Mar 2, 2018

All or Nothing? No! Strategies to Roll Out Paperless Referrals

If your school doesn't know where to start or is interested in implementing paperless slowly, here are some strategies for you.

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Because paperless referrals are a setting to enable, it might seem like turning it on is an all-or-nothing endeavor. It isn't—although, leaving the setting disabled is certainly an option. The middle-ground option simply depends on how many referral entry only users you set up. ​If your school doesn't know where to start or is interested in implementing paperless referrals slowly, here are some strategies for you.

Set Up a Paperless Workflow Cohort

To ease into paperless workflows, invite a small group of people to have referral entry only access. This cohort enters their referrals directly into SWIS while everyone else in your building continues to submit their paper referrals the same way they always have. The initial group of teachers selected for paperless workflows can be any group of teachers that makes sense for your building. Some examples might be:

  • All fourth grade teachers
  • PBIS team members
  • Teachers who refer to a specific reviewer
  • Tech-savvy teachers who opt-in or are chosen

Finally, your school needs to add at least one reviewer to its paperless workflow cohort. That one person should be someone responsible for delivering actions taken when students are referred to the office. In most cases, that's your building's administrator. If there are other people to add as reviewers to this initial cohort, adding them now or during your next phase is up to your school. If you have more than one reviewer, make sure everyone entering referrals knows which person to select when they send a referral for review.

Because this group is the first to try out paperless referral entry in your building, these users should be comfortable with technology, or at least flexible if things don't go smoothly for them right from the start. This is a new process for your school and they're testing it out before everyone else in the building.

As you set up in this initial group:

  • Make sure the people you invite are interested in trying this out.
  • Select collaborative people willing to help you iron out any wrinkles you find along the way.
  • Consider inviting one person who is a little less comfortable with technology. Their experience will inform how to encourage and support others as you expand your paperless workflow school-wide.
  • Give your cohort a way to say what's working about this process and what is not. If the cohort is made up primarily of team members (grade level, PBIS, or otherwise), a great place to get that feedback is during a regular team meeting. Make sure paperless workflows is an agenda item for discussion.
  • Have back-up plans for the times when the system doesn't quite work how you hoped. Be sure this initial group has a stack of blank paper referrals close by in case they either can't access the application, or the paper copy works more efficiently in that moment. They can always log in and enter it later in the day.
  • Know what success looks like for this initial phase. How will you know when you've ironed out your last wrinkle and it's time to move on to the next phase?

Give Users their Resources

When paperless users have their login information, some may have questions about how to use the application. Direct them to the resources on this site to help orient them to the things they'll do in SWIS. Each user needs to know how to log in, how to save major and minor referrals, how to get to Referral Management, and maybe even where to find account settings.

  • The SWIS User's Manual has all of that information described step-by-step.
  • If they prefer a visual reference, have them check out the SWIS-specific video tutorials.
  • There are even FAQs answering questions referral entry only users in your building might have.
  • Your school's SWIS facilitator is a good, local resource who can come out and train new users in your building.

We have a feeling a video overview of the basic functionality paperless users will need to know is useful, so we put this video together.

Expand Workflows School-wide

Once things are working smoothly with the first cohort of paperless users, think through what your next steps will be to make the paperless process available to everyone else. If the cohort option worked well for you, maybe set up another group of users. Your school can continue to operate as a paper/paperless referral hybrid for as long as you need it to. Figure out what your end game is and plan for how to get there. Some schools find paperless workflows work most efficiently with everyone participating. Others find there are some roles in the building that will always use paper referrals: playground supervisors, substitute teachers, aides. Paperless workflows support in both scenarios.

However workflows work in your building – everyone all at once, slowly incorporating most staff over time, or not at all – this setting will work best when you make it match your school's existing referral process. Check out referral workflows in your SWIS account and consider how it will work in your building's context.

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