Credentials News Unleashed

I have been writing a  bi-monthly newsletter sent out to Parchment employees to help them stay current on the credentials market. As many of you following the Parchment blog share our passion for putting credentials to work, we will begin sharing the newsletter and the stories we think are worth discussing.

Making a Better Match

Credentials and MOOC’s

  • Tony Canevale, Director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University talks about “Valuing Credentials” from an economic perspective and the importance of transcript data.
  • There appears to be a high correlation between MOOC’s and infographics, here is good one from the Chronicle Of Higher Education that shows who are the “Major Players in the MOOC Universe.”
  • US News writes about “MOOCs Stir Up Controversy,” with experts divided on whether massive open online courses will improve or destroy higher education.

Word of the Week: Not so much a word as a concept, this week I want to highlight the Space Availability Survey. Little publicized, there is a quiet and brief Springtime admissions cycle that matches students who may have missed deadlines or failed to receive a ‘yes’ from the schools they applied to – with the colleges who have extra seats after hearing back from students by the May 1st deadline. This process is facilitated through an annual survey NACAC performs, and conversations between high school counselors and admissions officers looking to fill those empty seats.

Happy reading!

Setting the Standard

With a mission to unleash education credentials by unlocking the critical data they embody, Parchment has always been a big supporter of data standards. Data standards allow systems to communicate and data to be more easily analyzed, critical to helping Parchment members realize the full potential enabled by transcript exchange.

Last week I was in San Diego for the PESC 2013 Spring Data Summit. PESC, or the P20W Education Standards Council, is an organization made up of education institutions and members of the vendor community who come together to develop standards, which are made available to the education community at no charge.

These data summits (held twice a year) are an opportunity to catch up on what is going on in the world of education standards, with presentations on various national data initiatives and working sessions of the various taskforces and workgroups, including the Education Record User Group (ERUG) which I Co-Chair.

Parchment and myself have been active in PESC since 2004 when we first joined and participated in the development of the high school XML transcript schema. Today Parchment uses the high school and college XML schemas, along with several supporting standards as one of only two companies that has received the PESC Seal of Approval for the successful implementation of these standards.

At the data summit I had the opportunity to participate in person in the EdExchange workgroup, a project of PESC’s Common Data Services (CDS) Taskforce. Parchment, along with a number of schools and vendors are working together to establish an open, data exchange for the education community. Once complete and approved by the PESC membership, EdExchange will provide the protocols and business rules that will enable the safe and secure real-time exchange of data across networks, allowing more data to flow between more institutions than ever before.

While I always come back from these meetings working to catch up on my emails, with more on my to-do list than before I left, I find the time valuable to catch up with customers, vendors, and influencers and discuss the problems that the industry faces and how we can work together to help find solutions enabled by the exchange of data.  This year I found it particularly exciting that after years of discussing the data standards, the industry appears to be at a tipping point of adoption.

With increased adoption of the transcript standards developed by PESC and new projects like EdExchange, the day is closer to Parchment helping our members exchange transcripts as standards-based data, a leap that may prove as beneficial as when they first joined the Parchment Exchange to make the move from paper to eTranscripts.




The Chocolate Chip Equation


There is a lot of talk in education about electronic transcripts these days. There are conversations around security, data vs. image, cost savings / ROI and many other timely topics that will put you to sleep if you have to listen to them for more than about 5 minutes. I know this as fact because I am one of the people that are frequently invited to various conferences to talk about these topics. Yes, they are important and if you are not up to speed on all of this, please contact me personally and I would be glad to discuss anytime.

But, today I don’t want to talk about any of the above. I want to talk about cookies – specifically homemade chocolate chip cookies. Now, there are many good cookies out there, but the chocolate chip is my favorite – particularly when they are freshly baked. Maybe it is the one of a kind aroma that fills the kitchen or maybe it is the melted chocolate that oozes out from every bite – it truly is my favorite cookie. And, it is a true American classic. The Chocolate Chip Cookie was invented about 90 years ago in Massachusetts at the Toll House Inn. Yes, there really was a real Toll House AND yes, they baked Chocolate Chip Cookies there. And, in case it is ever asked on Jeopardy, the state cookie of Massachusetts is in fact the Chocolate Chip.

