PROMOTING PAPERLESS APPROACHES TO QUALITY ASSURANCE AND ENHANCEMENT PROCEDURES: A UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENTAL CASE STUDY
The paperless office remains an unfulfilled goal for many businesses and organisations. In the Higher Education context the number and diversity of information systems, coupled with a historic expectation of academic freedom and individual practice, has often militated against this.
The complex and sometimes fluid management structures in Higher Education coupled with the unpredictability of budgets and general uncertainty in the planning process accounts in part for a typical melee of information systems, often procured piecemeal, and variable practice in their usage at the local level. Often data has to be exported from one system and massaged before being input into another. What might appear to be a simple activity such as marking a student script might require access to a student record system, a virtual learning environment, a portal, a University Website, a plagiarism detection facility and so on. Marking of student work has for many years featured aspects of electronic submission, electronic marking and interoperability between systems. However, submission of paper-based artefacts and marking by provision of handwritten comments and feedback is still commonplace. The goal of eliminating paper submissions has often been impeded by concerns over satisfying other quality assurance procedures or by the concerns of individuals and groups about changes to their working practices.
This paper presents a case study showing how judicious implementation and exploitation of systems and careful design of human processes can assist in the elimination of paper artefacts in the management and delivery of study programmes in Higher Education. The project was undertaken through a desire to achieve better communications with all stakeholders in the academic processes and to achieve a richer staff and student experience. The outcome was a number of streamlined procedures, improved student engagement and better management information. Additional benefits in the student experience, in external examination processes and in the archiving of historic data were also obtained.