The Administrative departments in any University deal with high volumes of data regularly. They deal with Student Registration, allocation of course modules, maintaining attendance reports, sending and receiving correspondence etc., making it increasingly difficult to improve operational productivity within their departments. RPA, or the Robotic Process Automation, promises to solve most of their problems. RPA can handle repetitive tasks, high volume tasks and tasks that require humans to interact between multiple digital interfaces (e.g., ERP software, email) with zero human error.
RPA can offer the following benefits for a University:
Shifting from Manual process to Automation can significantly impact the administrative procedures, thereby benefiting the administrators, educators and students alike.
5 Processes that can be automated in University
The University Admission process is a lengthy and manual process that involves handling vast amounts of data. This data comes from many sources like application forms and supporting documents (passport, qualification certificates, birth certificate, employment records, financial sources etc.) Cross-checking these documents for accuracy demands a reasonable amount of time which is a big challenge for a university with limited staff. During the peak period of admission, the number of applications to be processed can go up to 350-400 per month. And the staff is under tremendous pressure to complete the task in time with zero human error.
That’s where RPA comes in. RPA allows universities to process more student applications with less staff and spend more time processing complex aspects of the applications where human interference and judgment are needed. The tasks that previously took days to complete can now be done in hours with RPA software with zero error.
Implementation and Challenges: To implement RPA for the Admission process, we created a Master Excel sheet which included the necessary fields like Nationality, Passport #, NRIC #, Student Pass, Qualification details, Employment details, Sponsorship info, Tuition Fee details, Course Name, Course Code etc. apart from the basic details. The Bot fetched all the data from the excel sheet, validated and completed the data entry process, thus completing the Admission process successfully.
- Module Evaluation:
The primary purpose of the module evaluation process is assuring quality training. Student evaluation enables purposeful reflection on teaching and learning and is a reflective and developmental process both for the staff and the student. The Departments continuously evaluate the quality of their teaching Programme and modules. Earlier, collecting feedback over a paper questionnaire was a tedious task. Assessing the survey results was an even more time-consuming exercise for the professors who could use those times to create more impactful learning experiences.
Now with the RPA, the whole process of Module Evaluation has transformed. The supporting staff generates a survey in a popular survey portal, comprising various aspects of teaching by the Professor. Students are then invited to provide feedback on each module that they take via a questionnaire. The questions are designed to be quick and easy to complete and ensure that University staff know what is going well and what could be improved. A link to an online survey will be shared with the students on their mail addresses.
Implementation and Challenges: To implement RPA for the Module Evaluation process, we worked on the area which took the maximum time in the entire process. And that was going through each and every session to fetch details about the session ending date, Lecturer Names, their Email IDs, Full Time/Part-time details etc. The count of sessions for three months was around 600-700. Fetching the above details from each of these sessions and preparing the database took 3-4 days for one executive. With the Bot in place, an overnight run and the data was made available to the executive in an organized format, ready for further processing. The next Bot would log in to the Survey portal, create new Surveys using the data generated in the previous Bot and generate the required link that could be shared with the students.
Class attendance is an integral part of the academic process and should be considered both a privilege and a responsibility. The University’s expectations of attendance and engagement are set up to mirror and develop behaviours and qualities associated with success in academic study and professional life. Strict disciplinary procedures are undertaken if a student continually misses classes, resulting in expulsion, or even Universities may consider informing the scholarship and funding bodies.
RPA can handle the attendance part efficiently. The bots can monitor student attendance daily, calculate the Attendance Summary and send out automated notification emails to parents, students and teachers when necessary, for example: after five absences.
- Programme, Module, Assessment Scheduling
Course scheduling is an integral part and a key factor in institutional administration. It gives a reflection of broader governance and strategic planning. Deciding on a course structure, choosing topics and their effective organisation, and selecting a teaching strategy is imperative to accomplish a particular set of learning objectives.
The Assessment Schedules should be in alignment with learning outcomes and activities. They should be timed well, weighed appropriately and should pose the right level of difficulty for the students.
Implementation and Challenges: The biggest challenge was converting the Schedules received from the University into a uniform template. The received schedules were all Word documents. We identified around 15-20 varieties of word documents. We converted all these documents into a single Excel template using Macro, which served as the standard input for the Bot.
- Set Graduation Process:
Graduation signifies a completion time, a successful end to an academic era culminating with a ceremony in which the student is handed a diploma. To reach this milestone, every student should fulfil specific eligibility criteria in terms of exams and grades.
Implementation and Challenges: The RPA Bot accesses the MIF(Marks Input File) provided by the university, fetches the Module Schedule no, then searches the related Schedule numbers in the university portal. Once this process is done, the transcript of each student has to be downloaded which contains the subjects and grades obtained by the student. The Bot uses the OCR technology to fetch the grades which then will be compared with the Eligibility criteria to check if the student has passed or failed. One of the greatest challenges in the entire process was fetching unique related schedule numbers which at times had duplicates in numbers of 10. The Bot reduced the time taken for this lengthy process considerably resulting in reducing the man hours.
Automation Impact: When we talk about the actual numbers on ground, you will be astonished to see the impact RPA can have on the manual processes.
The actual numbers show that before Automation 15 people were doing the work, managing the entire processes. After automation only 7 people are doing the Manual work. 7 people’s job is done by the Bot. So there’s a direct reduction of 7 Full Time Employees! Such is the power of RPA!
Demo : Here is a small demonstration of the RPA Bot involved in New Survey Creation in the Module Evaluation Process. The Bot signs in to the survey portal, navigates to the new survey creation and creates a survey of 3 questions with four options each. Then it signs out of the portal.