Making Teacher’s & Educator’s Lives Easier By Bridging The Gap Between Hardcopy and Digital!

Being the parent of a 13 year old boy with ADHD, and a specialist in the Document Imaging & Workflow space, means that I see the classwork and homework that my son brings home in a different light.  I’ve watched as our school district has tried to incorporate more online & digital processes and content.  There are online grade books, teacher websites & calendars, email & text message notifications, online notes & videos, online tests, and so on.  Some of these are done well; some are done very poorly.  Our particular school district doesn’t seem to use a solid management system like Blackboard. But even if they did, there is still a major problem for most all schools across the nation: the hand-written, hardcopy classwork and homework.  This is especially a problem in our household – See the first line of this article, “13 year old boy with ADHD…”.

It’s not all that uncommon for my son – often after many “stay on task” reminders – to finish his homework that is to be turned in to the teacher in hardcopy form.  Unfortunately, it’s also not too uncommon to see a disappointing “0” or “X” appear in the online gradebook a couple days later for an assignment that I watched him complete. Problem is he crams it somewhere in his over-stuffed, about-to-bust school binder; only to find out later he forgot to put his name on it, or was supposed to put it in the teacher’s bin when coming in or out of class.  Once again, see first line of this article!

And what about the teachers?  What about all the papers they have to keep up with, flip & file through, grade, enter into the gradebook?  Each teacher has anywhere between 4 – 6 classes, each of which have 15 to 20 students.  I can only imagine…it’s tough enough to wrangle that many kids, then you gotta keep up with all their chicken-scratched papers too!

This is my personal example of what makes the announcement by Blackboard and Sharp Business Systems so exciting.  With the new integration developed by Blackboard, students can now scan their hand-written & hardcopy assignments directly to their Blackboard Learn courses through any connected Sharp MFP.

Blackboard Blog: Sharp integration improves efficiency for students and educators

Utilizing Sharp’s OSA (Open Systems Architecture), students can do the following directly from the Sharp copier’s control panel:

  • See a list of courses and assignments
  • Scan & submit hardcopy assignments to their Blackboard Learn course
  • Print out an assignment (notes, worksheets, etc.) directly from the Sharp MFP’s control panel

I can see a whole host of problems this can solve, and current processes this can streamline & simplify.  Here’s just a few examples:

  1. Teachers having to gather and keep up with hundreds of papers, forgetting to take completed assignments home to be graded, or misplacing or losing a student’s hard work.
  2. Teachers and Administrators having the ability to archive or save student’s work for reference later for parent conferences, tudoring, or even security & safety concerns.
  3. Implimenting barcodes on worksheets and assignments for simple indexing to the right teacher or course, giving students the ability to just place a stack of different assignments in the document feeder, push Scan and be done.
  4. Provides the ability to have students to submit all homework assignments at one time early in the day, and not have to worry about remembering to turn in each assignment independantly in each class.
  5. Not having to worry about whether or not a kid puts his name or class info on each assignment, because it’s already tagged with their name when scanned in.

There are so many more ways the integration of Sharp MFPs into the Blackboard Learn environment can & will benefit educators and students alike.  The benefits it would bring the Adminstration and Information Technology departments would warrant a entire article itself.

As long as students are asked to “show their work” by their teachers, or until tablet technoloy becomes truly affordable for all, there will be piles of paper in the classroom. Being able to take efficiently collect, store and make available all those pieces of paper, while making it easier for kids and teachers, is a real victory!

You can find more information at Sharp’s Blackboard Vertical Page.  Here you can find videos, data sheets, and information on other integration services:  http://siica.sharpusa.com/Software/Blackboard

If your school or institution would like to learn more about how to impliment a solution or process like this, please call or email me.  I would be honored to work with you!

A Law Firm Should Concentrate On It’s Clients, Not a Tedious Process

This year I have worked with multiple legal firms on projects that have significantly improved their ability to focus on what matters – clients! Each of the firms were different – their areas of practice, size, softwares being used, and so on – but essentially, all were suffering the same symptoms of a tedious, inefficient process. A process that was consumed with shuffling papers, time-consuming filing and the peeling & sticking of labels – you know those labels, the ones that always seem to jam up the copy machine. You may think this comes with the territory; It’s just part of running an office. But really, all this is unnecessary busy-work that’s hogging precious resources: Money, Time and Energy. When evaluating the workload and processes with these firms, it became evident that if we could free up these resources, they could be used to attract more clients, bill more time, and provide better service to the clients.

