3 Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting a Course-Sharing Initiative
If you didn’t get the opportunity to join us for CAPACRAO’s Virtual Lunch & Learn: How a Single Credential Management Platform Made a Difference at Towson University, here’s your chance to learn all about it.
Meet the Participants
Question: How do you interact with transcripts and diplomas at Towson University?
Ashley: I handle conferral of undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as oversee the entire diploma process.
Erika: I oversee several different areas in the registrar’s office, graduation being one of them.
Question: When Parchment started talking with Towson early last year about Award, you were printing diplomas in house. Was there something specific that made you want to start looking at other options?
Erika: Yes, we were doing everything from using a software program to create them, to printing them on campus and packaging them ourselves. So, we had errors from time to time. For the most part it worked well, but it was a lot of work. We had to get the entire registrar’s office on deck to stuff those diplomas. Talk about paper cuts!
Ultimately the diploma is one of our products. We wanted something that was very professional that would look good on the wall, and we also wanted to make our lives easier. So, we started exploring. We had a vendor for a number of years that worked out well, but there were some other things we were looking for. That’s when Parchment entered the picture for diplomas.
Question: Towson was already working with Parchment on outgoing transcripts. Tell us a little bit about why you were considering moving to a single credential management system. What was the push? (Aside from the paper cuts, of course!)
Erika: We really hadn’t even considered it too much. Because we had been using Parchment quite successfully for years with transcripts and had a good relationship, when we were approached, we were excited to give it a try. One of the things we were looking for was a storefront to do diploma reorders. We get about 500 reorders every year from alumni.
In the past, we had to do a PDF form on our website that involved sending a check or money order. Then we had to run to the bursar’s office to process the payment, then order the diploma. It was a lot of work, which wouldn’t have been able to work right now while we are teleworking. So, this couldn’t have come at a better time for us. Students are able to reorder and pay for diplomas online while they are ordering transcripts. So, we have everything consolidated in one place.
Question: Are there other impacts from having a single platform for transcripts and diplomas you’ve seen for Towson staff?
Ashley: We’ve been able to eliminate our manual process and started using the storefront. Students are now filling out that form online, and we can take credit cards online. It takes a lot of the pressure off us. With Parchment Award, we’ve been able to electronically manage students with financial holds on their account. We no longer have to go through a binder, marking them off one by one. We now just log into Parchment.com, click a button, and it’s released to Parchment for processing. So we’ve eliminated some of these taxing processes we’ve had to perform over the years.
Question: How has having this one platform impacted your students?
Ashley: We used to get a lot of questions from students, and now we really don’t hear from them. They go into Parchment to order transcripts and see they have diploma options and they often decide to add it to their order.
Question: From the procurement perspective, can you tell us why moving to this one platform was of interest to you?
Erika: Ultimately, it ended up to be the part that showed us this is definitely the direction we want to go with. Anyone who works for a public institution knows that the procurement process for getting a new vendor, especially when there is a significant amount of money involved, requires bids. When we went through this with our first online diploma vendor, it was a lengthy process with a lot of paperwork and a lot of going back and forth.
When we had this conversation with Parchment, I was wary because we already had something that was working. But then Parchment said that we could use the revenue from our transcripts to pay for our diplomas. As soon as I brought this to the director of our office and our procurement office, they said go for it. We didn’t have to go through a procurement process at all. It was really exciting to see that, and we are still making money on our transcripts. It really worked out well. It was one of the easiest parts of all of this.
Question: When you rolled out Parchment Award, digital diplomas weren’t a big driver for you. Can you tell us if that’s changed and if so, how?
Erika: The digital diplomas from our previous vendor came at a cost for the student, and we found very few students had interest in them. Now every student gets their hard copy diploma and a complimentary digital copy. When they go in for reorders, they have that same option, or they can order just a digital diploma for less.
Ashley: We’re seeing double and even triple digital diploma reorders compared to paper sales, which goes to our department revenue.
Question: How have students reacted to having a digital solution?
Erika: I talked with a recent Towson graduate who had just received her digital diploma. She was so excited that she shared it all over her social media. We didn’t have a graduation ceremony, and students have to wait at least two weeks to receive their paper diploma. When they get a digital version immediately via email, it’s been very exciting for them! It’s nice to have something they can share immediately with friends and family. There have been a lot of disappointments this spring.
Parchment: A lot of our students unexpectedly missed out on a lot of things in 2020, so having the ability of having a digital diploma they can share with friends and family has been huge. It helps to make a really tough situation a little better and gives them an outlet to celebrate their accomplishments. This really warms our hearts at Parchment!
Question: Talk about what the process of rolling out with a new diploma vendor was like and how that’s changed the process in your office.
Erika: The great thing was we were able to time it just right to change with Parchment, so we barely had any down time. We have only two different types of diplomas, but we have so many variants of them. We had to test all the possibilities. Every suggestion we made was implemented. Parchment was very responsive to our very critical eye. Implementation was fairly seamless, with the ability to issue the diplomas as soon as we went live.
Transcripts require much higher security than diplomas. Because we were already using Parchment’s transcript service, that blazed the trail. Having a trusted vendor was important and made it easy to get approval from our technology services office.
Ashley: Overall, the process for placing an order was similar to the former vendor. However, there are a few extra steps with Award. This is helpful because it gives us the opportunity to double-check our work. The very last step is for us to go through every diploma to make sure they look like they should. It’s important to have that extra verification to ensure everything is perfect.
To access the entire recording of CAPACRAO’s Virtual Lunch & Learn, click here. Go to 00:20:40 to get:
Benefits with Parchment