Fast forward 90 years later and in 2013, Chocolate Chip Cookies are everywhere. And, to my delight, I married a terrific baker that jumps at the chance to make chocolate chip cookies right in our own kitchen – really good chocolate chip cookies too.

With demand for Parchment at an all-time high, I have been working incredibly hard lately. Bringing Parchment to schools is a 7 day a week job and as much we love what we do, fatigue can catch up with you. It was 3pm last Saturday when my wife walked into my home office and she sensed that I was feeling a bit fatigued. “I think you need some cookies,” she said calmly. I smiled, nodded and off she went to the store to buy the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies.

While normally the thought of knowing that in just a few hours I would be eating freshly baked cookies would be a good pick-me-up, on this occasion it was actually a bit of a distraction. Instead of responding to emails from schools wanting to become Parchment members, I started thinking about my wife and the errand that she was running. In order to make her delicious cookies, she would need to get the chocolate chips, the butter, the sugar etc. That in turn led me to start thinking about the supermarket and how we really take for granted the fact that we can go to one place to purchase our groceries (or in this specific case, ingredients for cookies). I got to thinking – what if instead of a supermarket, she had to go to individual stores to purchase each ingredient. First, she would go to the dairy for butter, then to the chocolate store and then to the sugar store etc. That would be time consuming, inefficient, costly, and confusing. In fact, if she had to do all that to bake cookies, I am not so sure she would be as excited to do it. It might just be easier to not bake at all…

By now, a good 15 minutes had passed by as I was thinking about yummy cookies, grocery stores and my wonderful wife. Work was calling again, so I forced myself to re-focus and think about Parchment once again. Then, it occurred to me that there actually may be a comparison between supermarkets and Parchment. Both offer a “one-stop-shop” experience. Just as my wife needed only to go to the supermarket for all of her cookie ingredients, schools need only use Parchment to send all of their transcripts. And, this is actually a pretty interesting topic to discuss.

Right now, there are a number of options for schools to use to send transcripts electronically. In some parts of the country, there are state provided solutions. Some high schools use Common App to send transcripts and some use other vendors. While these solutions are not bad by themselves, they each have limitations and cover only a certain number of destinations or services. What this means is that if a student needs transcripts to 4 or 5 destinations, chances are that a school would need to use a mixture of these options to fulfill delivery (just like having to drive to a different store for each ingredient for cookies). And, even that might not cover it, and a school may be forced to print and mail a transcript. Parchment, on the other hand, is the supermarket for transcripts and the ONLY solution that provides fulfillment to any destination. If a student needs a transcript sent to a college, you can use Parchment. If a student needs a transcript to go to the NCAA, you can use Parchment. If a student needs a transcript to go to the military, an employer, to an insurance company, scholarship or ANYWHERE else, you can use Parchment. This is why Parchment is so valuable and something every school needs.

It’s 4 o’clock by now and my wife gets home with a bag full of cookie ingredients. A few minutes later, I hear the oven pre-heating and batter being stirred. Only a  few more moments and I can begin to smell that tempting cookie aroma. Work is officially on hold as I head into the kitchen. The cookies are just 2 minutes from being ready and I truly can’t wait. As the timer is showing 30 seconds, I open the fridge and grab some ice-cold milk. Just as the timer on the oven expires, my milk is poured and my plate on the table. It’s cookie time!

Our First Parchment Exchange Higher Education User Conference

Exchange JumboTron 700x480

At 7AM I headed out to AT&T Park, home of the world champion San Francisco Giants. Escorted through the players’ entrance I was led to a suite of rooms overlooking a magnificent baseball stadium and the San Francisco Bay. The stadium was empty, on the jumbotron was the Parchment logo.  The 12 year old me would have been very impressed.

Joined by the Parchment team, we were not here to see a game but to get ready for Parchment’s first annual conference of our Higher Education members, a community of 1700+ public and private, 2- and 4-year, proprietary and not-for-profit colleges and universities. Scheduled the day before the start of AACRAO’s 2013 annual conference, we invited our higher education members to spend a day with Parchment.

More than a users conference, it was a meeting of thought leaders, and a coming together of members of a large and diverse community of practice to meet with their peers and learn what was coming next from Parchment. It was also an opportunity for us to get to know our members better and learn how we can best serve their mission by eradicating paper and enabling the power of data to the benefit of their students.