Case #1: The Frustration of the Manual & Repetitive Process

Client comes in for a meeting. Sit down, discuss needs, fill out the appropriate documents, walk client to the door, say goodbye…then what? The real work starts. For that 30-minute meeting, there are generally hours worth work for the entire staff. In this Firm’s case, it was about a manual and repetitive process that would take 3X the time it should.

There was the absorbant amount of time spent standing at the office copier – scanning or copying for each client or case. Scanning would consist of scanning to an email – and if there needed to be multiple files, then there was the scanning, waiting to send, rechoosing of setting, scanning, waiting….you get the idea. Then the pleasure of getting back to the computer to open each file, check & proof, close, rename, open the case-management software, find the case, then the matter,  click import, search for file, click upload….wait. Oh, I forgot – as they often did – to manually write what was done at the copier in the log book. And of course, someone was going to have to manually enter all this in the billing software later. For reference, forms were being created in WordPerfect, case-management software was Time Matters by LexisNexis, billing was Tabs3, and files were stored in Adobe pdf. Of course, a professional version of Adobe was needed for any removal of blank pages, bates stamping, page numbers, etc.

So what would happen if we could make the first-step in this process the only step? If we could scan directly from the copier into the matter number of the right case? If any editing needed could be done right at a full-color, iPad style touchscreen prior to scanning or copying? If one big stack could be auto-divided into multiple files, and even auto-named? If all work at the copier was automatically captured and provided to the billing software with rates the Firm chose? I can tell you what happenned…the staff rejoiced, billing increased, billing errors decreased, project completion times dropped by 50%, and the ability to take on more clients without adding additional staff or working longer hours was created!

This was done in a matter of hours. Even better, it was done for less than what they were already spending on their monthly copier lease. The whole conversion process consisted of an hour meeting with the Firm Administrator, a short online survey I created for the staff, and an installation of new Sharp copiers that took about 2-hours – and never resulted in a single minute of downtime.

Houston Shipping Terminal Drastically Reduces Costs, Time & Materials With Innovative Document Solution

Stuck in an ugly, Balloon-Payment lease and old copiers that couldn’t meet their needs, Texas Terminals knew there had to be a better option.  An option that could help them meet the demands of today’s maritime shippers, and modernize their outdated, paper-laden processes.  That’s just what they found with a solution developed in partnership with Brian Dye and TLC Office Systems of Houston, TX.

Business Environment Challenges

A full service, non-union Terminal Operator and Stevedoring company located on the Houston Ship Channel, Texas Terminals has shipping vessels coming in and semi-trucks going out all day.  The demand of documents to be printed, signed, authorized, shared, stored and kept was a strain on the equipment and personnel.  The current process was comprised of outdated MFPs, pricey NCR forms, slow impact printers, and of course, lots of human intervention.

Technology Solutions

After a lengthy and exhaustive search for a technology company that could solve their multi-faceted problem, Texas Terminals decided Brian E. Dye and TLC Office Systems presented the best solution.  Utilizing Sharp Document Systems with OSA (Open Systems Architecture) technology and UMANGO Scanning & Profiling Software, an automated scanning and indexing solution was implemented.

This meant no more ridiculous ballooning payment, no more need for expensive 3-part forms, or for an employee to waste valuable time sorting through filing cabinets.  Now they could print out only what is needed on their 75-page per minute Sharp MFP, have it signed, put it in the 120-image per minute scanner where it was auto-indexed using OCR technology.  It is automatically pointed to the right folder (if that folder doesn’t exist, it creates it according to the naming protocol designated), names the document and stores it away.  UMANGO even wrote a unique program for Texas Terminals that would take a single page out of a packet being scanned in, and print out additional copies needed of that page only.

Proven Results

TLC has provided solution-driven projects for many of it’s 4500 clients, but this was a unique project that took imagination and patience to develop and implement.  The partnership between TLC & Texas Terminals delivered a solution that has reduced the operation costs by over $3,000 per month!  The time, human capital and resources recouped by the implementation of this solution may be even bigger!  Not only are the operation costs lower and resources freed, but access to important information is readily available and easier to access.  The price of which is hard to comprehend, especially in today’s fast-paced business environment.