South East Technological University (SETU) is a large regional University based in the South East of Ireland. The university provides courses at all levels, from Higher Certificate to PhD, with over 18,000 students and 1,500 staff. They’ve created custom forms for various purposes, including application forms, student assistance funds, work placement forms, HR process funds, and many more using Cognito Forms.
Brian Hackett, Webmaster at SETU, has implemented over 700 active online forms across departments to help accomplish tasks and simplify all sorts of processes for students, staff, and researchers.
“Before we started using Cognito Forms, we used a forms plugin for our CMS. But it fell short on features and had to be integrated directly into the templates of the site. This meant we could only create simple forms, and it took time and effort to add them to the site templates,” says Hackett.
“As the demand for forms increased, we did an assessment of SaaS form providers and decided that Cognito Forms was the best fit for us.”
Working Across Teams with Cognito Forms
One of the essential features of Cognito Forms is the ability to involve multiple users in a workflow, which makes it easy to customize access and collaborate data across departments.
Once we started using Cognito Forms, it mushroomed as we discovered how powerful it was and how we could move complex paper forms online.Brian Hackett
They are also implementing workflows to streamline intricate staff procedures, thus reducing time consumption, securing approvals, and ensuring the prompt delivery of forms to the appropriate recipients.
“We have incorporated workflows for numerous forms, allowing us to manage processes that once relied on paper forms and a multitude of emails exchanged among staff members at varying levels. This significantly simplified the process, preventing confusion and loss of progress, which led to delays and mistakes,” says Hackett.
“With workflows in place, we now have a well-defined, multi-step process for those forms, complete with email notifications generated at every phase. This has not only saved a considerable amount of time but has also significantly enhanced the efficiency of the departments utilizing the workflow.”
Student Assistance Fund Case Study
One of the most remarkable and impactful transformations at SETU has been the overhaul of the Student Assistance Fund process. Historically, managing this fund was a complex and labor-intensive endeavor burdened by a paper-based system.
The Student Assistance Fund at SETU is designed to provide crucial financial aid to students based on their income and individual circumstances. This assistance often extends to single mothers, individuals facing financial hardships, and others striving to pursue their education despite challenging financial constraints.
Students seeking financial assistance for their studies were required to navigate a process involving physical paper forms, extensive back-and-forth interactions, and the submission of various supporting documents. This laborious process could involve over 1,000 applicants each year.
Managing the paperwork alone necessitated the storage of countless archive boxes, each containing a year’s worth of application records, which had to be archived and stored for many years.
With the introduction of Cognito Forms, SETU’s Student Assistance Fund process underwent a remarkable transformation. A comprehensive, user-friendly, and secure multi-page online form was created, encompassing all the necessary fields and calculations required for eligibility assessment.
The form’s intelligent design incorporated income thresholds, ensuring that only eligible applicants could progress through the form.
With the transition to digital forms, all application data was securely managed and stored electronically, reducing the administrative burden and freeing up valuable physical storage space.
The success story of the Student Assistance Fund’s transformation at SETU serves as a testament to the power of digital innovation in education. Cognito Forms has not only simplified administrative processes as SETU makes a meaningful difference in the lives of students pursuing their education, providing them with a smoother and more equitable path to financial assistance.
According to Hackett, "The process has undergone a radical transformation in how students submit fund applications and how our staff handle them. By transitioning away from traditional paper forms, we’ve not only conserved thousands of work hours but have also reclaimed a substantial amount of physical storage space.”
SETU’s Growing Adoption of Cognito Forms
The team using Cognito Forms at South East Technological University is growing as more staff members experience the platform. It started with simple online forms and has transitioned to the institution’s widespread adoption of Cognito Forms.
Other SETU campuses are now beginning to use Cognito Forms after seeing the success.
“We’ve noticed a growing trend where staff are embracing Cognito Forms. It has essentially taken on a life of its own, with many staff members using it in creative ways, such as conducting surveys and managing seat reservations for events and various other applications,” says Hackett.
Takeaways and Next Steps
SETU’s journey with Cognito Forms is a testament to the transformative impact of technology in higher education. It showcases how a powerful tool like Cognito Forms can simplify complex processes, save time, and ultimately enhance the educational experience for both staff and students.
“When we started using Cognito Forms, we were just looking for a way to make our forms more powerful and user friendly. However, it has since evolved into a transformative tool, reshaping the operations of several of our departments and significantly enhancing the effectiveness and user-friendliness of our interactions with students and other groups.”