Robotic process automation (RPA) enables people to stop doing certain types of repetitive tasks often performed manually. Since so many individuals now spend precious time handling email management needs, it’s no surprise they have looked at how RPA could help their inboxes. Here are some examples of how it could improve operations in the education sector and help hard-working teachers free up their time.
Decreasing Typing Tasks
Some RPA tools can handle incoming and outgoing emails before educators even see them. It eliminates much of the busy work that often comprises so much of their typical workdays.
Such solutions generally assess an email’s content as the first step. Then, they’ll create a confidence score for what the email says. If the RPA system has high confidence, it sends a response without input from teachers or anyone else involved in email management. Educators only get involved when the RPA tool has low confidence in the email’s content and needs guidance.
Such setups are particularly useful when parents send emails that are easy to answer. An educator might set up specific templates for an RPA tool to use. Then, they only have to type more detailed responses when an email’s content is more complex.
Consider an example where students send homework via email. An educator could use RPA to confirm receipt of the work or flag that a learner forgot to include a necessary attachment.
RPA is also valuable during periods like the start of a school year, when an educator may need to send welcome emails to dozens of new students and their parents. Teachers still need to add personal touches to the correspondence, but they can eliminate or reduce some of the email content that must go in every message.
“RPA can send email responses without any input from teachers.”
Saving Time During Essential Duties
Many jobs educators do feature elements of both repetition and individualization. Lesson planning is an excellent example. Teachers typically follow specific frameworks to ensure the lesson content meets state or national standards. However, they’ll also adjust the plans for each student, depending on the learner’s strengths and needs.
In Scotland, the Aberdeen City Council became the first in the country to use RPA for creating lesson plans. This RPA application caused positive changes equivalent to hiring 14 more teachers because it saved so much time.
Some lesson plans even include teaching learners how to send emails. That content is particularly beneficial for younger learners or people learning English as a second language.
Emails are an integral part of everyday life for many, but everyone had to learn how to send them at some point. Imagine an RPA solution that could help teachers create lesson plans faster, then distribute themed content directly to students’ inboxes.
“An RPA application used in Scotland saved so much time that it provided the equivalent of hiring 14 new educators.”
Ensuring Educators See Emails By Priority Level
Email is a convenient communication method, but it can quickly become overwhelming. That’s because most people have their inboxes set up to receive all emails as they arrive. However, a best practice for email management is to prioritize how and when you handle messages. You’ll almost certainly find some need prompt attention and others do not require responses at all.
RPA can work in the background to prioritize emails. Some systems learn over time which emails are more or less important. People can also tweak settings so they see emails in batches at preset times. That way, users don’t get interrupted whenever a new message arrives.
Some RPA systems also learn to recognize specific keywords. Those could include “sick child,” “late homework,” or “missed assignment.” Those are all matters that might need quick attention from a teacher.
Many educators have faced extraordinary challenges over the past several years and some are now dealing with burnout as a result. One issue is they often must spend so much of their time doing things other than teaching. RPA can address that issue, particularly as it relates to email management.
“Some RPA systems can prioritize emails, and learning over time which is more or less important.”
Improving Processing Times and Procedures
Many education systems use email content as an early warning system. For example, certain phrases could indicate an at-risk student or one with extremist views that could put themselves or others in danger.
In the United Kingdom, the Department for Education deployed an RPA tool known as Automated Robot Negating the Onerous Logging of Data — or ARNOLD. Before using ARNOLD, workers handled about 120,000 emails from the public each year by manually putting data into a system. That took significant time, requiring someone to read a message and understand it in context, then categorize it before it went to the right person.
Now, ARNOLD reviews each email categorizes it by risk level, and performs the required data entry into the education department’s system. The RPA tool examines hundreds of variables associated with each email to decide how to classify it. This setup has eliminated the manual data entry linked to incoming emails.
Staff members say this change has helped them focus on service delivery rather than administration. It also makes it easier for them to spot the emails that require the quickest action, such as those about at-risk students or underperforming schools.
Robotic Process Automation Makes Email Management Simpler
Today’s educators can’t avoid writing and responding to emails. However, as these examples show, a robotic process automation tool could help them save time and engage in more rewarding and relevant work.
Some education department decision-makers hesitate to do things differently, especially if the new processes require financial resources. That means teachers may need to speak specifically about how much time and energy they currently spend on writing emails and how RPA would be a game-changer in allowing them to devote more time to what they do best.