As we completed setting up for the day, our members began to arrive at the stadium, about 80 individuals representing 50 institutions spanning every sector of higher education and from across the nation. After breakfast the conference began with a keynote speech from our CEO, Dr. Matthew Pittinsky.

Matthew laid out the vision for the Parchment Exchange, how the eTranscript market evolved from the work of the AACRAO SPEEDE committee which came together in 1991 to the founding of Docufide and Avow and how we have now fully come together as the Parchment Exchange. He spoke of our new 5.0 release and proceeded to provide a peek into what’s next for our Receive service post-5.0. His demo was unlike anything our members have seen. While I was excited about the new Unified Inbox launched in 5.0, it turned out that I only knew a fraction of what our products team has been up to in their reinvention of what a receive service can do. I look forward to sharing here more of that vision.

After Matthew’s presentation I went up to the stage with our CTO, Lou DelZompo to speak about our security practices and new data privacy policy. Over my nearly ten years at Parchment I have worn a number of hats, and given the importance of security to our business have recently taken on the role of Chief Security Officer. I had the opportunity to take our members through the steps we take to safeguard the data we are entrusted with and walk them through Parchment’s data privacy policy. With more than 9 million transcripts exchanged, we have always had a strong commitment to respecting the privacy of student data though it was just recently that we laid out that commitment in a concise and transparent policy that spells out Parchment’s commitment to our members.

We were delighted to have Sunny Lee, Product Manager for Open Badges, a project of the Mozilla Foundation present “Buzzing About Badges, MOOC’s and the Changing Face of Education Credentials.”  Part of the intent of the conference was to bring new ideas to our members, with us connecting Parchment members with new areas relevant to their world and this and this presentation sparked great conversation about the Open Badges project and ideas on how colleges can leverage badges in their environment and what some colleges were already doing in this area.

Our final session was a panel featuring Michael Sessa, President of the P20W Education Standards Council (PESC) and Robert Morley, Associate Registrar at the University of Southern California (USC). With a combined 35 years in the standards community, our panel spoke of some of the many benefits enabled by standards-based transcript data, and how we are close to the tipping point for the adoption of these standards after many years of hard work to make this happen.

With our sessions complete, it was time to explore the ballpark! Some of our Parchment Exchange members went off to hit balls in the Giants batting cage, while others left in groups for a behind the scenes tour of AT&T Park. I joined one of the tours which brought us through the press boxes, out onto the field, through the dugouts and into the locker rooms.

Spending the day with such great people, conversing about great topics, in a great venue really made me value our inaugural member conference. We hope you’ll plan on joining us next year!  Details will be coming soon.



When an Exchange is More Than the Movement of Data

Recently I wrote about how the Docufide and Avow names came to be as those names are now being retired, merged as the Parchment Exchange.  The Parchment Exchange is more than a new name, but a new concept.

While there have been a number of eTranscript services, solutions and networks, we call this an “exchange” as this is what it truly is. The Parchment Exchange is more than a technology solution that saves schools time and money through touch-free automation that makes transcript exchange more efficient, it is a true exchange made up of a community of authenticated senders and receivers.

This is an exchange that is about more than a complete outsourced solution that securely and efficiently moves documents between parties, but a series of sophisticated technologies that enables powerful applications that help Members of the Parchment Exchange learn more about their institution, their peer institutions, their students, and prospective students looking to be discovered by colleges they are well-matched to.

This launch is about more than a new name, as the Parchment Exchange introduces new functionality to our Members that both bring together the best of the former Avow and Docufide platforms, as well as introduce new features developed by our products team and fueled by a $6 million dollar annual commitment to R&D.

With many enhancements and new features to choose from, I will focus on five highlights of this release:

  1. A modernized user interface that balances great design and simplicity.
  2. Integrating our registered receiver network of 1,500+ colleges and universities across our sender network
  3. A new ‘to-do list’ making the review and approval of transcript requests even faster and more efficient for the thousands of schools and colleges that rely on the Parchment Exchange for their transcript processing.
  4. Enhanced print operations that both extend the availability of our secure print processing across our sender network and enhance our offering to allow for transcripts printed for our higher education members to adopt the look and feel of their existing transcript or be printed to their own transcript paper.
  5. The unified inbox, which extends our Receive offering to enable member institutions to aggregate the receipt of transcripts from our 7,400+ members along with institutions sending standards-based transcript data over the Texas “SPEEDE” Server, and those that originate with the eTranscript California network – with more networks being added.

