and ultimately boost the bottom line of educational systems everywhere.
Are you an RPA founder developing one of these revolutionary solutions for education? Reach out to MacDonald Ventures.