UT Leaves “Paper World” and Enters Digital Era

Companies and universities across the nation are promoting their “Go Green” attitudes. With the economy in its current state, people are doing everything in their power to conserve resources.

Right along with this trend, The University of Tampa continues to make sustainability efforts. But the latest developments may come as a surprise to many current students, as it will utterly change the way the entire campus operates.

UT is slowly making the transition towards becoming a completely paperless community.

With the introduction of a new system called Nolijweb, every student will have an electronic file.

From the time a student applies to the university until the time they walk the stage at graduation, every record will be stored and viewed as an image.

These files will include everything from student transcripts, applications and organization forms to financial aid documents and time sheets.

Joy Kilfoyle, the director of Enrollment and Marketing Innovation, explains the sudden change.

“We had an eye opener after Katrina,” she said. “After seeing what happened to the universities there, this system will prevent anything from being destroyed or lost.”

Nolijweb is a document-imaging suite that allows higher education institutions to increase efficiency and performance, reduce storage space and allow electronic accessibility.

Students may have noticed the lack of academic year catalogs for 2009-2010.

UT did not print any since each page can be found online, saving thousands of dollars and resources.

In recent semesters, course evaluations and class climate surveys were all distributed on the web.

Almost everything for student and academic life is done via Spartan Web and Blackboard.

UT administration believe there isn’t an office or student who couldn’t benefit from going paperless.

“It’s definitely a trend,” said Kilfoyle. The administration will have the power to better serve students.

Offices all around campus are implementing the paperless trend. The Registrar, Financial Aid, Academic Advising, OSLE and the Health Center have already begun the transition.

In the near future, ResLife and Student Conduct will also use Nolijweb.

“I think it’s impressive how much this trend has affected the campus already,” said Kilfoyle.

Information Technology is in charge of running this massive campus-wide project.

Hamid Khosrowabadi, the senior systems analyst programmer and project manager for Document Imaging, believes the paperless trend will help keep UT a top institution.

He predicts that in the future, everything will be electronic.

“If UT wants to stay competitive in the market, we have to continue to increase performances,” he said. “With Nolijweb, students can apply faster, the administration can respond immediately and we can recruit more people to the school.”

Universities, being centers for education, need to demonstrate sustainability efforts.

If UT works together and continues to go paperless, it will greatly benefit the future.

It begins with offices and then will eventually work its way into the community.

“Hopefully our campus will go 100 percent paperless one department at a time,” said Khosrowabadi.

Voted “Class Environmentalist” in high school, Shona York, the staff assistant for the Baccalaureate Experience Program, dedicates hours of her time coming up with ways to help the students live environmentally friendly.

Last year, “Gateways Goes Green,” was the theme for the incoming freshmen orientation. This year, she hopes to continue the trend.

“We start with the Gateways mentors, teaching them ways to live green,” she said. “Most of our office was comprised of stacks of paper. And now that everything is online, it’s not only helping the environment, but it’s saving time.”

Universities sometimes like to wait and see if trends are widely accepted before they begin making the transition.
“Generally universities aren’t usually leading edge,” said Kilfoyle.

So, compared to other universities, The University of Tampa is way ahead of the game.

Paper is limiting, but now with services going digital, the volumes of documents and the labor required to maintain them no longer weigh down offices.

“One of my relatives applied to both UT and The University of South Florida at the same time,” said Khosrowabadi. “Within ten days, he heard back from UT. It took USF over two months to respond to his application.”

The Admissions Office receives thousands of applications each year, usually six or seven pages long.
“The majority of Florida transcripts are 15 pages long,” said Kilfoyle. “This takes up massive amounts of space for filing cabinets.”

With virtual filing, different offices can access a student record at the same time within seconds.

In the past, the administration couldn’t service students until they found the exact page in his or her file.

Files would be taken from the cabinet and passed around throughout offices, and sometimes papers got misplaced or misfiled.

With the paperless era, “We have the entire file system at our fingertips,” said Kilfoyle. “And for prospective students, what if we could recruit even two or three more of them just because we responded to their application faster due to this system?”

Megan Frisque, the assistant director of Civic Engagement in the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement, believes the paperless trend affects the way the university communicates with its students.

“With students becoming more technologically savvy, it will be easier for them to find everything online rather than receive paper copies of announcements or information via word of mouth,” she said.

“But, we also realize that there will be less students coming into offices on campus daily.”

She says that students will become more knowledgeable about the campus with instant accessibility and constant updating 24/7.

However students fear their privacy is at stake and wonder about the security of their information.

“We’re dealing with document imaging,” said Khosrowabadi. “The security is so strict that you must be authorized to access a file. It is 100 percent safe.”

Jacque DuChene, a UT senior, is not yet sold on the idea of the trend.

“That makes me nervous,” she said. “I understand the whole green idea, but I’m not comfortable going 100 percent paperless. I think UT could find a better medium like keeping hard copies of only the most important documents.”

Khosrowabadi said to those who aren’t familiar with the system, it could seem scary.

“But,” he said, “with paper, you can lose documents. If it’s electronic, there’s no chance.”

Kilfoyle agreed on the safety of the electronic files.

“The system has disaster recovery that backs up everything nightly,” said Kilfoyle. “We worry about hurricanes or fires here in Florida especially, and with everything online, your files are safe.”

So what’s next for the future of the paperless trend?

All organizations will manage through the Group feature added to Spartan Web.

This will reduce the number of flyers and paper applications needed.

Throughout the coming academic year, students and faculty will notice a switch from paper to Nolijweb. It’s a slow movement, but one that will take the university into the virtual world.

“I have a daughter and I want to make sure that her children have resources. It’s just so important on big scale, but just as important on a small scale,” said York as she smiled.

“And ultimately, it’s just the right thing to do.”

Mel Steiner can be reached at mel.c.steiner@gmail.com.

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