With two more releases planned for 2013 there is much more to come from the Parchment Exchange as we work to transform how we request, process, and benefit from the credentials we work so hard to earn.

From Docufide and Avow to the Parchment Exchange

The name Docufide was born nearly ten years ago when I combined document with Fides, the Roman Goddess of trust (and the root of fidelity).  Trusted and secure document exchange has been in our DNA from the start, first as the company’s name when it was founded in 2003 as one of the earliest eTranscript exchanges, then as the name of our eTranscript exchange when we became Parchment in 2011.

Three years later Avow was founded. With a meaning “to declare assuredly”, Avow was well suited to the assurances that come from the certified PDF they pioneered. Growing in parallel tracks, Docufide and Avow came together as Parchment in 2012.

Today we launch the Parchment Exchange, which we describe as the best of both worlds – and it truly is. While Docufide was initially focused on the exchange of transcripts from high schools to colleges and universities, Avow developed its solution focused solely on the needs of higher education. While Docufide acted as a trusted intermediary, building a receiver network that delivered transcripts in the receivers preferred format, whether electronic image, standards-based data, or mailed on security paper; Avow developed its patented secure document technologies, to deliver certified PDF’s that carried the trust of the institution right in the digital signature embedded in the transcript.

As our marketing campaign for the launch of the Parchment Exchange points out so well, like peanut butter and jelly, coffee and donuts, Docufide and Avow go together.

Today these two transcript exchanges, created independently of one another unite as one as the Parchment Exchange, and with this launch the Docufide and Avow names will be retired. When I first met Matthew Pittinsky weeks before starting as our CEO, he asked about my attachment to the name “Docufide” knowing I was its creator. Matthew long had a vision for a credentials management platform, and part of that vision was to transform Docufide to Parchment, named after the material traditionally used for diplomas.

At the time, I told Matthew that I was attached not to the name Docufide, but to our mission to transform how transcripts are exchanged, to empower students while creating efficiencies that help schools do more with less.  I immediately liked the name Parchment, and appreciated how it rooted us in the history of academic credentials as we transform what was once a paper (or Parchment) process, into an electronic one; also I was sick of Docufide being misspelled as Docufied.

Today, nearly 10 years after the founding of Docufide, more than 2 years since we became Parchment and less than a year after merging Docufide with Avow, the Parchment Exchange is born as eTranscripts 2.0, the next generation in eTranscript exchange.

Eduventures Whitepaper Explores eTranscript Adoption

When we founded Parchment (as Docufide), transcripts were nearly exclusively exchanged as paper.  Students walked their request into the office, their record was located in the student information system, printed, stamped, signed and put into an envelope where it would be mailed and then often scanned or keypunched by the receiver to bring it back to a digital format. We had a mission to transform this process and set about building a business case for an e-Transcript exchange.

During my research I quickly came across “A Business Case for the Electronic Exchange of Student Records.” The AACRAO SPEEDE Committee published this report in 1997 and was immensely valuable in helping us to demonstrate the expected operational efficiencies and cost savings the e-Transcripts promised. I revisited this study numerous times over the years, adjusting the numbers for inflation, as there was no further research available.

SPEEDE Business Case

Since the SPEEDE business case was published, much has changed; e- Transcripts are no longer seen as something a school ‘may’ do, but is now a matter of ‘when’ they will adopt an e-Transcript solution, if they haven’t already.  Today more than 7,000 high schools and colleges are exchanging e-Transcripts as active members in the Parchment network, with more colleges and universities joining every day. Despite this rapid migration from paper to an electronic exchange, there had not been an updated study documenting the real benefits that schools across the country were experiencing daily. Seeing this void, Parchment commissioned Eduventures, the industry leader in higher education research colleges experiences in adopting e-Transcripts.


That paper, titled

Selecting an eTranscript Provider


Electronic Transcript (eTranscript) Exchange goes far beyond allowing students and alumni to order transcripts online.

