The Graduate School has been using DocuSign as their e-signature and digital workflow platform, replacing many of their paper forms with electronic forms that can be submitted, signed, processed and stored with no printing required. The ease with which both students and staff can submit and sign the forms and the efficiency they generate in the workplace has encouraged the Graduate School to partner with the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) to transition graduate assistantship forms to the DocuSign platform.
However, creating a form that all departments could use while simultaneously fulfilling the individual needs and preferences of each was not an easy task. The form had to be smart enough to adapt to many different scenarios and reliable enough to remain consistent and efficient for signers.
With the help of DoIT’s assistant vice president Joe Kirby, software developer Frank Elmore, their team of student developers, and input from graduate assistants and campus stakeholders, the Graduate School created a dynamic data gathering form for assistantships. This webform allows departmental staff to quickly enter information, automatically retrieve key information from the school database, and easily identify the name and email of each required signer in the workflow. As the DocuSign form travels to each individual via secure email, administrators can track the document through recorded timestamps and easily see each time someone opens, edits, or signs it.
According to the Assistant Dean for Administration, Policy and Compliance Isabel Garrido, the ability to track the form as it progresses in the DocuSign workflow is efficient and eliminates guesswork. As an example, when graduate assistants contact the Graduate School about the status of their tuition remission, instead of referring them to their department, searching for paper forms or wondering if they have been signed, DocuSign allows Isabel and her staff to view the most recent timestamp on a form and know exactly where it is in the process in seconds.
DocuSign’s technical accessibility is also beneficial. Within moments of the form being sent graduate assistants can access, sign and submit them on their mobile device from any location. Upon receipt of the form, graduate assistants will be glad to see that not only has much of the required information been pre-populated, but the few fields they are required to complete are intuitive and come with helpful tips to guide them smoothly and quickly through the process.
Although mistakes are less likely when entering DocuSign forms, if errors occur, the process to generate a corrected form in DocuSign is quick and easy. The helpful notifications feature in DocuSign automatically sends email reminders to signers ensuring speedy compliance and provides an electronic copy of each finalized form to the Graduate School. DoIT’s recent upgrade of the forms has gone even further to make the process more flexible to the needs of graduate assistants and departments alike.
Lina Chung, Program Management Specialist in the College of Engineering and Information Technology (CoEIT) transitioned to the DocuSign process for graduate assistant forms in 2017 and praises how efficiently her office processes GA Tuition Remission and GA Appointment Letters now. “Before, timelines could be very unpredictable. Forms could take anywhere from days to weeks to fully complete. Now, it rarely takes more than a few days,” Lina explains. With most graduate students living busy lives off campus, some in other countries, a faster process that limits the need for back-and-forth communication is essential.
Information Systems adopted the DocuSign process for graduate assistantships in 2017. Chemical, Biochemical & Environmental Engineering (CBEE) implemented the process in Dec. 2018. Computer Science and Electrical Engineering (CSEE), Mathematics and Statistics, and Physics and are expected to implement shortly. A pilot group comprised of members from various departments who have not transitioned to the DocuSign process is currently testing the forms. Departments interested in joining the pilot group should contact Isabel Garrido (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Graduate School.
Campus-wide implementation of graduate assistantship forms via DocuSign is slated for summer ‘19.