COVID-19 and the digital transformation of education: An interview with Brian Lawrence, airSlate’s VP of sales

The Coronavirus forced almost every industry and business to change the way they conduct their daily operations in order to adapt, survive, and – for some – thrive. The education sector in particular had no choice but to adjust to a new normal for teaching and learning from afar – seemingly overnight. From preschool to higher education, schools were compelled to undergo an extensive process of digital transformation to keep teachers and students connected and communicating.

Were schools able to make it work? What obstacles were in their way? And, as we look toward a future that promises more and more remote learning, what do schools still need to do to keep up?

We explored these questions in a conversation with Brian Lawrence, airSlate’s VP of sales, as well as the former president of the Mt. Diablo School District. With over 30,000 students and more than 50 schools, the Mt. Diablo School District educates students that reside in Contra Costa County, California. Read on for the full interview.

What were the main challenges for schools when the pandemic first started? How has COVID impacted the effectiveness of educational processes?

Of course, schools weren’t prepared. They expected two to three weeks of quarantine. Here we are a year later and we can see that many students are still attending class via distance learning.

Most school districts are still very paper-based and they had to figure out how to change that. And it was tough to understand what solutions to implement in order to properly transform their processes. For the Mt. Diablo School District, one of the most critical components during our transformation was when we were collecting feedback from as many as 30 students during their classes. Teachers had to collect, standardize, and keep electronic documentation and then share all of that with staff that is working remotely. So, the overall situation was pretty chaotic. Schools had to make changes with little to no preparation.

What challenges do schools typically face when embedding digital transformation into their processes?

The biggest challenges for schools typically reside with budgeting and institutional inertia. Schools had to make emergency budget allocations for Zoom, for example, because every student needs to access and use it. But, the need for other technologies often is not so obvious to school staff.

Today, it’s no secret that we waste more money on paper, printing, and filing cabinets. But, schools often default to these traditional methods to complete processes that rely on older systems because they are familiar with them.

Did schools get additional funding specifically for completing their digital transformations during the quarantine?

Yes, schools received additional funding, but the needs were huge and the funding was sparse. It was important to make sure that every student had the necessary devices. So, most of the budget was spent on hardware, but not necessarily the processes that are run on those devices.

What educational processes required digital transformation the most?

All of the processes that are document-based and require a signature should be automated by schools as soon as possible. These included Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), teacher contracts, everyday purchases, resolutions, staff hiring and work orders, to name a few. Implementing digital transformation solutions helps save a lot of time and money for schools while creating faster turnarounds and better outcomes for students.

What do you consider to be the main benefits of digital transformation for schools?

Digital transformation makes processes faster and more efficient. We shouldn’t forget that students and their families are, technically, a school’s customers. So, just as a retail business or restaurant works to provide the best customer service possible, schools should aim to do so as well. And thanks to digital transformation, everyone can finally focus on higher-value goals, rather than mundane paperwork and other time-consuming processes.

What is the advantage of airSlate over other products for digital transformation in school districts?

IT departments at schools can’t afford to work with complex software that requires coding skills. airSlate’s solutions are intuitive and don’t require advanced technical knowledge or programming skills. E-signing, no-code automation, contract negotiation, document generation, and web forms come together in a single platform with airSlate. Anyone at the school can configure and automate processes without writing a single line of code. Schools like the University of Michigan and San Diego’s NewSchool of Architecture and Design are just some of the schools we’ve helped to digitally transform their processes and make life easier for students, teachers, and staff.

Even as we look beyond the pandemic, digital transformation is a necessity for schools – not only for adapting to our rapidly changing landscape of learning but to meet the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy generation of learners. By digitalizing the learning experience, teachers and students are able to improve their skills and reach toward a common goal: to create a more engaging and effective learning experience for all.

About Brian Lawrence

industry regulations with compliance automationBrian Lawrence VP Sales

Brian leads airSlate’s sales organization. His team helps prospective customers find solutions that improve efficiency, deliver ROI, and make complex workflows delightfully intuitive. He has 20 years of experience building high-performance sales teams. Prior to joining airSlate, he built and led sales for HelloSign (acquired by Dropbox). Additionally, he has served in sales and sales management roles at Webmetrics (acquired by Neustar), Oracle, and Salesforce.com.