One way in which the Office of the Registrar has changed over the past 10 years is by moving away from processing forms, entering data, and printing paper to providing service and support that can change people’s experience with the university or college. Registrar’s Offices around the world are often very quick to embrace technology because we recognize that the use of technology to automate things allows us to provide the personal service that can make the difference for a student, or provide the insight needed for a faculty department. How does this happen?
A recent example in my own office happened just this week. An international student wanted us to provide him with a letter confirming his registration. We have an automated system that produces such letters as needed, but in this case it would not meet his needs because he had a pretty complicated situation. His study permit was expiring soon, he needed to go home for a wedding, he only needed a couple of courses so didn’t need to be full time, there was a problem with his GPA, etc. Not the typical situation. We are able to dedicate staff to solving these kinds of problems for students. In this case, he came into our office with some very specific demands that caused us concern. What he wanted us to do would not meet the requirements of Immigration, and if we had simply given him what he wanted he would have either been stuck at the border or not allowed back in Canada -maybe never allowed back here based on his country of origin. Instead, three of our experienced staff members worked together with him to review his needs, look at the problem in detail, and came up with an better solution than he thought was possible. It took a couple of hours and people with four distinct responsibilities (registration, tuition payments, immigration reporting, and degree audits) to do this, but we were able to dedicate time to him precisely because we have so many automated systems that process the easy, typical, regular stuff.
We have been very strategic in our choices of technology. Sure, technology can make our jobs easier, but we are not interested in replacing staff with robots. Our desire is to be able to have exceptionally trained professionals who can serve students with their unique needs, or who can provide innovative solutions for faculty and staff departments. We are not interested in having line-ups where we take a form from a student, stamp it received, put it in a pile to be processed and yelling “NEXT!” That’s a robot’s job.
We want people to come to us for solutions that will transform their experience with the university. We’ll let the robots take care of the mindless work while we do the interesting stuff, the caring stuff, the important and real reasons we love our jobs.