GlobalSign Blog

19 Jun 2018

Going Paperless Enables Educational Institutions Worldwide to Prosper and Grow

It’s nothing new that the world is steadily going digital. Gradually, we are becoming a paperless society. Today we can check email on our iWatches, manage our banking and credit card accounts online and even send wedding invitations digitally, though Miss Manners (and your grandmother) might disapprove!

As these changes take place on a broad scale, specific markets are being uniquely impacted by the ability to go paperless. After all, it saves money, time and reduces environmental impact. One such market that’s going paperless due to the benefits it offers is education, as well as the companies serving academia.

For example, a new start-up, Script, is looking to modernize K-12 field trip planning. The app is being implemented at a number of US schools to better manage the collection of signatures, payments as well as improve reporting. As a parent, I sure would appreciate it if my children’s school system adopted this technology, or at least something akin to it. Between permission forms for multiple kids, and a plethora of other school forms regarding tests and classes that also require caregiver permissions, going paperless certainly would lighten my load!

While it’s terrific to see innovations like Script being implemented for K-12, there’s much more paperless innovation activity going on in the higher education sector. For instance, a number of 2018 MIT graduates received diplomas on their smartphones via a blockchain-powered app (in addition to the traditional paper version.) Then there’s Southern New Hampshire University, which recently launched a mobile financial aid platform for students that “virtually eliminates paper forms”. The new digital platform is expected to help students more easily navigate their financial aid form process through their phone and on their desktop. It will also include tools for paperwork requiring parental or guardian signatures.

Increasing Use of Paperless Solutions at Educational Institutions Worldwide

Of course, paperless efforts are taking place not just here in the US.

For example, in Brazil, a new law passed in December 2017 which states that its Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s) must abide by new rules for document collection and maintenance. As a result, HEI’s there are increasingly looking to the cloud to manage and store their documents, and must do so by December 2019 to be in compliance with the law.

In Manila, going paperless is enabling the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka to take advantage of a highly secure cloud platform from Microsoft at practically no cost to the school. The solution created for university employees enables them to better manage their meetings.

Going Digital Requires Greater Security Measures

With universities, colleges and educational institutions going paperless this means they need viable, trustworthy electronic versions of their most important documents, including diplomas, certificates, transcripts, admission letters and financial aid documents. The sensitive nature of these documents creates challenges for IT departments to sustain a reliable, highly trusted and secure network, as well as meet all data privacy and compliance regulations. In particular, the education marketplace is increasingly looking for ways to secure these electronic documents – how can they assure the electronic versions of these important documents are just as trustworthy as the paper versions they are replacing? Many are turning to Trusted Digital Signatures as an answer.

When you apply a Trusted Digital Signature to a document, a cryptographic operation binds your third-party-verified digital identity and the data being signed into one unique fingerprint. The uniqueness of the two components of the signature are what makes digital signatures a viable replacement to wet ink signatures. The cryptographic operation allows digital signatures to verify and assure the following:

The document is authentic and comes from a verified source (e.g. the diploma was actually issued by the institution so claimed).

The document has not been tampered with since being digitally signed as the signature would be displayed as invalid if changes were made (e.g. the student’s transcripts haven’t been altered)

The Signature Is Legally Admissible and Regulatory Compliant

Additionally, digital signatures can include a trusted timestamp (GlobalSign’s digital signatures include this by default), so document recipients can verify when the signature was placed and/or when the document was issued.

It’s important to point out that digital signatures are head and shoulders above electronic signatures (eSignatures). Electronic signatures only provide a method for signing a document electronically. These signatures are not as regulated, any name can be signed, and it is unlikely they would hold up in a court of law.

Real world example: how Parchment uses Trusted Digital Signatures to secure electronic academic credentials for their K-12 and university customers.

It’s encouraging to see how technology is greatly benefitting the educational marketplace. We look forward to continued innovations there to better educate children here in the US, and around the globe.

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