The right partner allows you to outsource as much of your transcript processing as you’d like. Features such as:

  • Online ordering
  • Setting custom eCommerce prices
  • Sending secure PDF transcripts
  • Maintaining your institutional brand
  • Transmitting PESC-XML certified data
  • Printing and mailing paper transcripts

This new guide will help you find the right questions to ask.

Download the guide here.

To use this guide, set the weight for each question according to how important it is to you. Then as you research apply a 1-5 score. The spreadsheet will automatically calculate the rank of each vendor.

We hope this guide will help you in selecting the perfect partner for you!

Announcing Support for eTranscript California

As an active supporter data standards and statewide e-Transcript initiatives we are excited to announce support for eTranscript California with our latest release.

eTranscript California, a statewide electronic transcript exchange supports e-Transcript request and delivery across the state’s postsecondary systems. With this first phase of support, eTranscript California participants within the Parchment network can now send transcripts in a format consistent to eTranscript California receiving colleges, while utilizing the full benefits of the Docufide platform. Transcripts are delivered in the EDI standard developed by the AACRAO SPEEDE committee, providing standards-based transcript data that helps there colleges streamline the admissions process by unlocking valuable data.

With our next major release, we plan to expand support for eTranscript California to provide full integration to Parchment members participating in the initiative.

For more information about our support for eTranscript California please download the paper titled “Support for the California Electronic Transcript Standard” prepared by Louis Delzompo, Parchment’s Chief Technology Officer.

The Transformation of Transcripts: Putting the Train on the Tracks


Stored in student information systems, transcripts were nearly always printed, stamped, signed, and placed into an envelope before being dropped in the mail. When the transcript arrived, much of this process was reversed, with the document opened and often keypunched or scanned and brought back to a digital form.  From data to paper and back again, solving this inefficiency was the reason that I co-founded Parchment (then called Docufide) with John Reese and Jeffrey Harris.

This was 2003, and the students graduating high school were not only comfortable with ecommerce and submitting forms online, this was how they expected to get things done. They registered for the SAT online, researched colleges online and were increasingly completing their applications online.  At the same time, admissions professionals were talking of a paper-free admission office, which was rapidly becoming real with one notable holdout, the transcript.

We set out to design our services with a singular focus on transcript exchange, with an emphasis on building a true exchange network.  A network comprised of senders and receivers, high schools and colleges, scholarship organizations and employers.  Our founding CEO, and current Executive Chairman, John Reese described this stage as “laying the tracks”, building the exchange network as the infrastructure upon which the proverbial train of new benefits and services would later run.

During these years the company and the network grew. We designed our services to be flexible, providing schools with a consistent method to fulfill transcript requests regardless of the format in which they were delivered. The exchange network was developed to be secure, authenticating each institutional member while leveraging bank-level online security protocols. New high schools and colleges were added weekly, and our growth was fueled by the addition of state agencies, regional education compacts and organizations like the NCAA and the Common App.

When Matthew Pittinsky joined us at the end of 2010, he arrived with the resources and vision to accelerate our growth and we got to work transforming Docufide into Parchment. As we began to assemble the team that would help us realize our vision for what a transcript exchange network can be, I found myself describing Parchment to candidates as “best of both worlds”; both a successful ed-tech company with a now nine year history and a start-up in terms of growth, opportunity and energy. I am proud to be part of a dynamic, entrepreneurial-minded team, a diverse group made up of experienced software developers, ed-tech professionals, ex-Registrars and Admissions Officers working together to change how we interact with transcripts.

With the team now in place, joined by Avow perfectly complimenting what we had built with Docufide, and the benefits that come from the exchange of e-Transcripts well established; we enter 2013 poised to show the industry what it means to be a part of an e-Transcript exchange network.  With 35% of the US high schools and 1,900 colleges sending and/or receiving transcripts through Parchment, $6 million in annual R&D we are putting the trains on the tracks. Trains that ride the exchange network to bring schools the ability to automate the receipt of transcripts from a variety of institutions, services and formats, to the fulfillment of transcript requests in a fully automated manner to any destination worldwide. Bringing analytics and intelligence that leverage the network to help schools better understand where their students are coming from, where they are going, and how they stack up to their peers.  Bringing colleges the standards-based data that could be used to build learner profiles that may be used to improve student outcomes.

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