A Quick Shift to Remote Learning
4 min read
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit the U.S., the team at Linn-Benton Community College sprang into action. To protect the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and community, the college had to get classes online and prepare faculty, staff and students to work, teach and learn remotely. Linn-Benton Community College, which works closely with Laserfiche solution provider CDI, previously used Laserfiche to automate more than 200 processes across campus, but this unprecedented challenge would put the organization’s digital operations to the test.
Using Laserfiche as a key tool for communication and collaboration, the IT team has been working tirelessly to ensure everyone has access to the information, systems and processes necessary to keep business moving at the college, and enable classes for the spring semester to begin remotely April 6.
“Our No. 1 priority is health and safety,” said Michael Quiner, CIO at Linn-Benton Community College. “I know it has been extremely difficult and stressful for everyone, but we can help to protect students, staff and faculty, by having people work from home, and having students learn from home. To be able to use technology to enable that — I think that’s pretty amazing.”
Enabling a Quick Shift to Remote Work and Learning
Linn-Benton Community College serves more than 10,000 students, with almost 600 faculty members, and over 300 staff members. As concerns around the COVID-19 outbreak grew, the college braced for unprecedented change.
“I don’t think anyone’s seen or experienced anything like this before,” said Quiner. “But I believe that the team we have at Linn-Benton Community College is very innovative, and we are used to leveraging technology to enable agility and flexibility.”
On March 19, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order to immediately implement measures for significantly reducing in-person operations at Oregon colleges and universities. The order also advised colleges and universities to continue learning and teaching operations, but to shift to remote or online delivery.
The immediate challenge was communication. With staff and faculty working both on- and off-campus, and the situation changing by the day, the college needed to make sure everyone knew where everyone else was, and how to get in touch if needed. The college’s institutional research department quickly created an automated process in Laserfiche that emails everyone employed by Linn-Benton Community College each morning, prompting them to fill out a form to indicate where they were working that day and the best way to get in contact with them. “That information is automatically posted in a web portal so people know how to contact each other,” Quiner said.
Next, to quickly transition everyone to operate remotely, staff needed to request remote access to systems they typically use on campus. “This seems simple, but it’s a big workflow that involves staff who have to install software on people’s machines and staff to provision accounts, and more,” said Quiner. The college again used Laserfiche Forms to enable staff to make these requests digitally, and route them to the relevant parties.
“The main benefit of using Laserfiche has been that we’re able to quickly create an automated process, and have that process save all the necessary documentation, contain all the right information, and be seen by the right people so that we can get these activities done right the first time,” Quiner added.
At the same time the college was managing the enormous shift, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) was passed, requiring certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. From the passage of the act to the time when organizations were expected to comply was very short.
A cross-departmental team from human resources and IT quickly tackled the challenge and created a work process which has seven unique forms, six decision points, and 16 process tasks. This was made available to college employees inside of 48 hours.
“Laserfiche allows us to keep the college in compliance during a fast-moving situation while dealing with constantly shifting requirements, interruptions, and urgent priority requests,” Quiner added.
Additionally, Linn-Benton Community College modified an existing Laserfiche Form to track the equipment being loaned out to staff and faculty, and enable people to request other equipment they might need. “Before, we were just using this form for staff to request if they needed something new,” Quiner said. “We adapted the existing form so that we could track loaner equipment, and we can still see what additional or alternative support our staff needs.”
The rapidly changing COVID-19 situation continues to pose challenges for all organizations that are transitioning employees to work from home, and working to standardize and digitize business processes to enable business continuity.
“While this has been extremely difficult for everyone, Laserfiche is helping make an impossible task possible,” Quiner said of the experience.
And while student, staff and faculty health and safety remains the college’s top priority, Quiner explained that the organization’s digital transformation efforts will continue.
“Transformation is the idea that we can use technology tools to better leverage our staff’s time,” he said. “We’ve only started to transform. There are so many exciting things — for example, robotic process automation — that we’re dipping our toes into, that will take a lot of the repetitive work from our staff so we can concentrate on supporting each other and supporting our students.”
Future plans include automating time sheets, and employee onboarding and offboarding processes. Quiner is also interested in working with other community colleges in the region to share data and collaborate on processes, so that the larger community of educational organizations can build on each other’s success.
“We’re saving a huge amount of our staff’s time — and not just IT staff but college staff, too — by using business process automation, and moving documents to the right location using Laserfiche Forms,” said Quiner. “Tools like business process automation and RPA can help us get away from chasing down forms or responding to emails, and enable our staff and faculty can do what they were hired to do, which is to make better people, better families and better communities through education.”